Asia-Pacific is the most disaster-prone region in the world. With its extensive coastlines, low-lying territories, and many small island states, the Region is highly susceptible to rising sea levels and weather extremes, such as drought, flooding and typhoons.

Based on climate trends and projections of the new IPCC AR6 report, Asia and the Pacific will be faced with more heat extremes, marine heatwaves, erratic rainfall, and rising sea levels, with major impacts on people’s lives and livelihood, especially the poorest and the marginalized.

Half of Asia-Pacific’s population (about 2.4 billion people) live in low-lying coastal areas. Climate change has the potential to devastate countless coastal communities across the region. To protect lives and livelihoods, we must limit global temperature increases to below 1.5°C through climate mitigation and implement climate change adaptation strategies.

In January 2021, UNDP published the People’s Climate Vote to connect the public’s perceptions about climate change to policymakers as they work on their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement. About 1.2 million people across 50 countries participated, making this the largest survey of public opinion on climate change ever conducted.

The results were clear: the majority of people in the Asia-Pacific believe climate change is a global emergency and expect their government to undertake urgent climate action under the Paris Agreement. The results of this survey present a clear message for decision-makers to commit to more ambitious NDCs under the Paris Agreement, which along with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) present us with a vital opportunity to build a more sustainable, equitable and prosperous future.

The Climate Promise Initiative

UNDP created the Climate Promise to support decision-makers to enhance their climate commitments and go beyond the targets it established in their original Paris Agreement pledges.

One reason tackling climate change has been a tremendous challenge is that it spans so many sectors of life, including energy, forests, water, agriculture, health, youth, finance, governance, gender equality and green jobs.

The Climate Promise is able to draw support from UNDP’s country presence and expertise across these priorities. Additionally, the Climate Promise is strengthened by UNDP’s proven success in supporting governments in discussing, developing and executing climate action related to the Paris Agreement.

In Asia-Pacific, UNDP’s Climate Promise supports 27 countries in working together on climate action across government and society to advance equality, tackle poverty and strengthen social and environmental sustainability through NDC enhancement. This includes 9 LDCs, 11 SIDS, 6 high-emitters, 8 countries in fragile settings. In total, the portfolio represents about 11.39% of global emissions.

These countries are being supported in coordination with over 18 partners, including through the NDC Partnership. Together we are working closely to provide targeted support to developing countries’ NDC processes and leverage them to advance sustainable development priorities, including gender equality, youth empowerment, green job creation, and COVID-19 recovery.

Least Developed Countries and Small Island States lead the way on Climate Action in the Region

Globally, the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are leading the way on climate ambition. This is mirrored in the Asia-Pacific region – with many SIDS and LDCs already having stepped up their mitigation and adaptation ambitions, through their enhanced NDCs and National Adaptation Plans. This includes broadening sectoral coverage, strengthening targets, and becoming more inclusive, compared to their earlier NDC submissions.

For example:

• Bangladesh has recently submitted its NDC to the UNFCCC and has been commended for the commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared to a business-as-usual (BAU) scenario, and the increase in sectoral targets. There is also the inclusion of an implementation mechanism and the enhanced adaptation component in this NDC.

• Bhutan remains committed to maintain its carbon neutrality in its second NDC and is in the process of developing a Long-term Strategy aligned to its national objective and global net-zero goal by 2050.

• Cambodia and Nepal have both committed to achieve net-zero as part of their updated NDCs and are in the process of developing Long-Term Strategies, supported by UNDP and key partners.

• Maldives’ Updated NDC included conditional targets of 26% reduction of emissions in 2030 (compared to BAU) with the aim of reaching net-zero by 2030 with extensive support and assistance from the international community.

• Papua New Guinea’s enhanced NDC (2020) announced the country’s commitments to achieve 50% carbon neutrality by 2030 and be entirely carbon neutral by 2050. Its NDC includes adaptation targets and commits to developing a National Adaptation Plan that can operationally meet these objectives.

As of August 2021, 18 Asia-Pacific countries have submitted their enhanced NDCs, improving their quality and robustness; mitigation ambitions have increased in over 80% of countries, and 93% of countries now have a greater adaptation ambition. Seventeen of the 18 submitted NDCs have taken gender into consideration – notably Cambodia, Nepal, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu, and the majority have expanded their consultation processes and engagement with young people, women and the private sector.

Progress on NDCs in Asia-Pacific

Countries across the Asia-Pacific region have committed to NDCs under the Paris Agreement. While some countries have updated their first NDC, others have resubmitted a new NDC altogether. UNDP uses these NDCs as a starting point for the Climate Promise with the intention of taking the impact even further. A list of the newly enhanced (and submitted) NDCs can be found below.

