Beijing: Emissions in India and China set to rise as Asia-Pacific region faces mounting challenges in tackling climate change, water scarcity, species extinction and hazardous waste as its economy forges ahead, a UN report has warned.
The region needs to improve governance structures and accountability and scale up successful policy initiatives to achieve sustainable development, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said in a report.
By 2030, China and India would account for more than half of transport-related emissions worldwide, which was projected to increase by 57 per cent from the 2005 level, it said.
More than 450 million people in the Asia-Pacific still had no access to clean drinking water in 2008, accounting for over 40 per cent of the world total, and only a handful of the region's countries have established the necessary legal and institutional capacities for integrated water resources management.
The Asia-Pacific region was also under growing pressure on bio-diversity, as government efforts lag behind the extent of habitat loss and degradation, over exploitation, alien species invasion, climate change and pollution, it added.
Unsustainable growth, population growth, rapid urbanisation and consumption increase impact on the region's environment, according to the fifth edition of the Global Environment Outlook report released by the UNEP in Beijing.
Under a business as usual scenario, the Asia-Pacific was expected to contribute approximately 45 per cent of global energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 2030 and an estimated 60 per cent by 2100, the report said.
In addition, the UNEP urged Asia-Pacific nations to foster changes of consumption patterns to reduce waste, step up controls on chemicals production and use and improve management of contaminants.
The report highlighted promising examples in finding sustainable solutions to those environmental problems.
They include the reduction and removal of fossil fuel subsidies, pledges of greenhouse gas emission reductions, water-use quotas and pricing reform and payment for ecosystem services.
"If scaled-up and accelerated, such measures could assist in a transition to a green economy as nations across the globe prepare for the Rio+20 summit later this month," report said.
Liu Jian, an official with the UNEP, said the report "sounded an alarm bell with grim facts" ahead of the upcoming Rio+20 summit, or the UN Conference on Sustainable Development due to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on June 20-22.
In the Asia-Pacific, China has stood out in policy innovation towards the sustainable goal, Xinhua quoted the report as saying.
China has promised to cut carbon dioxide emissions per unit of gross domestic product by 40 to 45 per cent by 2020 compared to 2005 levels.
It was implementing some of the largest payment for ecosystem services schemes in the world, spending more than USD 15 billion in converting cropland to forest and grasslands since 1999 and over USD 2 billion in paying local governments and communities to protect key forest areas, the report said.
"China is a big country facing a serious situation in emissions, water scarcity and pollution, but we agreed that China's made remarkable progress in tackling these issues," said Li Lailai, deputy director of Stockholm Environment Institute who participated in compiling the report.
For instance, China plans to reduce reduction in energy intensity by 16 per cent and a 17 per cent reduction in carbon intensity in the 2011-2015 period, which are widely recognised as "very aggressive targets,” she said.
However, the overall environmental situation in China allows no optimism and everyone should feel the urgency of responding more quickly to environmental changes, she said.
First Published: Saturday, June 09, 2012, 14:33