Asia has much to lose in case of climate change failure

16 November 2023 4 min. read

If the world ends up failing to deliver on climate action, Asia will likely be the region to see the largest and most immediate negative impact. That is according to a wide-ranging report from the World Economic Forum (WEF) and Boston Consulting Group (BCG).

According to the report, if countries miss their Paris Agreement goal and global temperatures rise by 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, Asia will see the worst of the impact. The report urges Asian countries to do their part now to act on climate change because as of now, the world is unfortunately not on course to meet those goals.

“Businesses across Asia need to be at the forefront of the drive towards climate action. Corporate entities, whether private or state-owned, are responsible for an overwhelming share, some 51%, of global emissions and bear a strong responsibility for accelerating climate action efforts,” reads the report.

Asia has much to lose in case of climate change failure

In Asian countries, even a mild rise in global temperatures of below 3 degrees Celsius would have a serious negative impact on GDPs. The ASEAN countries are thought to be the most at-risk, though all of Asia is worse off than the world average, according to analysis.

A more severe rise in global temperatures of 3 degrees Celsius or more would be even more catastrophic. In the case of temperatures rising 3.2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels worldwide, there would be an approximately 46% drop in GDP in Singapore and Malaysia, a 43% GDP drop in Thailand, and a 39% GDP drop on Indonesia.

Asia is already suffering from rising sea levels, which are increasingly a threat in a number of very large cities across the continent. Due to rising tides, around 12% of South-East Asia’s population is currently at risk of displacement, and big urban centers there could soon be in big trouble.

Forget Venice: Jakarta is the fastest-sinking city in the world, and with about 10.5 million people, has about 40 times the population of Italy’s famously waterlogged city. Beyond that, central Tokyo, Manila, and Bangkok are all at very high risk of flooding as well.

Asia has much to lose in case of climate change failure

With such huge risks at play, Asia must do more to mitigate climate change. Asia is responsible for 51% of the world’s CO2 emissions, though much of that is distributed unequally – China, India, Indonesia, and South Korea are the biggest polluters by quite a large margin.

“We are in a life-or-death struggle for our own safety today and our survival tomorrow. There is no time for pointing fingers or twiddling thumbs … Every government, every business, every investor, every institution must step up with concrete climate actions for net zero,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres last year.

Basically, Asia needs to speed up the region’s decarbonization efforts as soon as possible. The rate of decarbonization in Asia “remains significantly below the world’s average and isn’t expected to improve in the near future,” according to the report.

Asia has much to lose in case of climate change failure

At a corporate level, there has been an encouraging acceleration in the number and scale of climate commitments, as well as in reporting on climate action initiatives. For example, in 2021, 3,879 companies in Asia disclosed their climate targets and emissions through the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) – that represents a 29% increase year-on-year.

Despite that, only around just 300 (8%) had established net-zero targets, and many others had not set concrete, science-based targets. There is also still a lot of work to be done in turning commitments into action, with only 38% of companies reporting that they are following a specific low-carbon transition plan.

“At a macro level, there can be no single approach for success in Asia, given the region’s complexity and diversity. Asia is home to 49 countries and 2,300 languages – and there are significant differences in key industries, natural resources and economic considerations within individual countries, let alone across borders.”

Strategies must therefore be tailored for each country, taking into account demographic and socioeconomic circumstances as well as the current maturity of climate action development,” notes the WEF and BCG report.