• Bangladesh First NDC (Updated submission)

• Bhutan Second NDC

• Cambodia First NDC (Updated submission)

• Indonesia First NDC (Updated submission)

• Lao People’s Democratic Republic First NDC (Updated submission)

• Malaysia First NDC (Updated submission)

• Maldives First NDC (Updated submission)

• Mongolia First NDC (Updated submission)

• Myanmar First NDC (Updated submission)

• Nauru First NDC (Updated submission)

• Nepal Second NDC

• Pakistan First NDC (Updated submission)

• Papua New Guinea Second NDC

• Philippines First NDC

• Samoa Second NDC

• Sri Lanka First NDC (Updated submission)

• Thailand First NDC (Updated submission)

• Tonga Second NDC

• Vanuatu First NDC (Updated submission)

• Viet Nam First NDC (Updated submission)

Climate Promise in Action: Fostering Inclusive Dialogues

At the regional level, the Asia-Pacific UNDP Climate Promise Team successfully organized the ‘Integrated Approaches for Climate-Resilient Development’ Track during July’s Asia-Pacific Climate Week 2021. The 11 virtual thematic sessions were attended by more than a thousand people and were co-convened in partnership with FAO, UNEP, UNCDF, UN-Women as well as with the UN Issue-based Coalitions. Some of the key takeaway messages that emerged from this Track included:

• Inclusivity is central to effective and sustainable climate resilient and policy;

• Enhanced vertical integration on climate finance, action, and policy between national and sub-national stakeholders can support greater climate ambition and implementation and;

• Governments at all levels, communities, civil society organizations, the private sector, women and youth in the Asia-Pacific region are demonstrating leadership and innovation in the transition to a more green and resilient society.

In March 2021, the Climate Promise Team also facilitated the Asia-Pacific Regional Dialogue: Turning Climate Promise into Inclusive Action. The March 2021 event centered around integrating inclusivity and gender equality into climate policy in the context of Green Recovery. The takeaways from the event are helping policy makers and other partners advance gender-responsive climate action in their respective countries in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the country level, the Climate Promise initiative has already started creating meaningful community impact. Collaborating with a diverse range of community members, using innovative tools and fostering partnerships with government entities have all proven integral to the Climate Promise’s work thus far. Some notable examples include:

• In Bangladesh, the rising-sea level crisis threatens farmers’ ability to generate income. In coordination with Bangladesh’s National Adaptation Plan support, UNDP is working with farmers to encourage the adoption of alternative sources of income, such as fish and salt farming and the cultivation of saline tolerant crop varieties.

• In Indonesia, UNDP is currently supporting the Government in developing an Ocean Sector Roadmap, which will advance the inclusion of ocean-based climate solutions. One priority in the newly enhanced NDC is blue carbon capture through the conservation and rehabilitation of seagrass and mangroves.

• In Viet Nam, the Youth4Climate Learning Hub is being developed to provide a centralised hub of resources on climate science and policy exclusively for Vietnamese youth. A collaborative learning platform, the Hub will be easily accessible, and feature interdisciplinary and cross-sector climate resources to support education and advocacy efforts by young people.

• In Pakistan, the Ministry of Climate Change and UNDP have launched the Youth and Climate Change Perception Report. The study explored Pakistani youths’ varied perspectives on climate change, seeking their insights around vulnerability, adaptation, regulatory knowledge, and climate advocacy. The survey has also been included in Pakistan’s Economic Survey 2020-2021.

• Papua New Guinea’s recently enhanced NDC, supported by the Climate Promise Initiative, includes a strong human rights component. This effort aims to guide an inclusive, rights-based approach to climate adaptation on the ground.

• In the Maldives, UNDP is working with the government to go beyond the targets set under their updated NDC. One initiative involves working with the Ministry of Tourism to assess the socioeconomic impacts of renewable energy use within the Tourism Sector, integrating renewable energy into key water infrastructure projects and reducing agricultural harvest loss through solar powered cold storage facilities.

• In Mongolia, UNDP is piloting a blockchain program to promote the sustainability of sustainable cashmere production. This technology is used to promote small-scale nomadic herders who practice sustainable cashmere production. It tracks their cashmere product throughout the supply chain to evaluate its sustainability factor before it reaches consumers willing to pay premium prices for more sustainable cashmere.

• In Thailand, the Bang Chalong Model is a social innovation project created by youth teams from Youth Co:lab Thailand 2020. This model is derived from the Bang Chalong community’s response to the challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Local communities have put grant money toward tackling unemployment, malnutrition, and mental illness through a sustainable city model that uses urban farming to create opportunities for extra income, recreation and food security, improving the quality of life for its residents.

Source: UN Development Programme

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