Global Environment

The Second Asia Pacific Seminar on Climate Change - Section 3_A


(Item 5 of the agenda)

A. Regional Implications of Climate Change

21. Dr. Shuzo Nishioka, Director, Center for Global Environmental Research at the National Institute for Environmental Studies, Environment Agency of Japan, delivered a keynote address on the regional implications of climate change. Dr. Nishioka placed the relevance of climate change issues for the region within the context of the current international cooperative effort being undertaken after the adoption of the Framework Convention on Climate Change. While assessing the implications of climate change for the region, we must take into account several factors: increasing energy consumption sustained by human population growth and rapid economic development, specific geographical and climatic characteristics, vulnerable balances between supply and demand for natural resources, vulnerability of land-use patterns, and widespread economic linkages among the countries. Therefore each country in the region should carry out thorough assessments of direct and indirect impacts caused by climate change; establish greenhouse gas emissions inventories according to standardized methodologies; strengthen local research capabilities; predict future levels of greenhouse gas emissions according to national socio-economic scenarios; and evaluate and select response strategies and technological measures which suit national priorities and local conditions. Dr. Nishioka pointed out that a future regional strategy dealing with climate change should be based on strong international cooperation. This cooperation might be achieved through existing international forums and organizations and also through the adoption of appropriate mechanisms for dialogue between the scientific community and decision-makers, such as START (Systems for Analysis, Research and Training) and the Asia and Pacific Network on Global Change Research (APN/CGR) currently being structured. In particular, Dr. Nishioka called for a more equitable sharing of research resources and methodologies between developing and developed countries.


- Climate Change Scenarios and Assessment of Rise in Sea Levels
- Climate Change and Socio-economic Impacts for the Asian and Pacific Region

22. Prof. Nobuo Mimura, Ibaraki University, Japan, summarized the current research topics in the assessment of vulnerability to rising sea levels. In 1991, WGIII of the IPCC, which was originally in charge of the development of response strategies, proposed a worldwide vulnerability assessment of rising sea levels to be carried out through a number of case-studies through its Subgroup on Coastal Zone Management. WGIII also identified general impacts associated with rising sea levels, namely erosion, flooding, inundation, saltwater intrusion, alteration of tides and sedimentation patterns, and damage to coral reefs. A proper vulnerability assessment should be based on a quantitative evaluation of feasible impacts and should consider the propagation of secondary effects through physical systems, primarily caused by two factors: an increase in water depth and a rise of average sea level. The Subgroup on Coastal Zone Management has developed a standard methodology for vulnerability assessment based on seven steps that take into account local factors and particular situations. So far, only a few Asian countries have been involved with such research activities. Professor Mimura further described the methodology by outlining a case study carried out in China. In particular, he pointed out that primary impacts on the coastline are caused both by progressive inundation and by coastal flooding associated with major meteorological events. Both factors determine the extent of the coastal area affected and must be duly considered when developing vulnerability indices. The application of such methodology is based on the availability of suitable data that is locally gathered or produced with technologies such as remote sensing. Professor Mimura presented future plans concerning these research topics that include the Second Assessment Report to be published by IPCC in 1995 and the development of an Asia-Pacific database for vulnerability assessment and coastal zone management. Data currently available are only preliminary and need to be improved through further research activities. In that connection, Prof. Mimura drew the attention of the delegates to the Eastern Hemisphere Workshop on the Vulnerability Assessment of Sea Level Rise and Coastal Zone Management, which was co-sponsored by Australia and Japan under the auspices of the IPCC and held in Tsukuba, Japan, in August 1993.

23. Dr. Jeremy Warford, Department of Political Economy, University College, London, stated that the uncertainties still surrounding the scientific assessment of climate change undermine the evaluation of socio-economic impacts. Therefore, such evaluation is debatedas much as the socio-economic implications of environmental impacts. Nevertheless, the complex problem of global warming gives plenty of scope for socio-economic research that focuses on two distinct but related aspects: the impacts of climatic change and impacts caused by preventive and adaptation measures undertaken by the governments. The most suitable technique for policy evaluation is Cost-Benefit Analysis although this technique has its shortcomings, e.g., discounting and environmental cost/benefit valuation. The use of gross national product (GNP) as a macroeconomic parameter is also questionable because long-term economic estimates, as required by the time span considered in climate change studies, are not reliable. Despite such methodological shortcomings, qualitative and quantitative assessment of socio-economic implications of climate change are needed. The national studies that are being carried out under the ADB project are expected to mark significant progress in our understanding of this complex issue; major outcomes of these studies will probably be the identification of areas deserving further research. Dr. Warford pointed out that the uncertainties and the long-term perspective associated with the global climate issue do not justify large capital investments at the present time. Current priorities for no-regret and cost-effective policies can be identified in promoting further research; in building technical capabilities in the countries; and in developing early warning systems. All of these policies should consider both physical factors (the supply side) and socio-economic factors (the demand side). Despite pressures exerted by particular interests, cost-benefit analysis should also be adopted to promote no-regrets policies in key sectors such as transport, energy, etc. The promotion of innovation through the provision of effective incentives should represent a further asset for governments.

