Global Environment

The First Asia Pacific Seminar on Climate Change

[CHAIRMAN'S SUMMARY]

January 23-26, 1991, Nagoya, Japan



Introduction

1. The Asian-Pacific Seminar on Climate Change was held in Nagoya, Japan from January 23-26, 1991, with participants from 18 countries in the Asian Pacific Region (Australia, Bangladesh, China, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tonga, USSR and Vietnam), international organizations (Asian Development Bank (ADB), East-West Center, South Asia Cooperative Environment Programme (SACEP), International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), United Nations Center for Regional Development (UNCRD), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and World Bank), and resource persons from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Japan and USA. A number of observers from research institutes as well as NGOs also attended.

2. The objectives of the Seminar were to support efforts on global environmental issues, with special attention to the increased greenhouse effect, and to enhance awareness of the implications of climate change in the Asian Pacific Region. This Seminar was the first opportunity in the region to review and examine the findings of IPCC as well as those of the Second World Climate Conference (SWCC), in the context of emerging interests in the region, towards developing regional and international cooperation in response to the challenge posed by rapid climate change. In addition, this Seminar was intended to help participating nations develop cooperative regional approaches on climate change in advance of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development.

3. The Seminar was inaugurated by Mr. Kazuo Aichi, the Director-General of the Environment Agency and then followed by a welcome address by Mr. Reiji Suzuki, the Governor of Aichi Prefecture, and Mr. Takeyoshi Nishio, the Mayor of Nagoya City.

4. After the opening ceremony, Prof. Bert Bolin, Chairman of the IPCC, and Dr. Yasushi Kitano delivered keynote speeches, and were followed by presentations by Dr. G. J. Jenkins of IPCC WGI, Prof. Yu. A. Izrael, Chairman of IPCC WGII, and Mr. Saburo Kato of the Environment Agency of Japan. The major findings of the IPCC and SWCC were announced and reviewed from an Asian Pacific regional context, followed by presentations and statements by international organizations on this issue. Intensive discussions occurred on three topics, namely, cooperation in research and monitoring, formulation of response strategies, and regional cooperation.

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Implication of Climate Change in the Asian Pacific Region

5. Despite the wide diversity in environmental and socioeconomic conditions, we are aware that Asian Pacific nations have special concern for climate change over the three following issues.

  • (a) Regional climate phenomena such as monsoons, the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), and tropical cyclones have crucial importance in the region.
  • (b) Climate change and the associated rise in sea levels could adversely impact many Asian Pacific countries, especially small island nations and low lying areas. Possible effects include coastal inundation, decrease in agricultural production, and harm to human health.
  • (c) The Asian Pacific nations, with more than half of the earth's population, are crucial in any global effort to limit the rate of climate change because the Asian Pacific region currently produces almost a third of global greenhouse gas emissions and is experiencing rapid growth in both population and economic activity. Per capita emissions and economic resources differ widely among countries in the region.

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Monitoring and Research

6. Participants discussed strengthening research and monitoring conditions. They noted that interdisciplinary dialogue should be facilitated, existing programs should be utilized, and international and regional coordination mechanisms should be enhanced.

7. A number of ongoing research and monitoring programs, e.g., the World Weather Watch (WWW), World Climate Research Programme (WCRP), International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP), and World Climate Impacts Study Programme (WCIP), are dedicated to improving the understanding of global climate change. Such organizations as the IPCC have assessed the scientific and global impacts of climate change. Yet, the data and reports from many of these institutions are not easily accessible to developing countries. Furthermore, at a time when there is a need for improved climate data, the basic meteorological monitoring network in the region is shrinking. There is little monitoring of the state of climate-sensitive terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. To date, studies on the potential impacts of climate change have addressed only a limited number of countries and issues, and impact assessment methodologies are not yet well established. Thus, a comprehensive understanding of the impacts on the Asian Pacific region is lacking.

8. Participants agreed about the need for improving climate change research and monitoring institutions. Where possible, existing institutions should be utilized. If need be, the establishment of new institutions should be considered.

9. It was concluded that research and monitoring institutions should address the following needs:

  • (a) Monitoring: Monitoring of national and regional climate, greenhouse gas emissions, and regional impacts should be strengthened. In some cases, existing monitoring networks, such as those for sea level rise, should be coordinated. Monitoring stations should be added to existing networks, such as the Global Atmospheric Watch (GAW). In addition, arrangements should be made to increase more active participation of developing countries in the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and other climate research bodies. One possibility would be the formation of cooperative regional organizations.
  • (b) Regional Climate Change Scenario Development: Australia, China, and Japan have active programs to develop the capability to produce regional scenarios of climate change. These programs should cooperate and efforts should be made to disseminate information on regional scenarios among the countries of the region. There should be better understanding of the implications of global warming for such regionally important climate phenomena as monsoons, ENSO, and tropical cyclones.
  • (c) Data Exchange: It was noted that there are a multitude of organizations studying climate change. It is difficult to be aware of and digest all of the information available on climate change. Efforts should be made to collect and organize this information for the Asian Pacific countries. For example, data files on climate observations and impact assessments for the Asian Pacific countries should be created and disseminated in a standardized format.
  • (d) Impact Assessments: The seminar participants agreed that coordination and training are needed for conducting assessments of climate change impacts. Training of scientists and professionals in other relevant disciplines from developing countries in the use of impact assessment methodologies is a priority. Baseline information on the state of agroclimatic and ecological resources and socioeconomic conditions should be developed. In some cases, information can be gathered inexpensively through citizen networks.

Impact assessments should be conducted on a number of climate-sensitive resources in the Asian Pacific region, including islands and low lying areas, mountain ecosystems, tropical forests and mangroves, coral reefs, terrestrial flora and fauna, agriculture, fisheries, water resources, and human health.

