Implications for sustainable development

Chapter 20, Section 20.1 of this volume uses the succinct definition of the Bruntland Commission to describe sustainable development as "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs". Sustainable development represents a balance between the goals of environmental protection and human economic development and between the present and future needs. It implies equity in meeting the needs of people and integration of sectoral actions across space and time. This section focuses mainly on how the impacts of projected climate change on poverty eradication, food security, access to water and other key concerns described above will likely impinge on the pursuit of sustainable development in Asia. In most instances, the reference to sustainable development will be confined to a specific country or sub-region, primarily due to the existing difficulty of aggregating responses to climate change and other stressors across the whole of Asia.

10.7.1 Poverty and illiteracy

A significant proportion of the Asian population is living below social and economic poverty thresholds. Asia accounts for more than 65% of all people living in rural areas without access to sanitation, of underweight children, of people living on less than a dollar a day and of TB cases in the world. It accounts for over 60% of all malnourished people, people without access to sanitation in urban areas and people without access to water in rural areas (UN-ESCAP, 2006). Most of the world's poor reside in South Asia and, within South Asia, the majority resides in rural areas (Srinivasan, 2000). Greater inequality could both undermine the efficiency with which future growth could reduce poverty and make it politically more difficult to pursue pro-poor policies (Fritzen, 2002).

Coupled with illiteracy, poverty subverts the ability of the people to pursue the usually long-term sustainable development goals in favour of the immediate goal of meeting their daily subsistence needs. This manifests in the way poverty drives poor communities to abusive use of land and other resources that lead to onsite degradation and usually macroscale environmental deterioration. In the absence of opportunities for engaging in stable and gainful livelihood, poverty stricken communities are left with no option but to utilise even the disaster-prone areas, unproductive lands and ecologically fragile lands that have been set aside for protection purposes such as conservation of biodiversity, soil and water. With climate change, the poor sectors will be most vulnerable and, without appropriate measures, climate change will likely exacerbate the poverty situation and continue to slow down economic growth in developing countries of Asia (Beg et al., 2002).

10.7.2 Economic growth and equitable development

Rapid economic growth characterised by increasing urbanisation and industrialisation in several countries ofAsia (i.e.,

China, India and Vietnam) will likely drive the increase in the already high demand for raw materials such as cement, wood, steel and other construction materials in Asia. Consequently, the use of forests, minerals and other natural resources will increase along with the increase in carbon emission. The challenge here is finding the development pathways wherein GHG emission is minimised while attaining high economic growth (Jiang et al., 2000). Equally vital in this regard is the promotion of equity in spreading the benefits that will arise from economic growth so as to uplift the condition of the poor sector to a state of enhanced capacity to adapt to climate change. Another concern related to economic growth is the increase in the value of land to a level where it becomes economically less profitable to farm agricultural land than using the land for industrial and commercial purposes. In the absence of appropriate regulatory intervention, this can undermine the production of adequate food supply and further jeopardise the access of the poor to food support.

Sustaining economic growth in the context of changing climate in many Asian countries will require the pursuit of enhancing preparedness and capabilities in terms of human, infrastructural, financial and institutional dimensions with the aim in view of reducing the impacts of climate change on the economy. For instance, in many developing countries, instituting financial reforms could likely result in a more robust economy that is likely to be less vulnerable to changing climate (Fase and Abma, 2003). In countries with predominantly agrarian economies, climate change, particularly an increase in temperature and reduction in precipitation, could, in the absence of adequate irrigation and related infrastructural interventions, dampen the economic growth by reducing agricultural productivity (Section 10.4.1).

10.7.3 Compliance with and governance of

Multilateral Environmental Agreements

Many countries in Asia are signatories to one or more of the Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) that seek to address common concerns such as biodiversity conservation and sustainable forest management, climate change, international water resources, over-exploitation of regional fisheries, trans-boundary air pollution, and pollution of regional seas. Some of these MEAs include the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Convention to Combat Desertification (CCD), the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Fauna and Flora (CITES), the Ramsar Convention to protect Mangroves and Wetlands, the Montreal and Kyoto Protocols to address problems of the breakdown in the Earth's protective ozone layer and global warming, International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) that governs the exploitation of tropical forests and conservation of biodiversity, and International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships for control of pollution of regional seas. The major challenge for Asian countries is how to take advantage of opportunities in designing integrated and synergistic responses in adherence to and compliance with the terms and conditions of MEAs and improve environmental quality without unduly hampering economic development (Beg et al., 2002).

10.7.4 Conservation of natural resources

Natural resources utilisation could intensify in several parts of Asia in response to increasing demands. In South-East Asia, intensification of forest utilisation could likely increase further the already high rate of deforestation that could lead to the loss of much of its original forests and biodiversity by 2100 (Sodhi et al., 2004). To sustain development in this region, measures to minimise deforestation and enhance restoration of degraded forests will be required. The challenge in Asia will be in countries with developing economies where the need to maximise production could lead to increased perturbations of the ecosystems and the environment that could be aggravated by climate change. In the same manner, the use of water will continue to increase as the population and economies of countries grow. This will likely put more stress on water that could be exacerbated by climate change as discussed above. Integrated responses to cope with the impacts of climate change and other stressors on the supply and demand side will likely contribute in the attainment of sustainable development in many countries in the West, South and South-East Asia.

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