24. Attention was drawn to methodological problems associated with both scientific and economic assessments. It was stressed that the adoption of cost-benefit analysis should take into account both efficiency and equity criteria. The Seminar expressed concern for proper evaluation of greenhouse gas emissions and sinks and, in particular, for vulnerability assessment for rising sea levels. UNEP has also promoted studies on climate change in Indonesia, and these results should be discussed in subsequent workshops on the subject. The delegate from the Philippines expressed the deep interest held by developing countries in sharing the experiences and the methodologies developed for vulnerability assessments of rising sea levels.

2. ADB Regional Study on Global Environmental Issues Project

25. The agenda item was introduced by the statements by Dr. Bindu N. Lohani, Assistant Chief, Office of the Environment, Asian Development Bank, and by Mr. Ryutaro Yatsu, Deputy Director, Planning Division, Global Environment Department, Environment Agency of Japan. Dr. Lohani summarized the ADB strategy for the '90s that stipulated that 50% of funded projects should be related to environmental and social sectors. The environmental perspective and, in particular, the concern for climate change are endorsed by ADB through the consideration given to such issues in the ADB policies for the energy sector and other sectors; specific assistance programs enabling countries to strengthen their own capabilities for environmental management and assessment; and the funding of projects directly relating to environmental issues, such as the objective of this Seminar. In particular, Dr. Lohani mentioned major ADB projects in the energy sector carried out in China and ADB involvement in the planning activities for the Global Environment Facility. He also highlighted the objectives, the time frame, and the structure for the Regional Study on Global Environmental Issues, which has been provided with a budget of US$1.7 million through the technical assistance funded by the Governments of Japan, Norway, and Australia.

26. Mr. Yatsu presented the activities of the Environment Agency of Japan concerning climate change. The Environment Agency organized the First Asia-Pacific Seminar on Climate Change held in Nagoya in 1991 and co-sponsored this Second Seminar. Mr. Yatsu mentioned that the Cabinet requested the Diet to ratify the Framework Convention on Climate Change on March 12. This important step must be placed within the context of wide-ranging initiatives undertaken in Japan on this issue, which reached their apex with the adoption of the "Action Program to Arrest Global Warming" launched in 1990. The Environment Agency is carrying out a collaborative program that involves national-studies in Indonesia and the Pacific nations and is expected to develop further during the next fiscal year. The serious concern of the Government of Japan for environmental policies is witnessed by the recent submission to the Diet of the Basic Environmental Law that is intended to give rise to the introduction of profound innovations into existing environmental legislation. The Japanese Government is also pursuing the establishment of a regional network of global change research. Further progress toward stronger regional cooperation is expected at the Environment Congress for Asia and the Pacific (ECO ASIA) '93 conference, which will be convened by the Environment Agency of Japan in July 1993. Mr. Yatsu expressed Japan's interest in hosting the Third Regional Seminar on Climate Change.

27. Giving further details concerning the Action Program to Arrest Global Warming, Mr. Yatsu referred to the medium- and long-term objectives set by the Program. ADB and ESCAP representatives underlined the reasons for promoting the development of a regional strategy as a complementary measure to national action plans; regional initiatives also aim to involve delegates from Asian and Pacific countries in the scientific work that is conducted in centers of excellence outside the region. Dr. Pittock and Dr. Callander stated that confidence in impact assessments carried out on the basis of GCMs was determined by the degree that such models were correctly endorsed. The Seminar recognized that the current shortcomings of GCMs were a reason for further research activities at regional and sub-regional levels for the development of a reliable scientific basis for decision makers.

2. a) ADB Regional Study: Presentation Overview
  1. Progress report
  2. Impact studies and adaptation development
  3. General circulation models
  4. Emissions inventory and mitigation measures

28. Dr. Ata Qureshi, Director of Environmental Programs at the Climate Institute and team leader of the ADB Regional study, provided a review of the ADB regional project, the philosophy of which was to produce national studies developed according to a comparable methodology and at the same time adapting to specific local conditions. The Terms of Reference for national-studies were established at the Commencement Workshop held in Manila in July 1992. The Climate Institute coordinated national agencies, international consultants, and research institutions for the implementation of the project. The emission level scenarios developed by IPCC for the years 2010 and 2070 are used for reference. Four climate change scenarios are being used together with three levels of sensitivity to reflect uncertainties. Emission inventories are being prepared according to the latest methodologies developed by IPCC and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Impact studies include the assessment of vulnerability to present-day climate variations. The agriculture sector and rising sea levels are receiving the greatest attention. The studies involve the economic assessment of sources of greenhouse gas emissions, the development of no-regret policies, and further research initiatives. National response strategies will be developed according to the major impacts identified, the inventories of greenhouse gases, the economic assessment of feasible policy options, and through the identification of special sector actions. National studies are currently at various stages of implementation. Their outcomes will be announced in national workshops to be held in each country in May - July 1993; the final reports are due by August 1993 and may be presented at the Third Asia-Pacific Seminar on Climate Change that Japan has offered to organize. The fundamental outputs expected from the regional studies are a national strategy for each country and a broad regional strategy for Asia and the Pacific; furthermore, the project may help the participant countries to gain multilateral and bilateral funding and will identify further investment opportunities for ADB and other financing institutions.

