Global warming will push Asia into reverse says new report
The biggest study yet from unique coalition of major poverty and environment groups reveals scale of climate impacts on international work — immediate action is needed before Asia goes 'Up in Smoke' (see quotes below).
A new report - Up in Smoke? Asia and the Pacific - with a foreword by Dr R.K. Pachauri, Chairman of the Nobel prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change - says that without immediate action, global warming is set to reverse decades of social and economic progress across Asia, home to over 60 per cent of the world’s population.
The report is published in the wake of evidence that the UK is reneging on targets for renewable energy set to tackle climate change.
Up in Smoke? Asia and the Pacific — launched today, Monday 19 November — is the most extensive and concluding chapter of a unique, four-year long exercise by the Up in Smoke coalition, an alliance of the UK's major environment and development groups.
Four years ago, the coaltition set out to assess the impacts of climate change on efforts toward poverty reduction around the world from the point of view of practical, community-based organisations engaged in designing responses to a changing environment.
This, the latest and most comprehensive report from communities around the world on the front line of climate change catalogues the threat climate change poses to human development, and the growing consequences of inaction on the issue.
It shows how, across Asia, people and communities are already acting to reduce the worst impacts of climate change. But the report says, there is not a moment to lose. Unless a decisive international agreement is reached, and soon, the lives of those living on the front line of climate change will go up in smoke.
As world leaders prepare for the next UN talks to determine the international response to climate change, in Bali at the beginning of December, Up in Smoke: Asia and the Pacific, shows how the human drama of climate change will largely be played out in Asia, where almost two thirds of the world’s population live, effectively on the front line of climate change.
The report highlights, for example, that:
* In the summer of 2007, British aid agencies, including those in the Up in Smoke alliance, had to raise funds from the UK public to go towards assisting up to 28 million people affected by flooding in South Asia. Extreme weather events like this are likely to become more frequent.
* Over half of the population of Asia live near the coast, making them directly vulnerable to sea-level rise driven by global warming.
* Asia is home to 87 per cent of the world’s known 400 million small farms - all especially vulnerable to climate change as they rely on regular and reliable rainfall.
* Drought in north China has increased, ruining the livelihoods of the region’s farmers. And, around 8 out of 10 glaciers in western China are reportedly in retreat due to climate change.
* The latest global scientific consensus indicates that all of Asia is set to warm during this century, and that this will be accompanied by less predictable and more extreme patterns of rainfall. Tropical cyclones are projected to increase in magnitude and frequency across the region, while monsoons, around which farming systems are designed, are expected to become more unpredictable in their strength and time of onset.
* The expansion of biofuel crops linked to deforestation could, instead of being a climate friendly alternative to fossil fuels, actually worsen global warming and harm local livelihoods and the environment.
* Communities living on small island states like Vanuatu, Kiribati and Tuvalu, scattered across thousands of square kilometres of ocean in the Pacific, among the least responsible globally for climate change, have already fallen victim to the impacts of climate change. Entire nations are now at risk.
Up in Smoke: Asia and the Pacific, presents the results of an unprecedented consultation by members of the coalition among grass roots groups across Asia and the Pacific and including within China - presenting a unique body of evidence direct from the front line of climate change, and an urgent call to action from global leaders.
As officials in the UK continue to work behind the scenes to evade the UK governments commitments to renewable energy, the report catalogues the impact that climate change is already having on some of the worlds most vulnerable communities - just last month, a reported 5 million people were affected when a typhoon struck the south- east coast of China.
The report also presents new evidence that the 'silver bullet' of biofuels could turn into a rush for 'fools gold' across Asia as huge social and environmental costs outweigh the benefits, substantiating concerns already raised by aid and environment groups, and scientists.
* Indonesia has some six million hectares of land under oil palm and the Government is actively encouraging further expansion. As a result of deforestation, some of which is for palm oil plantations, Indonesia is the third-largest global emitter of carbon dioxide, after the USA and China.
* Deforestation is already the second-largest contributor to rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Deforestation to make way for large-scale mono-cropping obliterates the 'green credentials' of biofuels by actually increasing the amount of emissions rather than reducing them.
* The economic attraction of biofuels is also leading to conflict between crops grown for food and those grown for fuel. Increasingly, the result is expected to be both greater competition for land and higher food prices.
Pledging once again to play their part in trying to halt dangerous climate change and to help bring about a global solution that is fair and rooted in human equality, amongst a range of recommendations detailed in the report, the coalition calls on the international community to urgently:
* Cut greenhouse gas emissions. Rich countries, both historically and today, are disproportionately responsible for the emissions that have caused and still fuel climate change. As such, they need to meet and exceed their targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions set under the Kyoto Protocol. Starting now with deep annual cuts, commitments should be introduced progressively in a way that prevents a dangerous accumulation of greenhouse gases and puts industrialised countries on track to reach cuts of at least 80 per cent by 2050.
