by Daniel J. Graeber
Manila (UPI) Jun 24, 2015
A report from the Asian Development Bank finds widening income gaps in the Asia-Pacific leaves the poor more exposed to the risks of climate change.
Vinod Thomas, general director of an independent evaluation at the ADB, said wealth gaps in the region have secondary consequences.
"Climate change hurts the poor disproportionally," he said. "Environmental shocks push the poor into direr straits. Hence, responding to climate change helps to reduce inequality."
The bank, in an annual review of the Pacific energy regime, said the region's heavy reliance on imported fossil fuels leaves it particularly vulnerable to foreign markets. The bank said its regional investments of more than $500 million by next year will support a low-carbon transition.
Asian economies, the bank said, combine for about 37 percent of all global emissions and dependency on fossil fuels remains high even though 600 million people in the region still lack access to electricity.
In a nation-specific examination, the ADB in its latest report found Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 pushed 1.3 million Filipinos into poverty and left nearly 6 million people unemployed. For Indonesia, income inequality means the nation's poor are forced to settle in areas prone to flooding, leaving them more vulnerable to dangers brought on by the extreme weather some believe is triggered by climate change.
The ADB's assessment follows a report from British medical journal The Lancet that characterizes climate change as a medical emergency. More than 700 people in Pakistan, meanwhile, are reported to have died as a result of a recent heat wave, where temperatures are eclipsing the 120 degree Fahrenheit mark.
Outside of poverty-related risks, the bank said transport, electric and water infrastructure in the region need to be designed to cope with climate risks.
"The twin challenges of rising inequality and climate change hinder Asia's development outlook. To avoid setbacks in the region's fight against poverty, a well-defined course of action for promoting sustainable and equitable growth is imperative," ADB evaluation specialist Hyun Son said.
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