Achievement of global environmental goals substantially depends on coordinated policies and action in the Asia and Pacific region, often identified as the global engine of economic growth. The global drivers identified in Chapter 1 – in particular unsustainable economic growth, population increase, mass consumption and urbanization – pose clear challenges to the region’s sustainable development. It is therefore important that policy responses are designed to enable the best possible adaptation to pressures and impacts deriving from these drivers.
Asia and the Pacific is the fastest growing region in the world with the most rapidly rising emissions of greenhouse gases, and efforts to combat climate change must accelerate across the region if global efforts are to succeed. Under a business-as-usual scenario, the region will contribute approximately 45 per cent of global energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 2030. However, intra-regional diversity is great, with China the world’s largest emitter, while most Pacific island nations are among the smallest. People from this region have the most to lose from global inaction as many of the countries most at risk from climate change are here. Mainstreaming adaptation concerns into development policies and plans, integrating climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction, climate proofing infrastructure, and promoting ecosystem-based adaptation are key actions. Significant steps have been taken on both mitigation and adaptation, but much more needs to be done – and urgently – to achieve widespread low-carbon and climate-resilient societies.
Water endowments range from the highly arid temperate zones and water-stressed small island states to Himalayan snowfields and abundant tropics, often alternating between drought and flood. Balancing water supply and demand through coordination between users, and improved water quality management, are essential to achieve global freshwater goals. Successful implementation of policies requires establishing a planning framework for adaptive and integrated management of water resources, under which appropriate pricing and multi-stakeholder participation are essential.
The threat of species extinction is only partly addressed by global goals targeting a significantly reduced rate of biodiversity loss. Despite progress in expanding protected areas, conserving some species, addressing some direct drivers of biodiversity loss, and implementing community-based management and innovative financing, the scale of efforts remains insufficient. In light of the recent Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization, access and benefit-sharing regimes also need to be developed.
As the Asia and Pacific region becomes wealthier it is facing a rapid increase in consumption and its principal side effect – waste. Effective implementation of the 3Rs approach – reduce, reuse, recycle – remains a key goal, although a mix of policies may be necessary to achieve the most cost-efficient outcomes. Changing consumption patterns and behaviour, which reduces waste from the outset, lies at the core of an effective policy mix.
Appropriate controls on chemical production and use, and the provision of safe alternatives as well as appropriate treatment facilities, are key policy concerns. As their use is increasing while their impacts remain poorly monitored and little understood, management of registration, monitoring, export and import as well as information sharing should be strengthened. Proactive measures on emerging contaminants are also necessary.
Governance improvements are critical to enhanced accountability as a means of achieving sustainable development. Integrating sustainability concerns across all policy areas, increased multi-stakeholder participation and capacity improvement can all enhance governance. Additionally, allocating authority to appropriate levels of government, improved monitoring and data collection, access to information and legal redress, as well as greening fiscal policy, have the potential to alter the drivers of environmental change and unsustainable development.
Recommendation of policies to accelerate achievement of the selected global goals remains difficult. There have been some successes in the region but gaps remain. Policy responses are beginning to shift from a focus on environmental impacts to addressing the key drivers through market- and information-based approaches. As many of the policy successes are due to the context in which they are implemented, transferring policies from one country to another, while often practised, requires careful analysis. Creating the necessary enabling environment may be as important as selecting the right mix of policies.
Read more on the GEO-5 website
Download the book chapter “Asia and the Pacific” from UNEP (PDF)