Asia-Pacific region not only has many of the world’s most climate exposed territories but is also home to millions of the most vulnerable people
Governments across the Asia-Pacific region face a tricky balancing act between enhancing economic growth while bringing down increased carbon emissions that result from higher growth.
A recently released United Nations Development Program’s (UNDP) Asia-Pacific Human Development Report 2012, ‘One Planet to Share,’ states that while growth in Asia is important for the world economy as well as for poverty reduction in the region, Asia-Pacific is starting to contribute noticeably to the world’s emission.
“The Asia-Pacific region must continue to grow economically to lift millions out of poverty but it must also respond to changes in climate to survive,” advices the report.
The report says that developing nations must grow, support climate resilience, especially among vulnerable populations, and shift to lower carbon pathways to sustain hard-won human development gains attained in the past decade.
“Growing first and cleaning up later is no longer an option,” states the report.
It says that the countries in the Asia-Pacific region must change the way it manufactures goods, raise crops and livestock, and generate energy.
This means moving to greener, more resilient, lower emissions options and a sustainable development.
The report says a number of countries are already looking beyond GDP in defining their national policies.
Citing an example, the report says Bhutan has long argued that the purpose of public policy should be happiness.
A 2011 UN General Assembly resolution sponsored by Bhutan on the role of happiness and development has continued to push for this internationally.
The report says the resolution supported by both developed and developing Asia-Pacific countries calls for action to address unsustainable patterns off production and consumption, and take a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth.
In a special contribution to the report by Prime Minister LyonchhenJigmi Y. Thinley, he said development has been interpreted purely as economic development, the GDP model that promotes unlimited economic growth as the means to human wellbeing and satisfaction.
This, the prime minster said, has resulted in a raging greed and an excessive desire to consume.
“We need to change and mend our ways, acknowledge that life as we live it is propelling us toward self destruction,” said LyonchhenJigmi Y. Thinley in the special contribution.
He added that high GDP targets are achieved at the high price of social dislocation and environmental devastation and that a more holistic model is needed to set human society on a sustainable path.
“Recognizing this, Bhutan has adopted the profound ideals of Gross National Happiness (GNH) that I believe represents a higher goal for human development,” said the Prime Minister.
He added that the pursuit of a holistic development, guided by GNH, has enabled Bhutan to demonstrate tremendous progress as measured against the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).
According to the report, while the most vulnerable people have contributed little to greenhouse gas emissions, they will face some of the most serious consequences.
Prime Minster Jigmi Y. Thinley said Bhutan has negative carbon emissions and is one of the few places on earth that continues to clean the carbon emissions of others, yet it is one of the countries’ most vulnerable to climate change.
“Our fragile mountainous landscape with rapidly melting glaciers, drying water sources, predominantly subsistence modes of farming and an economy heavily dependent on hydropower, which is climate-sensitive, threatens the wellbeing and survival of our people,” he added.
He further added that Bhutan will continue to be guided by the holistic development paradigm of GNH, to promote a green and sustainable economy and strive to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change.
According to the report, the share of Asia-Pacific developing countries in global greenhouse gas emissions increased from 23% in 1990 to about 32% in 2005.