A Long-term Perspective on Environment and Development in the Asia-Pacific Region
The outcome of this project will be made available to ECO ASIA participating countries and organizations, and reported to the Fifth Session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development and/or to the special session of the United Nations General Assembly in 1997. This report introduces current and future environmental and social economic issues in the region, offers 'Asia-Pacific Eco-Consciousness' as a conceptual tool for building partnerships, proposes the three concepts of 'Eco-Partnership', 'Eco-Technology and Eco-Investment' and 'Eco-Policy Linkage' to guide action, and finishes with recommendations and follow-up activities.
Characteristics of the region
The Asia-Pacific region as defined for this report is vast, and is diverse in ecosystems, history, cultures, ethnicity, political systems, and economic development. The marine environment dominates the physical environment of the region. It covers tropical, temperate and arctic climate zones and stretches from the Pacific Basin to the South China Sea, and from the Indian Ocean to Antarctica in the Southern Ocean. The coastal zone is of considerable significance, with a large percentage of the population in the region living on or near the coastline. The region has the world's highest peaks in the Himalayas, and the deepest ocean floor in the Sulu Sea near Indonesia.
A number of countries in the Asia-Pacific region are experiencing high economic growth, making it a major growth center in the global economy. National economies range from industrialized to non-industrialized, and range from high to low average per capita incomes.
This project identifies common cultural, spiritual and linguistic elements in the region which could provide bases for working on the main environmental issues. Significant elements identified include: Confucian ethics common in China, Korea and Japan; the influence of the 'Ramayana' from India to Indonesia; language groupings including Indonesian, Malaysian and the Philippino, and Malay- Polynesian languages spoken in the Pacific region; many indigenous cultures which are rich storehouses of wisdom accumulated through lives that have been tied to local natural environments; cultures based on rice cultivation common throughout Asia; strong ties with the sea; many island societies which rely heavily on seafood; a high level of private sector activity; and the growing roles of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) of citizens' groups.
This report identifies a number of key environmental issues. Many countries in the region share problems that arise from rapid industrialization, population growth, and concentration of people in cities. With energy consumption rising rapidly, the region is a major and growing driver of climate change, and at the same time one of the most vulnerable to sea-level rise. Industrialization is causing air pollution, water pollution, toxic chemicals pollution, etc. Common environmental problems caused by urbanization involve sewage, household waste, and noise and air pollution due to traffic congestion. Environmental problems deriving from poverty are also coming to the fore in the Asia-Pacific region. In 1992 the Asia- Pacific region had 3.1 billion or half of the world's people. According to ESCAP the region has 72% of the world's farming population, but only 30% of the world's arable land. Soil degradation affects 10 to 50% of national land areas in East and South Asia, and 36% of arable land in Asia is experiencing desertification. The region has a high rate of tropical deforestation with 1.2% of forest land being deforested per year.
Prospects for the region
The business as usual (BaU) forecasts for 2025 are based on conventional trend analysis and empirical regression formulas derived from empirical relationships between various economic, social, and environmental indicators and per capita GDP. Results of a more comprehensive economic and environmental model (AIM Model) developed by NIES (National Institute for Environmental Studies, Japan) are also used.
One BaU scenario (high economic growth rate scenario) gave the following results for the countries studied. The industrial production of Asia Pacific countries were predicted to increase to three to eight times current levels. Such a forecast has very serious implications for the rise in industrial waste, water pollution, and air pollution. Urban populations were assumed to double from 923 million (1993) to 2,074 million (2025). Passenger car ownership will increase even more rapidly; in 2025, China will have three times Japan's number of passenger cars, and the total passenger car ownership in the region will rise over five times from 91 million now to 522 million cars. As standards of living rise, consumption of animal foods will probably increase; for example daily per capita caloric consumption from animal foods in China is predicted to rise from 581 to 1,062, with implications for agriculture and the demand for feed grains. Demand for seafood in 2025 is expected to increase by at least 50% in developed countries, and more than double in developing countries.
The AIM model predicted primary energy consumption to rise 2.3 to 3.8 times the 1990 level by 2025. CO2 emissions from the Asia-Pacific region were predicted to rise from the current 25% of the world total, to 36% in 2025. SO2 and NOx emissions were projected to rise 1.7 to 3.4 times present levels in 2025, implying serious problems with acid deposition damage in East and South Asia. Land-use change will also release CO2, reduce biological diversity, and threaten the traditional lives of indigenous peoples. Forest lands are predicted to decline by almost half in the period from 1990 to 2100.
