Climate Change and South Asia
An aerial photo shows flood-hit houses in Faridpur in July 2020. — Xinhua
SOUTH Asia is one of the regions most vulnerable to climate shocks. South Asia sits precariously on the front lines of the global climate crisis. As temperatures rise, the region experiencing a new climate normal is expected to experience warmer weather, longer monsoon seasons, and increased droughts. The region’s extreme vulnerability has long been apparent. South Asian countries have been affected by one or more climate-related disasters over the past two decades.
The region is experiencing a new climate normal in which intensifying heat waves, cyclones, droughts and floods are testing the limits of the adaptive capacity of government, businesses and citizens. More than half of all South Asians have been affected by one or more weather-related disasters in the past two decades, but the worst affected countries are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Climate change could drastically reduce living conditions for up to 800 million people in a region that already has some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable populations. At the same time, South Asia is at the forefront of many climate-smart solutions, including innovative community-based approaches to coastal resilience, renewable energy development and regenerative forestry. Accelerating and scaling up these efforts is key to building resilience to rapid climate warming in the region and reducing emissions.
The South Asia region is excessively open to the effects of climate change, including rising temperatures, rising sea levels, erratic rainfall, amplification and severity of extreme weather events, increased overflows and melting ice. It is expected to be the region most affected by climate change and global warming due to the geophysical environment in addition to the socio-economic and demographic backwardness of the population.
Millions of people bear the burden of these disasters due to their dependence on climate-sensitive sectors such as forestry, fisheries and agriculture for their daily needs. Biodiversity, human health, food security, energy, water, agricultural production and coastal arrangements will be threatened, leading to increased migration and ultimately escalating pressures on major cities. This spring, record heat waves have paralyzed India, Pakistan and northern Bangladesh. In August, unusually heavy monsoon rains, exacerbated by melting glaciers, caused a super flood that submerged a third of Pakistan, displacing millions and destroying critical infrastructure such as hospitals, schools and bridges .
We know that climate change is a serious risk multiplier that hinders sustainable and inclusive development across South Asia and will do so more in the future. Without comprehensive and large-scale climate action, gains in human development and poverty reduction across South Asia are at risk, and macroeconomic fragility will increase. For South Asia, whose per capita greenhouse gas emissions are well below the global average, climate action above all means investing in climate resilience as an urgent priority. This requires building the systemic resilience of rural landscapes, including food, freshwater and forest systems, to drive climate change adaptation, livelihoods and food security.
As South Asia continues to urbanize rapidly, it requires building climate-resilient cities and infrastructure. And it requires a people-centered approach to building community resilience through early warning systems and shock-responsive safety nets. It’s not that South Asia can afford to completely ignore greenhouse gas emissions.
But in prioritizing climate action, countries in the region should seek synergies between adaptation, mitigation and development, for example by relying on nature-based solutions for resource management. water or building more efficient cities to reduce the need for cooling. There is an urgent need to increase national and international investments in the resilience of roads, hydroelectric dams, coastal communities and agriculture in the region, as well as its rapidly growing cities, which are full of the most informal settlements. at risk.
There are significant gaps that need to be filled. Access to finance for climate resilience projects remains a challenge for many countries. Persistently high inflation, slow economic growth and the continued fallout from the Covid pandemic have limited fiscal space for governments across South Asia. Unlocking private investment in resilience and adaptation to climate change has proven challenging.
A combination of measures is needed to address this issue: regulation to encourage private climate action and reduce climate risks on corporate and financial balance sheets; more concessional financing to supplement insufficient revenue streams from resilience investments; and new financial instruments that use markets to generate new profitable solutions. A challenge in South Asia, about which much is already known, is the low revenue base of most governments.
This is a constraint not only for climate action, but for development in general. Greater domestic resource mobilization must complement increased support from the international community to effectively mobilize private sector financing. Furthermore, investing in the well-being, education and health of citizens can pay huge dividends by boosting the productivity, growth and resilience of economies. Investments in human capital, increased availability and access to productive employment, and improved social protection systems can help communities better prepare for and respond to the growing and unavoidable climate shocks they will face. Timely and equitable development can reduce people’s vulnerability to climate change, potentially halving the number of people who will fall into poverty due to climate change by 2030. The role of local communities and partnership with civil society are essential here.
Bangladesh has become a world leader in disaster risk reduction. In Nepal, the World Bank’s Forests for Prosperity project aims to increase community benefits from forests by including women and other socially excluded groups, thereby encouraging sustainable forest management practices. Such solutions can be very profitable. For cash-strapped governments, investing in effective delivery mechanisms could be the cheapest form of climate action.
The secondary impacts of catastrophic floods in Pakistan and Bangladesh, such as diseases such as malaria, typhoid and dengue, are being felt as millions of people face food insecurity. With COP27 underway, we need everyone to play their part to provide increased financing for resilience and to ensure we are on a more equitable, prosperous and clean development path in South Asia and around the world.
Climate-related security risks in South Asia are calling on governments to step in and international communities to support the cause and save the region. Now is the time to better understand future climate anticipations and their implications for current exposures. Despite efforts to integrate stakeholders and various institute structures, as well as numerous international treaties, agreements or mega-projects, the result is depressing. There is still a lot to do.
Major powers and global watchdogs have a responsibility to compensate developing countries through development grants, project implementation and infrastructure improvements. The Covid pandemic is a lesson and a window of opportunity for all to reform national and international politics according to the liberal philosophy of cooperation. In the context of climate change, optimism is in order because radical change is always possible.
Focusing on the environment as a referent object is now far too necessary to ensure the overall security and stability of this region as well as the whole world. Globalization and transnational borders call for more cooperative relationships, not only to promote trade or production, but to fight each other against all threats. Thus, beyond the States, the international community must play its role in the fight against the contrary influences of climatic variations. Awareness and efforts at the individual level are also important. Sensitizing a layman, who is more vulnerable to climate hazards, means a lot for the overall contribution of climate change adaptation and mitigation in this region of South Asia.
This means integrating disaster risk planning into urban and local government master plans and helping to make the health, water resources management, agriculture and road sectors more resilient to disasters. Implementing climate action across South Asia will require building the resilience of targeted systems, combined with a robust financial system capable of financing climate-smart transitions.
This means helping our partners across the region green the financial sector, increase public and private finance by putting climate at the heart of financial decisions, and translate strategies into real-time investment plans. Take action to find out how countries on the front lines of climate change in South Asia are paving the way to a more equitable, prosperous and cleaner future.
Rayhan Ahmed Topader is a researcher and columnist.