|A publication of the Asian Development Bank||No. 1 June 2008|
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“This requires attacking the source of CO2 emissions—energy used for transportation, industry, agriculture, and household electricity”
Emil Salim, Adviser for Environment and Sustainable Development Issues to the Indonesian President
Experts agree that biofuels, for all their benefits, are not a long-term solution to the problems posed by fossil fuels
Mainstreaming Climate Change
Sustainable development should eradicate poverty while combating climate change
Wiping down a solar panel used in a water heating system for a commercial building in New Delhi, India
Photo by AFP
Global economic development will be pulled along in the coming decades by Asian countries, mainly the People's Republic of China (PRC), India, East Asia, and ASEAN members. These countries have large populations, ample natural resources, and easy access to trade and investment.
They also adhere to market economic systems that have various degrees of government intervention. The model of development pursued thus far is rather conventional, with an emphasis on natural resource exploitation, industrial development, and exports. This model’s impacts on the environment are also predictable. Forests are depleted, soil is eroding, water and urban air are heavily polluted, and the environment is deteriorating. But economic development must continue for Asian countries to overcome widespread poverty.
Costs of Conventional Development
The consequences of pursuing conventional development are clear. In terms of total CO2 emissions in 2004, the World Bank in 2007 ranked as the top five largest polluting countries the US, with 5.9 billion metric tons; the PRC, with 4.7 billion tons; Russian Federation, with 1.7 billion tons; Japan, with 1.3 billion tons; and India, with 1.1 billion tons. The CO2 emissions growth rates from 1994 to 2004 were the highest in the PRC (68%), followed by India (53%), Japan (16%), the US (13%), and the Russian Federation(0%). In the near future, the PRC will overtake the US and India will overtake Japan in terms of total CO2 emissions.
This is why at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Bali in 2007, developed countries pressed developing countries, especially the PRC and India, to abide by the Kyoto Protocol limits on CO2 emissions.
On a per capita basis, however, the emissions picture changes. The US emits 20 tons of CO2 per person per year, Russian Federation 11.7 tons, Japan 9.8 tons, PRC 3.6 tons, and India 1.2 tons. This ranking goes parallel with the per capita income in these countries: the higher the income per capita, the greater the per capita CO2 emissions. The capacity to deal with the reduction of CO2 emissions also varies by country. Developing countries such as the PRC and India must strive first to alleviate poverty by pursuing growth of per capita income. Developed countries, on the other hand, can better afford efforts to reduce CO2 emissions.
Buying Clean Technology
It is thus understandable why developing countries stick to the rule of “common but differentiated responsibilities” and insist that developed countries must reduce CO2 emissions 40% from their 1990 levels by 2020 to prevent global mean temperatures from exceeding 2oC above preindustrial levels at equilibrium. This will enable developing countries to pursue poverty eradication through sustainable development with co-benefits in terms of reduced CO2 emissions.
In this context, developing countries need technology transfer, adequate funding, and capacity building from developed countries. The achievements thus far have been miserable, because most developed countries insist that technology transfer must be accomplished through the private sector. Basically this means that developing countries must buy technology to uphold intellectual property rights. For developing countries, this implies that every dollar spent combating climate change is a dollar foregone for poverty eradication.
Recognizing this dilemma, the G–7 finance ministers and central bankers agreed in February 2008 to create a strategic multilateral investment framework to address climate change by providing financial support for the deployment of clean technologies in developing countries.
While this initiative is laudable, it is too narrowly focused on “clean technology.” What Asian countries need now is a complete overhaul of their development model, and to mainstream climate change into sustainable development policies through the three pillars of economic, social, and environmental sustainability. This requires attacking the source of CO2 emissions, which is energy used for transportation, industry, agriculture, and household electricity. A comprehensive mitigation strategy in these sectors is required to move toward zero-carbon energy development.
New Approach Needed
Forests are being depleted for the sake of economic growth
Photo by AFP
CO2 emissions affect global warming and climate change. Adaptation measures must be taken to cope with these consequences. Water-irrigated rice production requires new seeds that are resistant to dry climates. Water will be increasingly scarce, requiring adjustments in agricultural, animal husbandry, fisheries, and tropical forest development. With sea levels rising, rivers will overflow their banks. Populations in coastal areas will suffer from increased flooding. Islands will sink. The Netherlands has developed its capacity to survive and build a country below sea level. The challenge now is to develop similar, affordable technologies to cope with rising sea levels in developing countries.
New waterborne diseases will emerge. The urgency now is to prevent outbreaks of new diseases, while simultaneously eliminating traditional health woes for the poor, such as malaria, tuberculosis, and malnutrition.
There is an urgent need to call for a different approach to development that specifically mainstreams environmental considerations. It means that spatial planning must specifically take into account ecosystems’ limitations of carrying capacity, combined with river basin management to prevent scarce water from flowing unused into the sea. An appropriate land use policy would support this.
The transportation system must emphasize the functional role that transport provides, rather than emphasizing vehicles as a means of transportation. Public transportation must be prioritized over the use of private cars. Houses and buildings must be more environmentally conscious, making use of sunlight rather than fossil–fuel-based, in-house electricity. The whole thrust of sustainable development is to reduce the ecological footprint of mankind on nature.
A Coherent Model
All these factors must be considered in a coherent sustainable development model that provides co-benefits in terms of reduced CO2 emissions. Throughout Asia, ideas and policies have been developed and can now be implemented within a coherent sustainable development model. Asian countries need not reinvent the wheel, but can learn from each other.
The key notion here is to tailor all the bits and pieces of Asian countries’ experiences into a coherent sustainable development model that produces co-benefits in reducing CO2 emissions.
Asian development will set the tone for 21st century global development. Learning from past mistakes in developed countries that are currently the major CO2-emitting nations, Asian countries can follow their own course for sustainable development that eradicates poverty while combating climate change. •
Emil Salim, former Indonesian Environment Minister and member of the Bruntland Commission on Sustainable Development, is President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Adviser for Environment and Sustainable Development Issues.
|© 2013 Asian Development Bank|