The Asia-Pacific Climate Week 2-6 September currently being held in Bangkok is gearing up to boost the region’s response to the climate crisis in advance of the Climate Action Summit organised by the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General on 23 September in New York.
With the objective of boosting ambition and accelerating the implementation of the Paris Agreement, the UN chief Guterres has stated that the ticket to entry to the Summit —for governments, business and civil society —is “bold action and much greater ambition”.
Asia’s action or lack of it will decide whether the world has any chance of keeping global temperature rise below 1.5C, as the region now consumes as much as three-quarters of the world’s coal, according to The Economist.
Asia also has the biggest new pipeline of coal plants, representing over 70 per cent of new coal capacity being built or in development, with alarming consequences for the climate.
What “bold climate action” could look like in Asia could not be any clearer. The region has to ensure that no new coal infrastructure is built, and a rapid, just transition away from fossil fuels is expedited.
However, despite the green development rhetoric, governments, energy companies, and financiers across Asia continue to allow the expansion of unnecessary coal, oil and gas infrastructure.
To confront the climate crisis at its root, Asia must not only put an end to the financing of new fossil fuel developments, it must redirect this money to finance the just transition to 100 per cent renewable energy systems which protect the rights and interests of impacted communities.
The actions of major banks and investors in Asia will be critical to enable this transition. While some banks in Japan and Singapore have begun to recognise climate risks as material risks to business and restricted finance to new coal-fired power projects, the policies adopted to date are far too lenient to meet the targets set by the science.
Asia must not only put an end to the financing of new fossil fuel developments, it must redirect this money to finance the just transition to 100 per cent renewable energy systems which protect the rights and interests of impacted communities.
The economic and social costs of climate inaction are huge, and they will impact the poorest and most vulnerable communities in Asia first and hardest. This means that the fig-leaf argument that fossil fuels as necessary means to achieve development and lift people out of poverty does not hold up: if anything, unabated climate change caused by the billions of yuans, yens and dollars being poured into coal will make almost everyone poorer, including account holders and shareholders of the biggest banks in Asia.
At the upcoming Climate Action Summit to begin on 23 September, the UN Principles for Responsible Banking are expected to be formally adopted by more than 100 global commercial banks, where signatories will commit to “aligning banking practices with the Paris Agreement”.
More principles are not enough —the planetary emergency requires bold action. Bold action by the global banks means real commitments to ban new lending or investments in fossil fuel expansion - while protecting peoples’ rights to land, clean water and clean air. That means no less than a moratorium on finance to fossil fuel expansion.
On September 20-27 young people are rising up across the Asia-Pacific region in at least 28 countries to sound the alarm that our house is on fire — through mobilising on the streets as part of the Global Climate Strikes.
The youth are right to send the message that there is no development on a dead planet. Governments, business, and financiers across Asia must heed the call and take bold actions to fund the transition to a just economy that works for all of us and leaves no one behind.
Shin Furuno is Senior Regional Campaigner, Asia Finance, for 350.org, the global grassroots campaign on climate.
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