Tuesday, 5 May 2009 6:27 AM

Asia Must Urgently Adapt to Climate Change, ADB Panel Says

BALI, INDONESIA, 3 May 2009 - Governments in the Asia and Pacific region must urgently develop strategies to adapt to climate change or face soaring economic costs in the future, a seminar audience heard today.

The seminar, "Responding to the Inevitable: Climate Change Adaptation Challenges and Opportunities in Asia Pacific," was held at ADB's 42nd Annual Meeting in Bali, Indonesia.

"Climate change impacts threaten to reverse decades of progress in poverty reduction in Asia and the Pacific," said Ursula Schaefer-Preuss, ADB Vice-President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development.

"There is a need to manage the impacts of climate change and integrate adaptation within the development process," she added.

With greenhouse gas emissions growing at twice the average global rate in recent years, studies warn that the Asia and Pacific region is particularly vulnerable to the environmental and economic impacts of climate change. These impacts include sea level rises that threaten millions of people in low lying areas, dramatic declines in crop yields, and extreme weather events such as tropical storms, severe droughts and floods.

A new ADB report, "The Economics of Climate Change in Southeast Asia: A Regional Review," warns that the total economic cost of these threats could be equivalent to a 6.3% annual loss in countries' gross domestic products by the end of the century.

Ms. Schaefer-Preuss noted that many of the countries that are most vulnerable to the economic impacts of climate change are also the least equipped to afford the considerable costs associated with adaptation.

"The incremental costs of adaptation are likely in the billions per year but available resources are more in the millions of dollars per year," she said.

"There is an urgent need to develop, scale-up and replicate adaptation technologies, methods, and finances," she added.

Ms. Schaefer-Preuss said countries in the Asia and Pacific region need to better understand where their key climate vulnerabilities lie and what options are available to finance protective measures.

These include ADB's Climate Change Fund, created with a $40 million allocation from its ordinary capital resource profits, to facilitate greater investments in developing member countries to effectively address the causes and consequences of climate change.