Report: Global Warming Could 'Push Asia into Reverse'

LONDON – Global warming could undo decades of social and economic progress across Asia unless immediate action is taken by the international community, a new environmental report alleges.

The "Up in Smoke? Asia and the Pacific" report, which features a foreword by Dr. R.K. Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, was launched this week following new evidence that the United Kingdom has been failing to stick to targets for renewable energy to tackle climate change.

According to CAFOD (the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development), the report is the most "extensive and concluding chapter" of four years of research by the Up in Smoke coalition - an alliance of the United Kingdom's major environment and development groups.

The coalition came together to assess the impacts of climate change on efforts to reduce global poverty by way of community-based organizations engaged in constructing responses to a changing environment.

"Up in Smoke?" is the latest and most comprehensive report to emerge from those communities around the world that say they are already feeling the impact of climate change and highlights just some of the possible growing consequences of inaction on the issue.

Regional farmers in northern China have lost their crops as a result of severe drought, while severe flooding across South Asia during the summer prompted a massive effort among aid agencies to meet the needs of 28 million affected people.

The report shows how, across Asia - home to over 60 percent of the world's population - communities are already acting to reduce the worst alleged impacts of climate change.

"Unless a decisive international agreement is reached, and soon, the lives of those living on the front line of climate change will go up in smoke," CAFOD said.

According to CAFOD Director Chris Bain, "[t]he effects of climate change are already impacting on CAFOD's development and humanitarian work. Communities are increasingly having to deal with more intense droughts, floods and storms."

"It is largely communities that have contributed least to climate change that are bearing the brunt," he added.

"It is therefore the responsibility of developed nations to act to significantly reduce their carbon emissions, while also assisting vulnerable communities to adapt to the impacts of climate change," Bain said.

"The U.K. has a responsibility to act with a strong Climate Change Bill and needs to push for significant progress at the U.N. talks in Bali."

The "Up in Smoke?" report also presents new evidence indicating that the huge social and environmental costs of biofuels actually outweigh the benefits, upholding concerns already voiced by aid and environment groups, and scientists.

In Indonesia, the massive expansion of the palm oil industry – which has some six million hectares of land under oil palm – has caused widespread deforestation, which in turn has helped Indonesia become the third-largest global emitter of carbon dioxide.

With biofuels becoming increasingly lucrative, conflicts are emerging over land use for crops to grow food or crops to grow fuel.

Up in Smoke is calling on the international community, particularly the rich countries that create the most emissions, to urgently cut greenhouse gas emissions according to the targets set in the Kyoto Protocol.

"Starting now with deep annual cuts, commitments should be introduced progressively in a way that prevents a dangerous accumulation of greenhouse gases and puts industrialized countries on track to reach cuts of at least 80 percent by 2050," stated CAFOD.

The coalition also pressed the international community to halt forest clearance to contain biofuel expansion and draw up coordinated plans, from local to international levels, for relocating threatened communities with appropriate political, legal and financial resources.

The U.K. government should set an example for countries like China and India, they added, by committing to mandatory emissions reductions.

"As an absolute minimum, the U.K. Climate Change Bill, currently passing through parliament must lock-in mandatory year on year emissions reductions for the U.K., setting carbon budgets for 3-5 year periods, to ensure that the U.K. does its part in keeping global temperature increases below 2 degrees Celsius," CAFOD said.

The U.K. government should also keep up its commitments to renewable energy, stressed the report, accusing the government of attempting to evade binding targets on renewable energy.

The report said that there was great potential and also a real market for sustainable energy across Asia.

"Countries like the U.K. need to set strong domestic examples – by championing renewable energy – if countries in Asia are to be convinced not to go down the fossil fuel energy route of 'get rich quick, stay poor long,'" expressed CAFOD.

The report also highlights the initiatives being taken by communities worldwide to deal with the worst consequences of climate change, including emissions reduction, the creation of alternative water and energy supply systems, preservation of strategic ecosystems and protected areas.

"The challenge is clear and many of the solutions are known," CAFOD concluded. "[T]he point is to act."