The dire prediction of scorching heat wreaking havoc in South Asia has yet to come true. But the sweltering record temperature sweeping across not only this region but also its neighbouring South East Asia has all the making of putting at risk the lives and livelihoods in these regions. Now the report titled, 'Race to Net Zero' released by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) presents a nightmarish picture of even a larger area in the shape of Asia-Pacific region. Record heat waves in several countries of the region should compel the region to make a fresh assessment of what went wrong in its energy use pattern and manufacturing modalities. The report finds that over the past 60 years, temperatures in this region have risen faster than the average global level. What is most concerning is that Asia-Pacific countries do not have the financial capability 'to support adaptation and mitigation efforts' and necessary data for undertaking climate action.
Since the infrastructure and services of most of the region's countries are not climate-resilient enough, they are at risk of grave natural disasters, the intensity and frequency have been speeded up by climate change. In this context, the region's fossil fuel combustion and consequent emissions are highly disconcerting. The region with 49 countries was responsible for producing as high as 57 per cent of global emissions of hazardous gas and, worst, three-fifths of those were from coal. This points to the fact that the majority of the countries are yet to start the process of transition from the highly polluting types to clean energy. The ESCAP notes with concern that emissions have doubled in the region since 1990. That 85 per cent of primary energy comes from fossil fuels and 60 per cent energy-related CO2 emissions from coal and one-third from gas and oil explains the faster warming of the region.
This is exactly why the Asia-Pacific region has been both a victim and perpetrator. Its disparate stages of industrial development with countries like Japan, China, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, India, Thailand and Indonesia leading the pack have again pitted the highly polluting giants against the near non-polluting minnows. What is galling is that the countries ---even the more equal among them have failed to form a coalition to develop environmental policies and launch action programmes like the European Union and the African Union. Like economic cooperation, environment cooperation also proves decisive at this critical juncture.
In the face of extreme weather and natural disasters, the best option is a collective response. What is particularly concerning is that six of the world's top 10 countries to suffer the worst natural disasters are in the Asia-Pacific region. China finds itself among the six and strangely India and Bangladesh are out of the list. But this is small consolation because the dangers from natural calamities are merely comparative. So, to lessen the prevailing annual economic loss of US$780 billion in the region, which is predicted to rise to $1.1 trillion and $1.4 trillion in case of moderate and severe climate change respectively, there is no alternative to a collective option for green energy. Let the renewable or the energy of the future propel economic, social and human development.