* Halt forest clearance to contain biofuel expansion. Conduct an urgent assessment of carbon benefits from different fuels as well as assessing their impacts on biodiversity especially in intact forests, carbon release from peatlands, as well as impacts on the food security and traditional livelihoods of local populations.
* Draw up coordinated plans, from local to international levels, for relocating threatened communities with appropriate political, legal and financial resources. New problems are emerging. For example, as some nations lose land, a way to deal with threats to Exclusive Economic Zones, and appropriate compensation funding, need to be developed. Resources, too, will need to target the appropriate level of government with whom the responsibility to care for environmental refugees will fall.
There is growing consensus about the current human and environmental challenges facing Asia, and what is needed to tackle them. There is already enough knowledge and understanding to know what the main causes of climate change are, how to reduce future climate change, and how to begin to adapt.
Alongside new evidence of the devastating impact that climate change is already having on communities across Asia, Up in Smoke Asia and the Pacific, shows positive measures that are already being taken - by governments, by civil society and by local people - to reduce the causes of climate change and to overcome its effects. It shows examples of emissions reduction; alternative water and energy supply systems; preservation of strategic ecosystems and protected areas; increasing capacity, awareness and skills for risk and disaster management; and the employment of effective regulatory and policy instruments. The challenge is clear and many of the solutions are known: the point is, to act.
Acompanying quotations from the chair of the IPCC and other international experts are included below
Notes to Editors:
For more information, or to arrange an interview, please contact;
Ruth Potts, nef (the new economics foundation). VNR available on request.
t: 020 7820 6357 m: 07749 026 203 email: email@example.com
Up In Smoke? Asia and the Pacific: The threat from climate change to human development and the environment was co-ordinated by nef (the new economics foundation) and the International Institute for Environment and Development with support and contributions from the Working Group on Climate Change and Development and their partners.
The Working Group on Climate Change and Development are: ActionAid International, Bird Life International, Care, CAFOD, Christian Aid, Columban Faith and Justice, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Institute for Development Studies, IIED (International Institute for Environment and Development), MedAct, nef (the new economics foundation), onecliamte.net, Operation Noah, Oxfam International, Panos, People and Planet, Practical Action, RSPB, Tearfund, teri Europe, World Vision and WWF.
The Up in Smoke Agenda
In October 2004, the first report of the Working Group on Climate Change and Development joined the environment and development communities in a united view on the minimum action necessary to deal with the threat of global warming to human development. This is what it called for in October 2004. The proposals are even more pressing now than they were then.
The environmental and development community, like the rest of humanity, is faced with three overarching challenges:
1. How to stop and reverse further global warming.
2. How to live with the degree of global warming that cannot be stopped.
3. How to design a new model for human progress and development that is climate proof and climate friendly and gives everyone a fair share of the natural resources on which we all depend.
In that light, urgent priorities include:
* A global risk assessment of the likely costs of adaptation to climate change in poor countries.
* Commensurate new funds and other resources made available by industrialised countries for poor country adaptation, bearing in mind that rich country subsidies to their domestic, fossil-fuel industries stood at $73 billion per year in the late 1990s.
* Effective and efficient arrangements to respond to the increasing burden of climate-related disaster relief.
* Development models based on risk reduction, incorporating community-driven coping strategies in adaptation and disaster preparedness.
* Disaster awareness campaigns with materials produced at community level and made available in local languages.
Co-ordinated plans, from local to international levels, for relocating threatened communities with appropriate political, legal, and financial resources.
In addition to these, as organisations striving to improve human well-being in the face of enormous challenges, we will:
* Work toward a collective understanding of the threat.
* Share the best of our knowledge about how to build human and ecosystem resilience and live with the degree of global warming that is now unstoppable.
* Do everything in our power to stop dangerous climate change and help bring about a global solution that is fair and rooted in human equality.
Head of IPCC and international experts voice climate concerns
To mark the launch of the Up In Smoke - Asia and the Pacific report, the chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and others comment on the threats climate change poses to the region.
"It has become clear that Asia would see some major changes as a result of the impacts of climate change, and several of these are becoming evident already. Even more compelling are the projections of future climate change and associated impacts in Asia, which require an integration of adaptation to climate change with development policies. It is hoped that this volume will be read carefully by policy-makers, researchers, industry executives and members of civil society in Asia and elsewhere, to gain insights into the challenge of climate change in this region and the steps required to tackle it."
R K Pachauri, Chairman, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Director General, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI)
"Asia is at a critical juncture as the home to almost two thirds of humanity. It has made real advances in reducing poverty but lies on the frontline of impacts from climate change. Now, if it follows a fossil-fuelled Western economic development path, it will set in train an irreversible course of events that will guarantee a great reversal in its own progress. What choice does the global community have? Practical difficulties and a lack of rich country leadership on climate change mean Asia is unlikely to abandon fossil fuels in the near future.