The report proposes a conceptual tool for countries in the region which could guide partnerships to solve environmental problems: 'Asia-Pacific Eco- Consciousness' encompasses common environmentally sound practices, traditions, modes of social conduct, decision-making and bodies of indigenous knowledge. The report suggests such common elements should continue to be identified, maintained, and encouraged. Where possible, they should be integrated into the development process in order to achieve sustainable development. Mechanisms to achieve this goal need further attention and research.
Elements shared by countries and cultures in the region include frugal traditional lifestyles, sustainable agriculture and industry based on indigenous knowledge, harmonious co-existence with nature, and emphasis on meeting real needs rather than induced desires. They share values of creativity originating from fusing the modern and traditional, and strength of the family as a unit of society. Their modes of decision-making are characterised by consultation rather than confrontation, reliance on consensus, settling disagreements through discussion rather than legal action, pragmatic rather than doctrinal approaches to problem solving, and informal as well as formal approaches to governance. Economic growth is achieved at relatively lower levels of energy use, and per capita caloric consumption is low and largely derived from plants rather than animals.
Based on the discussion, two economic growth scenarios were proposed which could allow sustainable development: a moderate growth rate using 'eco- consciousness' ('leap-frog' style); and rapid growth, which minimizes environmental costs by learning from past mistakes and lessons of developed countries.
Future Regional Action
The Project proposes three concepts which are (1) 'Eco-Partnership', (2) 'Eco- Technology and Eco-Investment', and (3) 'Eco-Policy Linkage' in pursuing future regional actions for sustainable development:
'Eco-Partnership' is defined as activity which reinforces cooperation and exchange of experience within and between the various sectors within countries, regionally and internationally, including not only governments, but also companies, NGOs and local authorities.
(1) Exchange of experience country to country
(a) Sharing of experience between countries can be valuable in avoiding environmental problems. A late launch on the path of economic growth is not entirely disadvantageous. Newly industrialized countries can avoid mistakes made by countries that preceded them in economic development. Developed countries can often provide experience to developing ones and encourage sustainable development approaches and practices. In some cases, a developing country may also find value in the approaches taken and technologies adopted by semi-developed countries that are closer to their stage of economic development.
(b) The promotion of cleaner production techniques in all aspects of manufacturing and industry, energy efficiency and energy distribution technologies should be encouraged through international cooperation.
(c) Cooperation among middle-income developing countries in the environmental field should be encouraged. Middle-income countries might have more to share with developing countries relating to issues and experience in overcoming environmental problems, because their experience is more recent than countries which industrialized earlier.
(d) Sub-regional cooperation should also be encouraged. Many environmental problems that relate to the physical environment, social conditions, and traditions have more in common within sub-regions. Exchanges and sharing of information should be encouraged among governments, research institutes and NGOs.
(e) The development and use of electronic networks should be supported, such as the 'Eco Asia Net' proposed by the Environment Agency of Japan.
(2) Exchange of experience by companies
The project makes the following recommendations for the private sector:
(a) Companies which have advanced technologies should be encouraged to transfer environmentally sound technology (EST) to subsidiaries or joint ventures in developing countries, and form links with companies in those countries;
(b) Sharing of information related to the environment and dialogue should be promoted;
(c) Companies in developed countries could assist those in developing countries to meet the ISO 14000 series of standards for corporate environmental management.
(d) Financial and technical assistance is necessary for small and medium enterprises (SME). A network involving governments, SME, and NGOs is recommended to facilitate cooperation, particularly with the provision of information.
(3) Involvement of NGOs
In the Asia-Pacific region, relationships of NGOs with governments and companies have often been portrayed as confrontational, but with social and economic changes in the region these relationships are becoming more mutually constructive, with the realisation that NGOs, with their local roots, have an important role in fighting environmental problems. Governments should continue supporting NGO activities.
(4) Exchange of experience for Local Authorities
Often the national level is too large for approaches to environmental problems. Cities and local authorities can play a major role in the quest to achieve sustainable development: they are closer to their citizens, and are in a better position to hear their needs and respond in a more finely-tuned way. Cities in the Asia-Pacific region with rapidly growing populations share many similar urban environmental problems. Exchanges between cities, to share experiences and knowledge, would promote exchanges of ideas and combined efforts to find solutions to these problems. Examples of initiatives which deserve support include sister city programs, the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), the Metropolitan Environment Improvement Project (MEIP) for major Asian cities by the World Bank and the UNDP, and the 20% Club for Sustainable Cities.