29. Mr. John C. Topping, Jr., President, Climate Institute, reviewed current research topics related to the impacts and feasible adaptation measures for climate change. Human health related problems may be aggravated, particularly in developing countries, because of increase in the occurrence of heat shock mortality, spread of vector-borne infectious diseases, and variability of acclimatization factors. Quantitative assessment of the impacts due to rising sea levels are currently being produced for population displacement, loss of agricultural land and production systems, and loss of water supply due to saltwater intrusion. Current adaptation options for such impacts involve anticipatory measures through Coastal Zone Management and reactive policies such as coastal protection. While general impacts have been identified, quantitative evaluation is still weak because of uncertainties in scientific predictions. An emerging issue is the fact that global warming might offset the benefits expected from water resource development. The complex set of factors affecting agriculture production under climate change scenarios is being examined. It is predicted that crop yield would increase in high latitude areas and decrease in low latitude areas. Global cereal production would decrease and, consequently, its price would increase. While trade liberalization might reduce the hunger risk in the mid-term, low cost adaptation measures for the agricultural sector would not offset all adverse impacts in developing countries. Furthermore, government policies limiting fertilizer usage and land expansion may eventually raise cereal prices.

30. Dr. Pittock, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), Australia, reviewed the underlying principles and the methodology adopted in the GCMs. He pointed out that the four models currently adopted worldwide have a resolution ranging from 300 to 500 km, which makes them unsuitable for studies at the sub-regional level. These models still require further caveats: failure to capture some climatic features, failure to predict phenomena like El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and tropical cyclones, and failure to model soil and vegetation systems adequately. Nevertheless GCMs are the best source of information currently available and are undergoing rapid improvements. They must be used critically and, as has been clearly argued in the assessment reports prepared by the IPCC, full consideration must be given to the uncertainties involved because of varying future greenhouse gas emission levels, global climate sensitivity to greenhouse gases, the effects due to natural variability, biospheric feedback, etc. The confidence in the models is justified on the ground of the substantial agreement shown by all four GCMs. Modeling exercises have been scaled to the regional level. The maximum resolution achievable allows consideration of three different sub-regions in Asia and the Pacific: the South-West Monsoon region, the North-East Monsoon region, and the South Asia sub-region. Each sub-region encompasses ten or more grid points.

31. Mr. Craig Ebert, ICF Inc., reviewed the objectives of emission inventories, namely the identification of size and the importance of regional, national, and source categories, to provide a solid basis for policy making as required by the Framework Convention on Climate Change. He reviewed the progress of national-studies and noted that the Malaysian and Vietnamese studies did not involve emissions inventories. Mr. Ebert identified potential areas for regional research in the agricultural and energy sectors and in land use patterns. Consequently, the countries of the region should strengthen national capabilities, play a more active role in the current IPCC emission inventory process, and promote research at the regional level on common issues. Mr. Ebert reported on the major activities relating to mitigation measures, such as greenhouse gas emission curbing and sink enhancement. Major options encompass switching energy sources (from coal and oil to natural gas and renewable sources), promoting energy efficiency, controlling land-use changes (reforestation and erosion protection), and managing agriculture practices soundly. Mitigating policies in participating countries are still in the early implementation stages. Current policy assessment exercises give top priority to the energy sector and also encourage the adoption of no-regret measures based on a multi-sector approach. In this respect, national-studies are limited by the lack of information relating to costs and performance of technology, and sometimes by the lack of internationally developed and accepted methodologies. Further progress will be achieved through the improvement of methodology, the evaluation of policy options according to criteria of cost-efficiency and cost-benefit analysis, and the promotion of suitable financing mechanisms.

Discussion Summary

32. The Seminar noted that, given the current uncertainties associated with GCMs and the resources required for their application, these models should be integrated with complementary methodologies for climate predications because they represent the best option over the long-term. The Seminar also called for further follow-up activities after the conclusion of the ADB study with particular attention given to carbon sinks and called for the development of a worldwide database of global climate research similar to databases developed for other environmental research fields. Such a global database should also be made available at regional and national levels. The Seminar also underlined the methodological problems faced in estimating emissions caused by land-use changes and biomass burning. In this regard, the delegate from Japan pointed out that Japan has developed and applied a method for carbon emission inventories that produced a figure of 318 million tons of carbon emitted during the fiscal year 1990; the details of the method can be made available to interested parties. The representative hoped that his country, even though already involved with specific case studies, would be involved in further regional research. The representative from the Philippines mentioned that the Environmental Management Bureau has been involved in national-studies on global warming and particularly on an emission inventory for Metro Manila. These findings should be compared and cross-validated with the results of the ADB funded project. Dr. Lohani called for a larger integration of results among complementary projects and mentioned that the precise aim of the actual project is to develop national strategies in participating countries.

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