To prevent catastrophic global warming, the only feasible alternative is for wealthy countries to dramatically reduce their 'luxury' greenhouse gas emissions, so that the 'survival' emissions of people in poor countries do not cause disaster. How else will we free-up the environmental space necessary for Asia to develop?"
Andrew Simms, report co-author, and policy director of nef (the new economics foundation)
"The Up In Smoke? reports combine concerns about both the environment and the welfare of people in developing countries. This year's focus on Asia is crucial as the region is home to almost two thirds of the world's people, hundreds of millions of whom face growing risks from rising seas and extreme climatic events such as droughts. The new report highlights the key role Asian nations have to play in global efforts to both mitigate climate change and adapt to its effects."
Dr Saleemul Huq, Head of Climate Change, IIED (the International Institute for Environment and Development
"Recent flooding in south Asia claimed hundreds of lives, while destroying livelihoods and displacing millions of people. The stark reality of climate change is this: if the earth rises by just one degree Celsius, 11 per cent of Bangladesh could be submerged, putting millions of people's lives at risk. Before the Bali meeting, we must make our voices heard and demand international leaders take urgent and ambitious action while placing climate change at the heart of their plans. Without this, Asia's vulnerable will continue to suffer, as will communities worldwide who are contributing least to climate change but continuing to suffer the most."
Nazmul Chowdhury, Practical Action's 'Disappearing Lands' project, Bangladesh
"This impressive report is based on the climate change experiences of hundreds of communities in Asia and the Pacific, and it highlights the urgent need for resources to assist them to adapt, far beyond what is currently allocated."
Bert Maerten, Oxfam East Asia Economic Justice Coordinator, Philippines
"India is facing a major water crisis and its per capita grain production is declining. Countries like India cannot be expected to cover the cost of adapting to climate change out of their own resources. They will need financial and other help from the rich industrial countries. India's challenge is to raise 250 million people out of absolute poverty without putting an impossible strain on natural resources. The country has great potential for renewable energy, and great scope for making its industry and transport more energy-efficient."
Raman Mehta, ActionAid India, lead author of the India chapter.
"Gordon Brown says he’s passionate about lifting people in the world's poorest countries out of poverty. Now this extraordinary new study shows that because of climate change billions of people in Asia and the Pacific are facing a fight to stand still, with prosperity put on hold as conflicts, droughts and extreme weather events become more common. World leaders who have claimed the moral high ground over poverty now need to put up or shut up. Enough heartfelt declarations, we need deep cuts in emissions and they need to start now. Governments meet next month in Bali to agree the next steps after Kyoto. This study should be put under the hotel door of every delegate, because billions of people can't afford another year of delays and dirty deals. They need Bali to be the moment the world turns a corner and finally grasps the nature of the threat we face."
Charlie Kronick, Head of Climate Change Campaign, Greenpeace UK
"Climate change is real. Evidence is appearing in every corner of the globe. We have sounded an urgent warning that climate change is already hitting places like Bangladesh and India hard, and is going to get much worse. World governments are not yet meeting this call with sufficient hard action to cut global emissions and investment to help the poorest nations adapt to climate change."
Andy Atkins, Tearfund’s Advocacy Director
"We need clear commitment and action in order to make the Bali summit a real success for the future of our planet. The world's poorest people and most fragile ecosystems are paying an increasingly high price for the consumption excesses of the world's rich. This report sends a strong signal to the Bali meeting that there is an urgent need for a firm mandate towards a new global agreement to tackle climate change and provision of full and fair funding for adaptation to its ever increasing impacts."
Kit Vaughan, Climate Change Adaptation Advisor, WWF-UK
"Communities in Asia, and Africa, are doing what they can to cope with the worst effects of the climate crisis. But rich countries must now stand up to their responsibility for the stocks of greenhouse gases parked in the atmosphere, and radically reduce emissions. Britain has a golden opportunity, through its Climate Change Bill, to enact urgent, deep and meaningful change and set an example to other countries. Only through urgent action can we ensure a sustainable existence for all of humanity now and in the future."
"Up In Smoke: Asia and the Pacific highlights the multitude of impacts which climate change will have in Asia - home to 60 per cent of the world’s population. By offering practical suggestions on how to tackle issues such as deforestation, clean energy technology transfer and developing country adaptation it is showing governments a route out of the current climate change crisis."
Ben Hobbs, Senior Policy & Advocacy Officer, Christian Aid
"In many Asian countries climate change stories don'’t make it into the media, so the public are left out of the debate. The challenge for decision-makers and the media is to stimulate interest in their work and translate the complex issues into stories that capture the public's imagination. Climate change above all requires the engagement of everyone in creating the changes required."
Rod Harbinson, Head of Environment, Panos London.
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