Asia and the Pacific is a dynamic region and has made significant progress to improve the health and well-being of its population by lifting billions of people out of poverty.
However, economic growth has been based on unsustainable models of development, leading to the region accounting for more than half of global greenhouse gas emissions and two-thirds of premature death, due to air pollution, and causing a quarter of endemic species in the region to face high risk of extinction. If business continues as usual, the ongoing deterioration of our environment will exacerbate risks and vulnerabilities, potentially causing irreversible environmental change.
Meanwhile, it is encouraging to have the majority of Asian and Pacific countries already announcing goals to achieve carbon neutrality by mid-century, and many countries have developed detailed plans and strategies. Central to a carbon-neutral society is to phase out the use of fossil fuels and to fully utilize the potential of nature-based solutions to mitigate carbon dioxide emissions. This will lead to significant co-benefits to climate action safeguarding ecosystems and biodiversity, tackling the root cause of air pollution and making cities more liveable and sustainable. The transition is a race against time, considering the trend of global temperature rise and the region’s high vulnerability to climate change. To win in this race, Asia and the Pacific needs to strengthen regional cooperation and solidarity based on a shared vision. In line with national goals and aspiration for carbon neutrality, regional cooperation could support the implementation of long-term, low-emission development strategies through sharing knowledge and technologies, and facilitating partnership programmes.
Taking the lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic and other zoonotic diseases, the region needs to enhance joint efforts to protect and safeguard the health of ecosystems, including the marine ecosystem, with the “One-Health” approach, managing relations between the health of humans and animals and the functions of ecosystems. Regional cooperation needs to include the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity beyond national jurisdictions, and consider the interlinkage of the marine ecosystem and climate change.