Published on November 24, 2007
Dr Han Seungsoo, United Nations' Special Envoy for Climate Change.
To efficiently tackle climate change in Asia, new mechanisms to benefit both industrialised and developing countries need to be created and explored to replace existing ones, the international conference on Asia's climate change agreed yesterday.
The conclusion was made at "Asia's Emerging Response to Climate Change" conference, at which more than 600 opinion leaders from governments, the business sector and social and science communities across Asia participated.
The issue of "unfairness" and the inefficiency of existing methods at national, regional and global levels to fight climate change were a major focus of the conference, which was organised by The Nation, Krungthep Turakij and the Asia News Network, an alliance of 16 leading newspapers in 14 Asian countries.
The conference, the first to explore climate change in the Asian context, began with the significant contribution of the participants agreeing to take off their jackets as the temperature in the conference room was set at 25 degrees Celsius.
Although conceding that awareness of climate change in Asia was rising and that more activities to reduce or, at least stabilise, greenhouse gas emissions have been implemented, many speakers felt that the response was unbalanced and unfair.
"I conclude, unhappily, that overall the emerging responses in Asia to climate change, both in terms of reducing rates of emission growth and adapting to climate change, are likely to exacerbate or distract from addressing existing social injustices," said Louis Lebel, director of the Unit for Social and Environmental Research, Chiang Mai University.
The "injustice", said Lebel, is a result of disadvantaged groups being excluded from policies to respond to the problem and because the risks have shifted from powerful and influential sectors to those who are vulnerable and powerless.
While Lebel was seeking social justice in response to climate change, Han Seung-soo, the United Nation's Special Envoy for Climate Change, came up with a call for "fair market mechanisms".
A keynote speaker, Han said the existing mechanisms under the Kyoto Protocol, the only international agreement to reduce emissions, could not make developing countries the beneficiaries.
Home to 60 per cent of the world's population, Asia will bear the brunt as more extreme climatic changes will take place within the region. Yukihiro Nojiri, manager of the Greenhouse Gas Inventory Office, Japan, said global warming would make Southeast Asia more vulnerable to food shortages, natural resource depletion, a decline in human health standards and land degradation this century.
Brahma Chellaney, from the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, said climate change had a clear link to human security in Asia, as extreme climate events could drive an influx of vulnerable people from climate-sensitive areas such as the hinterland to areas that are more protected.
"Through such large-scale migration, the political stability and internal cohesion of some nations could be undermined," said Chellaney, who is also the author of "On the Frontline of Climate Change", which examines how climate change will impact on national and international security.
However, Anond Sanidvongs, director of Southeast Asia's Global Change System for Analysis, Research and Training Centre (START), said he had noticed that many countries, not only in the region, but around the world were now "over-aware" about climate change.
He said this over-awareness was the result of mixing up the weather and climate among policy makers.
"Extremely unusual natural phenomena caused by a variation of weather patterns and climate change need different levels of response," he said, adding that weather patterns only refer to phenomenon that happen in a short period or over small areas, while climate change refers to "weather statistic parameters", such as the average and extreme ranges over a long period of time.
According to Anond, many countries have or plan to invest large sums of money for defensive measures to protect against extreme weather events that are extremely rare, because they mistakenly believe the events are caused by climate change.
He hoped policy makers would pay more attention to the difference between weather and climate and be more aware of the reality that solutions to mitigate the effects of extreme events caused by climate change may not be financially feasible are 100-per-cent effective.
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