Climate change and Southeast Asia

Editorial, Normal


GLOBAL leaders are discussing climate change in Copenhagen.
The United Kingdom has been working with politicians, business leaders and NGOs across Southeast Asia in the run-up to this conference; because a global deal at Copenhagen is vital for Southeast Asia.
If world leaders don’t agree a post-Kyoto treaty now, then the chances of checking climate change in the future will be small.
And future climate change will have devastating consequences for the region.
A rise in global temperature will affect how the people of Southeast Asia live their lives, run their businesses and manage their economies.
The Asian Development Bank estimated in its recent report, the Economics of climate change in South Asia that by 2100 regional GDP could be reduced by nearly 7% every year as a result of climate change.
But it doesn’t stop there. The same report shows that by the end of the century extreme weather will impact upon food production – with rice yield projected to decline by 50%.
Traditional fuel resources will be scarcer and become increasingly more expensive.
And if the most recent modelling by scientists is correct, then sea levels could rise over 50cm by 2100.
That leaves over 33 million people at risk from flooding across Southeast Asia.
Many in the region have already recognised the devastating consequences that extreme weather and increased competition for resources will have on the day-to-day lives of people.
Indonesia and Singapore have publicly announced targets to reduce their countries’ emissions from business as usual levels, by 2020.
They should be congratulated. But an effective deal at Copenhagen will help everyone to mitigate the future consequences of climate change and protect their countries.
A deal at Copenhagen which caps the global average temperature rise at two degrees; commits the world to a 50% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050 and provides a financial package that will help the most vulnerable nations adapt to climate change will also change the world’s economic mix.
The low carbon economy is the economy of the future.
And a global deal at Copenhagen will help open up new sectors for job creation and increased profits.
This is particularly true for Southeast Asian countries which will benefit from access to carbon credit funding, increased demand for low carbon manufactured goods like “green appliances” and vehicles.
It will increase investment available for renewable energy and encourage greater carbon trading within the existing financial sectors.
This global deal that builds upon the foundations of a Kyoto Protocol is a deal worth having.
But just because it is global doesn’t mean that it can’t be sensitive to the different circumstances of each country.
We know that developing countries cannot be expected to reduce their absolute emissions and we also know that they will need financing.
That is why prime minister Gordon Brown has proposed a “Copenhagen launch fund” to help developing countries tackle climate change immediately.
That is US$10 billion, to be spent on helping developing countries adapt to climate change and reducing greenhouses gases with “payment for results”, with the priority for the poorest and most vulnerable.
The effects of climate change are upon us. But if we act now, if the countries of Southeast Asia support the proposals for a global deal at Copenhagen, then it is not too late.
Because a global deal is not only good for the world, it is good for Southeast Asia too.


Ivan Lewis is the UK’s foreign office minister.