ADB Report: SE Asia Among Top Global Polluters
As Asian cities and countries grow their economies, the physical leftovers of increasing production begin to accumulate, none as directly evident as pollution. According to a study from the Asian Development Bank, because of Southeast Asia's booming economy, the region has become the fastest producer of carbon dioxide emissions.
In the 20-year period between 1990 and 2010, the carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels in the Southeast Asia region rose 227 percent. This massive growth is larger than anywhere else in the world. The region's five largest economies: Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam, make up 90 percent of total emissions.
The Nation spoke to Shang-Jin Wei, chief economist for ADB, who spoke about the significance of the report.
"The economic costs of not reining in greenhouse-gas [GHG] emissions are more serious than we previously estimated. At the same time, this new study also shows that reducing emissions and stabilizing the climate will produce benefits and avoid losses for Southeast Asia, which in the long run sharply outweigh the costs of action."
The emissions growth is due to deforestation and land use in the region. Coal and oil have also been growing as a main source of energy and, therefore, contributing to the emissions.
Bloomberg also reported the ADB's findings, with the bank saying, "The region has experienced rapid economic growth in recent years, and regional greenhouse gas emissions have rapidly increased, at nearly 5 percent per year over the last two decades."
Ironically, the growth in the region will threaten its future with the accompanying global warming eventually causing disasters such as flooding, droughts, and other economic losses. The ADB estimated that such losses from climate change could reduce Southeast Asia's gross domestic product as much as 11 percent by 2100.
In the report, the ADB also suggested that a global carbon trading market could help the region fight climate change. Companies or countries would have a carbon limit assigned to them and if they exceed their limit they can buy allowances from others, reported Reuters.
Out of the individual countries in the Southeast Asian region, Indonesia was the only one to rank in the top 10 greenhouse gas emitters worldwide in 2011, with China ranking first.
The ADB suggested reducing emissions by increasing energy usage efficiency and replacing such carbon-based fuels with more environmentally friendly alternatives. Biomass and coal with carbon capture and storage are also viable possibilities for long-term alternate methods.
The report also supported research on advanced low-carbon energy sources. Such research would need the region to fund $2 billion each year until the early 2020s.
With growth continuing in the region, the report gives warning to what could happen if those countries do not take steps to curb their emissions. But, sadly, with how many governments are currently run, the process to make such decisive actions could take longer than what is allowed.