ASIAN Development Bank (ADB) president Masatsugu Asakawa on May 2 called for leaders in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) to join hands and redouble their efforts against climate change, warning that without proper action, reductions in the region’s GDP (gross domestic product) growth rates attributable to the complex global phenomenon could become especially severe.

Speaking at a press conference at the ADB’s 56th Annual Meeting in Incheon, South Korea, Asakawa underscored how devastating diseases, armed conflicts and economic hardships have been for human welfare, especially in the past few years.

However, “the most alarming challenge facing our region is the worsening impact of climate change. This threatens the existence of countless species, including our own”, he warned.

“Since 2000, more than 40 per cent of climate-related disasters occurred in Asia and the Pacific. Over 3.5 billion people have been affected, with close to one million deaths. By 2050, another one billion people living in urban areas in our region will suffer from harmful air pollution and heat stress.

“In addition, the developing member countries of the [ADB] have experienced physical losses worth billions of dollars due to climate-related events. In 2020 alone, the region faced a disaster loss of $67 billion. If we don’t act, the increase in annual losses will outpace the region’s GDP growth.

“This is why ADB is taking bold climate action. We aim to deliver $100 billion in climate finance to our developing member countries between 2019 and 2030. We will fully align all our operations with the Paris Agreement by no later than 2025. We will expand our investments in renewable energy options, and we will not invest in coal,” he said.

Similarly, speaking at a March 30 graduation ceremony in Phnom Penh, Prime Minister Hun Sen had described climate change as the single worst threat to humanity, predicting that – contrary to popular belief – the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict will eventually end through compromises.

“The Russia-Ukraine war is not the worst threat we are facing. It will surely end through negotiations at a certain point, if neither side has the strength to claim a military victory. The most prolonged danger we are facing remains climate change,” he said.

As a case in point, he cited a recent visit to Moscow by Chinese President Xi Jinping, who proposed a “peace plan” to end the conflict.

“Based on this, we can see that the Russia-Ukraine war will end eventually. But the one thing we cannot foresee is an end to the ongoing effects of climate change. Each day, the far-reaching consequences of climate change become more apparent,” said Hun Sen.

Ministry of Environment spokesman Neth Pheaktra agreed that climate change is a global challenge linked to certain natural hazards including flooding and droughts that threaten the livelihoods of millions.

“Cambodia is a small nation, but we are very active in our contributions to the fight against climate change. We are recognised globally for our commitment to implement policies and action plans that will prevent and reduce the effect of climate change,” he added.

Pheaktra explained that the Kingdom has laid out a long-term development plan to achieve net-zero carbon neutrality by 2050.

“This will allow us to fulfil our commitment to the Paris Agreement to ensure that global warming remains under 1.5 degrees Celsius,” he said.

He said Cambodia has set out many action plans, including bringing an end to deforestation and discouraging the use of fertilisers containing high levels of toxic substances.

“In the meantime, the Cambodian government has invested a lot on climate change adaptation to reduce its impact on GDP,” Pheaktra added.

On May 2, the ADB also announced the Innovative Finance Facility for Climate in Asia and the Pacific (IF-CAP), a programme that is says “could significantly ramp up support for the region in the battle against climate change”.