As this is my first blog entry, I should start with a bit of an introduction. I work in Singapore, and take forward the British Government’s work on climate change in South East Asia. We are mainly looking to do two things – work with countries of the region to agree an international deal on climate change, and to promote the benefits of moving to a “low carbon” economy with less dependence on fossil fuels.
When I arrived in the region I thought: “The first thing to do is work out what are the main climate change issues here - what are the angles that really concern people?” There are a number - forestry is key, with significant emissions particularly from peatland areas, and plenty of interest in the carbon markets. But the one argument I heard everywhere was ‘Our countries are going to develop economically - we won’t sacrifice growth on the altar of low carbon’. So it was clear we had to show how taking action on climate change wouldn’t damage economies - and would actually be the most sustainable way forward.
There were some misunderstandings to overcome - NGOs told me of comments like ‘You green activists, you want us all to go back to riding on bullock carts!’ - by people who should have known better. So we needed to find good evidence - hard facts and figures - to demonstrate you really wouldn’t have to ride a bullock cart in a low carbon world (unless you wanted to, of course).
Thankfully that evidence exists. In April 2009 the Asian Development Bank produced a report looking at the economics of climate change in South East Asia. It makes stark reading. The ADB concludes that South East Asia is very vulnerable – as so much of its population and economic activity is found in low lying coastal areas, and natural resources form a major part of the economy. The estimated GDP loss from climate change is 6.7% each year by 2100 - over _twice _ the global average. And rice yield could be reduced by 50% by 2100.
But there is good news as well. The report identifies excellent opportunities to reduce emissions at low or negative cost. For the energy sector, 40% of emissions could be cut at negative cost by 2020 – that is, improving energy efficiency will reduce energy bills, save money and cut emissions at the same time.
The ADB report is a very good document – I would recommend it to anybody interested in how climate change is going to affect this part of the world.