With a diverse climate and large population, the East Asia and Pacific region generates relatively large amounts of carbon dioxide, while some countries here have become emitters of global significance. The impacts of climate change pose a particular threat to small Pacific islands and coastal settlements.
The East Asia and Pacific region is home to about 2 billion people. Its climate is diverse, with a wide range of temperatures and precipitation levels across arid deserts, mountains with glacial systems, rugged coasts, and fertile agricultural lands. It has thousands of islands, many just a few feet above sea level, and is home to some of the most important marine resources of the world, including coral reefs, a wide range of fish species, and other biodiversity. The implications of climate change for the region—higher temperatures, changing precipitation, a rise in the sea level—need to be better understood.
The region’s greenhouse gas emissions are dominated by China’s energy use and Indonesia’s changes in land use and deforestation. The demand for energy will continue to increase with further economic development. Loss of forest across the region as a whole is being partly offset by high levels of reforestation in China. Land-use changes represent 34 percent of the region's greenhouse gas emissions, followed by electricity and other power, industry, and agriculture.
Climate change threatens small Pacific islands and many coastal settlements, including such major cities as Bangkok and Shanghai. It is expected to threaten the availability of water for 270 million people in western China. Extreme events (floods and droughts) are expected to increase, and natural habitats will be at risk. Rising temperatures will change the distribution of pests and disease.
The Region has launched a number of studies, including vulnerability assessments for small Pacific islands, coastal city impact and adapatation studies, and analysis of greenhouse gas mitigation potential. We are supporting policy reforms on energy efficiency and clean energy. We have provided technical assistance aimed at participation in carbon markets, which the region now dominates by a wide margin, and have developed large Global Environment Facility portfolios that focus on energy efficiency and renewable energy. Future support will concentrate on energy, urban transport, changes in land use, and forestry, as well as on the adaptation needs of affected cities and regions. Across the Bank Group, IFC is working to link energy efficiency and emission reductions to its private sector investments.
How the region can adapt
Adaptation to climate change involves many aspects of development: efforts at poverty reduction and economic reform, improving the information base, strengthening planning and coordination, promoting participation and consultation, improving disaster preparedness, investing in technology, and establishing financial safety nets and insurance. Responses will need to be applied through area-specific and ecosystem-level interventions focusing on coastal cities, major river basins, agricultural areas, forest and dryland areas, marine ecosystems, and small islands.
Adaptation measures mostly belong to the “no-regrets” category: actions that would help under any future scenario. They can be financed through emerging special adaptation funding and by integrating adaptation concerns into financing that is already being used for development.
The region's countries need to recognize their vulnerability to climate change and begin adapting to the future scenarios. Raising awareness among policymakers and the general public will help them make informed decisions on approaches to anticipating, preparing for, and minimizing the impacts of climate change on their sustainable development programs
The World Bank Group allocates about $500 million to climate change in the region, representing 40% of this portfolio worldwide. Projects in China get the largest share, with emphasis on energy efficiency and renewable energy. Half of carbon finance projects are executed in China, followed by Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, and Thailand, with an overall focus on energy efficiency in power and industry, industrial gas emissions reduction, waste management, and reforestation.
An example of energy efficiency improvements in China is the Renewable Energy Development Project, which supported the sale of about 400,000 solar panel systems to rural households and institutions. The supply of solar electricity to semi-nomadic populations meant more access to communications and education, better indoor air quality, and lower carbon emissions. The World Bank provided $12 million in loans, while the Global Environment Facility provided $27 million in grants; the total project cost was $205 million. A follow-up project is taking a broader look at China’s renewable energy development strategy—the aim is to improve the competitiveness of alternate energy sources, such as wind farms and biomass plants.