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How Asian Nations Can Act to Mitigate Climate Change

Asia must take urgent steps to lessen the effects of climate change, and for that it needs considerable help from rich nations elsewhere, concludes a report, titled “Up in Smoke,” the fourth in a series compiled by more than 35 development and environmental groups including Oxfam and Greenpeace.

According to the report, which was released on Monday, there is a growing consensus about the challenges being faced by Asia. However, it notes “reason to hope” that there is now enough knowledge about the causes of climate change, how the world must tackle it, and how the people in Asia must continue to adapt to it. Immediate action is vital, says the report.

The report comes two days after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded its Fourth Assessment Synthesis report in Valencia, Spain. The IPCC highlighted “unequivocal” climate change already occurring and warned that manmade global warming could lead to abrupt or irreversible impacts.

As world leaders prepare for the next UN talks in Bali in December to determine the international response to climate change, “Up in Smoke” shows how the drama of climate change will largely be played out in Asia, where almost two thirds of the world’s population live.

“While going through the foreword that I wrote for the 2004 volume of “Up in smoke,” I found that the concerns and priorities that I had touched on have become stronger, and the uncertainties associated with what I had stated then have been reduced significantly. The IPCC findings provide the evidence for the same,” writes Dr R K Pachauri, Director-General of the Energy and Resources Institute and Chairman of IPCC, in the foreword to the report.

“Up in Smoke” calls for immediate action on appropriate policy and fiscal measures for dealing with the future impacts of climate change, a move towards sustainable, low carbon intensity energy pathways, while not compromising on development goals. It calls for planned adaptation measures in climate sensitive sectors, especially water and agriculture.

“We must not gamble with the future of the planet. The stakes are too high and levelled particularly against the interests of the poor and the vulnerable,” said Athena Ballesteros of Greenpeace International. “We know more than enough to act. Decisions taken in Bali must match the scale of ambition required by the IPCC’s findings.”

“Up in Smoke” recommends that the international community commit to meaningful and mandatory emissions cuts to ensure that global temperature increases stay below 2°C. It says rich countries must honour their commitments to renewable energy and that the potential for its use across Asia is vast. India alone has the potential to provide 60 percent of its electricity with renewable sources by 2050. Rich countries must stop using restrictive intellectual property rules and allow the transfer of green technologies to developing countries.

The international community must also urgently assess the full global costs poor countries having to adapt to climate change will incur and give new funds. The report notes that rich country subsidies to their domestic fossil fuel industry stood at $73 billion per year in the late 1990s. It also says that crisis responses must be better planned, organised and funded and that vulnerable communities must be helped to prepare for climate-related disasters.