These assessments should not only examine physical impacts but also the socioeconomic implications of climate change.

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Formulation of Response Strategies

10. In the discussions concerning priorities in developing response strategies, some participants emphasized the need for clear targets related to emission levels before national priorities could be meaningfully discussed. Others emphasized that targets are not really meaningful given the current state of knowledge about the costs of impacts and responses for the global warming phenomenon. Some developing countries opposed setting targets. Continued analysis and monitoring is thus required while, at the same time, environmental impact assessment procedures should generally include implications of greenhouse gas emissions and vulnerability to climate change or rising sea level as a standard operating procedure of development projects so that growth could continue without jeopardizing environmental quality.

11. In reviewing regional, sub-regional, and national policies, the participants raised a number of nation-specific initiatives, e.g., developing tree species that are salt-water resistant (Tonga), the integration of environmental issues into National Development Plans (Thailand), raising energy efficiency (China), having a national holiday for planting trees (Republic of Korea), and becoming a model environmental city through the use of clean fuels such as natural gas for power generation and possibly electric propulsion for the transport sector (Singapore). The Philippines and Tonga have emphasized emergency preparedness programs to address climate change issues.

12. Aichi Prefecture presented an important example of cooperation among local authorities, business, and residents , an example that introduced a successful experience in environmental management. The Prefecture's efforts to cope with global environmental issues were also reported. Such approaches are of importance for applications to the global warming problem, through local action and public awareness leading to concerted actions at the national level.

13. It was the consensus of the seminar that each country in the region should develop a national action program to monitor changes in environmental and climatic factors, to take adaptive measures to reduce the adverse impacts of climate change, and to implement measures to limit the emissions of greenhouse gases. Countries within and outside the region should share their experiences in formulating and implementing such programs, recognizing that each country faces different climatic, geographic, and socioeconomic f actors.

14. Measures to limit the increase of global concentrations of greenhouse gases could include increasing the efficiency of energy use in the industrial, residential, and transportation sectors, developing new, no-greenhouse-gas-emitting energy supply systems, enhancing carbon sinks through limiting deforestation, promoting reforestation and afforestation, improving forest management, improving agricultural practices, improving waste treatment practices, and changing life styles. In developing their national action programmes, countries should evaluate the cost effectiveness and public acceptability of such measures.

15. Countries in the region should also develop analyses of the potential implications of climate change and associated sea level rise for the residents. Such analyses are essential for establishing practices or strategies to reduce adverse effects of climate change. Such studies can also reveal what is at risk in each country from rapid climate change, thus enabling decision makers to assess the priority they should give to this issue.

16. Successful implementation of national action programs to limit adverse effects of climate change and increase of greenhouse gas emissions will require the active involvement of both local government and the general public.

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Cooperative Activities, Technical and Financial Assistance

17. Cooperation among nations and institutions and measures for adaptation were strongly endorsed to reduce uncertainty through research and monitoring and to promote measures to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

18. There was a consensus that regional programs need to be encouraged and that organizations such as the World Bank, UNEP, UNDP, and ADB should be mobilized to address climate change. Recent initiatives of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to protect the environment in this region were highlighted. There is a need to establish a relevant regional and international climate research institute. In Japan, the Center for Global Environment Research was established in the National Institute for Environmental Studies. In addition, a proposal was made to establish an UNEP Global Environmental Technology Center. These institutions would be of particular benefit to the Asian Pacific countries.

19. The Asian Pacific region is quite diversified in terms of country size, population, economic development, natural resources, etc. It is rather difficult to formulate regional activities from which all countries would receive benefits. At present, sub-regional environment programs, such as the ASEAN Environmental Programme (ASEP), SACEP, and the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), have actively collaborated in promoting sub-regional cooperation in the field of environmental conservation. Such countries in each sub-regional group shared rather similar or homogeneous characteristics, and these initiatives, which were made in accordance with the urgent need to solve serious environmental problems, should be encouraged to arrest global warming.

20. Many countries in the region lack skilled manpower and financial resources for coping with climate change. Thus, strengthening national and regional institutions and capabilities along with development of human resources in the region were emphasized.

21. The necessity of additional funding was stressed in order to strengthen existing institutions and to introduce new programs without impairing existing programs for economic development. A new initiative of the Global Environmental Facility by the World Bank was noted. Suggested areas for cooperation included limiting deforestation, promoting reforestation/afforestation, improving forest management, protecting coastal and marine environments, conserving energy, and transferring technology for sustainable development commensurate with climatic considerations.

22. It was agreed that preparation of national response strategies for global warming would form the basis for establishing priorities and necessary measures to deal with global change such as technology transfer, financing arrangements, and monitoring and research.

23. The participants supported the initiative of the IPCC to review and create awareness of climate change by holding briefings for ministerial and high level officials in the Asian Pacific countries.

24. The Environment Agency of Japan made a proposal to strengthen the follow-up activities of this seminar in collaboration with international organizations in the region, which was welcomed by participants. Some organizations such as ADB, ESCAP, and UNCRD expressed their willingness to support such efforts. Such follow-up activities to evaluate progress in building a comprehensive national and regional approach to climate change should be initiated as quickly as possible, preferably before the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development, and then follow-up activities should be reviewed regularly.

On behalf of all participants, I express gratitude to the organizers, the Environment Agency, the Aichi Prefectural and Nagoya Municipal Governments, and the Overseas Environmental Cooperation Center, for their leadership on this important issue. We appreciate the positive initiatives taken in this area for global environmental protection, and we hope, through this seminar, the area can become a launching site for the prevention of climate change for future generations.

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