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Combating the Climate Crisis as One: Can South Asian Economies Work Together?

Combating the Climate Crisis as One: Can South Asian Economies Work Together?

The South Asian region covers the countries of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives. It accounts for around 40% percent of Asia’s population and over 24% of the world’s population. This populous region is also accountable for nearly 33% of global GHG emissions and is highly vulnerable to climate change as the majority of the population and economic activity are concentrated along the coastlines.

A study conducted by Asian Development Bank reveals that mean temperature in the region has increased by 0.1-0.3 degrees Celsius per decade between 1951 and 2000. Another study by the World Bank estimates that climate change could push nearly 62 million South Asians below the extreme poverty line by 2030.

Is Cooperation Need of the Hour?

Given the large volume of emissions in the South-Asian region, climate change emerges as a regional challenge, which at best, can be combated by a coordinated response.  This would allow countries to spend money more efficiently, pool their resources effectively, and share collective knowledge with governments and citizens. For e.g. when there is an energy shortage in one country, it can draw on the surplus produced in another country. This would enable the conservation of valuable resources and free up resources to be diverted towards combating climate change. The United Kingdom and Belgium share renewable energy in this manner, drawing their energy supply from an interconnector called ‘Nemo Link’, which joins the power grid of the two countries.

There have been a number of hurdles standing in the way of achieving this target of cooperation among South Asian members. In a virtual session held by the Third Pole, world leaders from across the world shared their insights on some of the key challenges in achieving this goal. The list of panelists included: Ken O’ Flaherty (Regional COP 26 Ambassador for Asia-Pacific). Jairam Ramesh (Former Environment Minister of India), Malick Amin Aslam (Federal Minister and Adviser to Prime Minister of Pakistan for Climate Change), Jennifer Morgan (Executive Director, Greenpeace International), Dechen Tsering (Director, Asia, and Pacific Office) and Dr. Pema Gyamtso (ICIMOD).

We encapsulate some of the key findings of the discussion here:

Blame it on Politics

Mr. Jairam Ramesh holds the view that politics has played a big role in slowing down the momentum of climate action. As per the former environment minister, we are in an impasse and have to break it. He advises that South Asia’s approach should be to take small but certain steps instead of focusing on bigger goals.

Data Sharing as a Possible Solution

“We need- regional co-operation on all fronts to move forward and need to have coordinated info sharing mechanisms so that we’re able to share early warning signs”, says Mr/ Malik Amin Aslam (insert designation). The paucity of data has been cited by many leaders as a roadblock to achieving climate targets. Ms. Dechen Tsering (insert designation), is also of the view that “Asia is not on track to achieve its climate targets, where we lack is data and information” Dechen Tsering

Climate Change is Not a Linear Track

Climate change cannot be viewed in isolation but it must be viewed from multiple lenses. Social equity and climate justice must support climate targets. “Solutions to climate change have to be rooted in social justice. An equitable society with clean air and access to food should be provided to everyone”, says Jennifer Morgan (ED, Green Peace International). “We need to step up climate finance. Although we have doubled climate finance in the UK in the past year to 1.3 billion, we need to do more.” Ken O Flaherty

The Way Forward

Climate Change is a complex phenomenon, which has to be viewed from both a scientific and social lens. As there are multiple social agents involved who often hold widely varying or differing views, any proposed solution must bring together different stakeholders and take into account each of their views. Bringing stakeholders together will help in understanding the many forces that are at interplay and getting to the root cause of the issue, thereby strengthening the region’s response to climate change.

Also, as an emerging economy where development is a key priority, South Asia can significantly save on their resources by coming together as one. These resources could be put to better use that would benefit all countries. This can be viewed as an extension of economic cooperation among the member nations and holds great potential to accelerate the progress in combating climate change.

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