(5) Joint Activities
For maximum effectiveness, bi-lateral and multi-lateral development assistance programs and projects should be designed in cooperation, rather than independently. This cooperation should include transfers of technology and know-how. Also, NGOs, companies, and governments could cooperate to develop environmentally friendly products and markets. As incomes and standards of living rise, consumers are more willing to spend more for environmentally friendly products.
2.Eco-Technology and Eco-Investment
The Project calls for support in the region for 'Eco-Investment', which is investment that reconciles economic growth and environmental protection, and 'Eco-Technology', which is environmentally sound technology. The need for investment in environmental measures in the Asia-Pacific region is expected to grow dramatically through to 2025. Periods of high economic growth, when large funds are going to capital investment, are opportune times to channel some funds into environmental protection and related technologies. In the process of transfer of environmentally friendly technology, domestic capacity in the field should be developed. Developing countries should be encouraged to take advantage of the opportunity to reduce time and costs along the development path, by incorporating technology, know-how and systems of developed countries.
The following three proposals are particularly important at a time of rapid economic growth, and should be implemented quickly in order to fully utilize foreign direct investment, ensure the manufacturing sector incorporates greater energy efficiencies, and avoid later costs of renovation and improvement.
(1) Localization of Eco Industry
Much foreign direct investment now goes into real estate, manufacturing for export, and manufacturing consumer goods for domestic markets. Investment and joint ventures in local environment-related industries should be encouraged, with adaptation to the conditions and needs of the particular country.
(2) Promotion of investment in infrastructure for environmental
As industrialization accelerates the rate of urbanization in the Asia-Pacific region, the need grows for new infrastructure such as waterworks, sewerage, waste treatment, urban transportation, and other elements of social infrastructure. Energy-efficient public transport, which has less environmental impact, is also high priority.
(3) Promotion of investment in energy conservation
A commitment to energy conservation is important at a time of economic growth; energy saving technologies should be incorporated at the same time that the manufacturing sector expands and investment in new facilities is large. Based on the experience of industrialized countries, market mechanisms can control energy consumption and promote energy conservation. In many developing countries where energy prices are held artificially low, an adjustment of energy prices to reflect true costs will encourage energy conservation, introduction of renewable energies, and research and development by the public sector.
'Eco-Policy Linkage' is defined by the Project as strategy that
(1) links the domestic environmental policies of developing countries with global-scale environmental policies,
(2) thereby supporting the domestic environmental policies of those countries, while
(3) effectively contributing to the achievement of global environmental policies.
Many developing countries in Asia must deal with local problems such as air and water pollution, at the same time as dealing with global issues; this is different from some developed countries, which dealt over time with domestic environmental issues before the global issues became pressing. Many developing countries will have difficulty with global issues because of limited economic strength, weak local administration, restrictions on freedom of information, and inability to use market mechanisms, etc. The project seek solutions in this area.
Dealing with global and domestic issues simultaneously, as required by the current situation, could be an opportunity to find efficiencies. The integration of response policies is the key. As an example, industrialized countries have found improvements in energy efficiency are the best ways to reduce CO2 emissions, methods that are at the same time effective in reducing SO2 and NOx emissions. International efforts to control CO2 emissions could be linked to measures of developing countries to reduce local pollutants. The project proposes the following strategies for consideration:
(1) Air Pollution Prevention Linked Strategy (AIRS)
AIRS seeks to promote new air pollution prevention strategies in developing countries by linking developing countries' policies for controlling emissions of SO2, NOx and other substances, to international policies for arresting global warming and acid deposition. It would identify the best integrated strategies for developing countries to control local air pollution, acid deposition, global warming, and aerosol pollution.
(2) Natural Resource Recovery Linked Strategy (NATS)
NATS strategy would link developing countries' natural resource recovery policies involving forest management, soil recovery and food production with international policies such as arresting global warming.
(3) Recycling Promotion Linked Strategy (RECS)
This strategy would develop new recycling programs involving developed and developing countries. New recycling networks could transcend national boundaries, stimulate the recycling businesses in developed countries, vitalize small industries in developing countries, and promote the global conservation of resources.
