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We have reached the code red for humanity, as climate change affects billions of people in ways that are complex and far-reaching. In Asia Pacific, the impact is even more pronounced as our geography and natural resources are highly susceptible to climate events.
This issue took center stage in a recent PwC webcast: Code red to go green: Are we on track in Asia Pacific to tackle the climate crisis? which brought together PwC ESG experts and three IPCC authors.
There are few issues that shape our history as urgently as the climate crisis. Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, a February 2022 report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC WGII) found that human-induced climate change is having a seismic impact on nature. It’s disrupting ecosystems – and the billions of people around the world who rely on them – in ways that are complex and far-reaching.
The findings have profound implications for the Asia Pacific, home to low-lying coastal settlements along with communities and industries that are highly sensitive to floods, droughts and extreme weather events. Our latest report Code Red - Asia Pacific’s Time To Go Green highlights that the decarbonisation rate across the region in 2020 was 0.9 percent, well below both the international average of 2.9%, and the required 12.9% per year global decarbonisation rate needed to reach the 1.5°C target in the Paris Agreement.
This statistic is exacerbated by a major challenge. It’s one that must balance climate response with economies that are heavily reliant on manufacturing, a lack of natural and renewable resources and the needs of large and vulnerable populations.
Crucially, the Asia Pacific is also a centre of growth and urbanisation. It is shaped by abundant biodiversity and plays a critical role in the global supply chain. This means that it is poised to address the climate crisis in ways that are resilient, ambitious and highly inventive.
Lingering droughts, soaring temperatures and record floods are compromising food security and livelihoods of millions of people across the Asia Pacific. When it comes to the impact of climate change, this part of the world also bears a disproportionate global burden. The Disaster Riskscape Across the Asia Pacific, 2019 research by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN ESCAP) estimated annual economic losses of US$675 billion for Asia and the Pacific region, equivalent to 2.4% of GDP in the region. China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Philippines and the Republic of Korea are among the countries at greatest risk.
The IPCC WGII report confirmed that the consequences of climate inertia unfairly affect those with fewer resources. Between 2010 and 2020, extreme weather events killed 15 times as many people in highly vulnerable countries, mostly those in Asia and Africa, when compared to those with better infrastructure.
It also predicted that, going forward, multiple climate hazards will unfold simultaneously. For example, rising sea levels could lead to the loss of coastal ecosystems, threatening food and water supplies along with the health and wellbeing of local communities. In short, our ability to collectively manage climate change will become more complex than ever before.
Despite this, it’s essential to note that we are currently living through a window of opportunity that’s fast closing. As Associate Professor Chow put it in the webcast, “how the global warming of 1.5°C affects us will depend on how we as a society adapt and mitigate.” This SOS call for climate action should resound powerfully for Asia Pacific businesses who understand the urgency of investing in climate adaptation efforts – and take critical steps towards remaking our world for the better.
The climate crisis can seem like a constellation of unrelated events. Bushfires on Australia’s eastern seaboard can, from afar, feel unconnected to an earthquake in Tonga or a flash flood in Singapore. But, more than ever, the ecological scenario that’s unfolding requires us to think across borders. For Isogai, resolving code red demands a high degree of co-operation.
Yuki Isogai, Partner, Sustainability Center of Excellence Technical Lead, PwC Japan
Professor Yamagata firmly believes that mounting a response to climate change means looking beyond industry sectors, which can often be siloed. He recommends addressing urban systems. “Most of the emissions happen in the urban area, including industry emission from the consumption that occurs in the cities,” he says. “[We need] to focus on the risks and opportunities in the urban system, rather than sectoral.”
Although it’s easy to be swept up in new technologies such as electric vehicles, it’s vital to examine where resources like electricity are coming from. The word green can too easily be an empty marketing label. But thinking about the entire supply chain is the first stage towards solving problems in truly sustainable ways. If Professor Yamagata had one piece of advice for industry leaders, it’s to undertake carbon accounting, including Scope 3 emission, to truly understand your entire value chain ecological footprint along with strategies to address it.
Mitigating environmental fallout, of course, isn’t about simply brainstorming solutions. Dr Intan is an advocate for aligning the economy with both people and ecology.
Dr Intan Suci Nurhati, Ph.D. Senior Researcher, National Research and Innovation Agency
Implementing climate resilient development, for Dr Intan, begins with an approach to planning and investment that is both integrated and inclusive. She says that it’s critical to embrace solutions such as blue carbon, the carbon stored in ecosystems such as mangroves and seagrasses that are increasingly acknowledged for their environmental benefits in mitigating and adapting to climate change – proof that one of the best recruits in the fight against climate change is nature itself.
Climate change is accelerating. There’s no ignoring the implications of code red. But the world we live in tomorrow can still be shaped by the ways we adapt today. “We think about [climate change] on a country level but we need to break it down so a response is actionable,” says Kuo. “One step at a time. But we will get there.” Here, we’ve compiled the critical actions that Asia Pacific businesses can take to prepare:
The Asia Pacific approach to tackling climate change may be different from the West. Most developing countries in the region don't have the capital, technology and talent to match when it comes to supporting the green energy technology industry while some developed economies face geographical limitations to producing renewable energy at scale. However, nature-based solutions are a powerful alternative means of taking climate action.
Assess opportunities and risk by understanding your ecological footprint: While there is no clear viable pathway to reducing GHG emission, companies need to start measuring their emission and understanding the risk to their supply chain (Scope 3 emission) in order to prioritise their climate adaptation and mitigation efforts.
Collaboration at a city level, across the supply chain and with government and community is central to addressing GHG emissions.
Grappling with climate change can seem like a daunting task. But you don’t have to tackle it alone. By sharing knowledge and resources we can turn the prospect of changing code red to green from an aspiration to a reality in which people and nature can thrive.