ISLAMABAD: The uncertain global economic outlook threatens to undermine the resolve of countries in Asia to implement the urgently needed investments and policies to help put their economies on an environmentally sustainable growth path, warns a report by the Asian Development Bank.

It notes that Asia’s remarkable growth performance has been achieved at the expense of massive environmental degradation and climate change.

“Meeting the challenge of runaway climate change requires a rapid transition to a low-carbon path, but many countries remain ambivalent about this choice because of concerns this will come at the expense of economic growth and shared prosperity,” says Vinod Thomas, director-general of Independent Evaluation.

ADB stakeholder perception surveys over the past several years show environmental degradation and climate change rising in prominence as a threat to development in the institution’s 67 member countries. In the latest survey, this placed second in a ranking of nine development threats (after corruption); in 2006, it placed eighth.

The report identifies the most “immediate and serious” environmental threats facing Asia as urban air pollution, lack of proper solid waste management, degradation of fresh water resources, soil erosion, destruction of biodiversity habitats, and the mass extinction of species.

The report notes that Asia’s demographic and economic growth is predominantly an urban phenomenon, with cities now accounting for about 80 per cent of the region’s gross domestic product. As a result, the adverse effects of climate change and related impacts on air, water, and soil quality are primarily experienced in urban areas.

By 2050, Asia’s urban population is expected to nearly double from 1.6 billion in 2010 to 3 billion, putting additional stresses on infrastructure and natural resources.

“As benefits and costs of Asia’s economic growth manifest themselves most visibly in cities, addressing urban environmental issues and improving urban resilience is a key challenge,” says the report. Yet it notes: “The growing acknowledgement of increasing environmental degradation in Asia has not been matched by sufficient action.”

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