(4) Biodiversity Protection Linked Strategy (BIOS)
This strategy would link developing countries' policies for protecting biodiversity and the natural environment with programs to promote eco- tourism.
(5) Water Pollution Prevention Linked Strategy (WATS)
With aims of promoting technology transfer, cooperative activities, and domestic and local activities, this strategy would link national policies for water quality control in rivers and adjacent seas to regional and sub-regional policies to prevent water pollution on the high seas.
Conclusions and Recommendations
In conclusion, if the Asia-Pacific region proceeds with economic development as currently planned without a unifying sustainable development policy framework, there will be grave consequences. Such a framework would allow countries of the Asia-Pacific region to pursue economic improvement policies which address poverty and provide a better quality of life for their own people through sustainable development.
The Project suggests "Asia-Pacific Eco-Consciousness" as a conceptual tool, which identified a variety of Asia-Pacific traditions and lifestyles that used to be environmentally sound.
Traditional values and ways of life can provide the philosophical underpinning and models of behavior toward the environment and serve as guidelines for sustainable development.
While environmentally sound traditional lifestyles are to be rediscovered and respected, new approaches to environmental problems should be promoted, reflecting new concepts in policy. The project then proposes the following three concepts as well a future regional actions; "Eco-Partnership", "Eco-Technology and Eco-Investment" and "Eco-Policy Linkage".
The report closes with the following recommendations and follow-up activities, saying that the continuation of cooperative work in the region like this ECO ASIA Long-term Perspective Project is important.
(1) Asia-Pacific Eco-Consciousness
ECO ASIA Long-term Perspective Project should further develop and disseminate the concept of Asia-Pacific Eco-Consciousness. This will encourage each country to rediscover those elements in its traditional way of life that are suited to conserve the environment and to protect and nurture them, including incorporating them into national policies, action plans and educational curricula to ensure their transmission to future generations. The countries of the region need to create institutions and processes to learn from each other's experiences to jointly create new patterns of sustainable development.
It is recommended that governments provide support to small and medium enterprises that often lack funds, technology, and information on low environmental impact technologies; assistance should also be sought from NGOs and industry sector groups. Countries need to support the activities of non-profit NGOs as they provide important information for decision-makers as well as enhancing public awareness of the role of citizens in reducing environmental problems. Inter-city networks such as ICLEI need encouragement and support in their initiatives in establishing fora and joint actions for the resolution of urban environmental problems.
(3) Eco-Technology and Eco-Investment
Companies possessing environmentally sound technology should be encouraged to transfer this when establishing subsidiaries or joint ventures in developing countries.
Governments in the region need to actively stimulate a major increase in investment in environmental management and protection in the industrial and government sectors.
Governments should thoroughly investigate market mechanisms in order to meet the immense environmental investment requirements in the region.
Steps need to be taken to foster growth of the domestic eco industry in developing countries by offering incentives to foreign investors to enter into joint ventures with local enterprises.
Countries should provide environmental and energy conservation guidelines for external investors in manufacturing and real estate development.
Governments need to review energy prices that are set at artificially low levels and thus provide incentives for investment in energy conservation. During periods of major industrial expansion, governments should require companies to incorporate energy-saving technology as part of energy use.
(4) Eco-Policy Linkage
Governments need to closely link their national policies with regional and international policies in the following areas in order to achieve maximize progress on the environmental issues such as AIRS, NATS, RECS, BIOS, WATS.
Particular proposals for follow-up activities are:
(1) To report the results of ECO ASIA Long-term Perspective Project to the Fifth Section of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development or to the Special Session of the UN General Assembly.
(2) To organize international workshops to further develop approaches and activities on the following four items: Eco-Consciousness, Eco-Partnership, Eco-Technology and Eco-Investment, and Eco-Policy Linkage.
(3) To outline the role and function of the ECO ASIA Focal Point in each country and establish a means for maintaining linkage between country focal points.
(4) To develop the AIM and Framework models further (particularly Japan), closely linked with the development of environmental indicators in the region; in addition, opportunities to use these models in countries in the region should be sought; countries should establish the necessary data collection and training systems;
(5) To establish a regional Asia Pacific environmental information network (ECO ASIA NET may be the basis for this). To ensure effective in-country use, the necessary training programs and computer hardware should be identified, planned and funded;
(6) To pursue policies and actions which involve new actors including NGOs and the private sector.