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Advancing together in Asia and the Pacific

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Integrated approaches for climate-resilient development supported by UNDP are improving lives and livelihoods – and protecting the planet – as nations race to address the climate crisis

The climate crisis has put the very future of humanity at risk. Nowhere on earth are the impacts of this existential crisis more present than across the Asia-Pacific region.

This is the most disaster-prone region in the world. With extensive coastlines, low-lying territories, and many small island states, the geography here makes it highly susceptible to rising sea levels and weather extremes. Heat waves, floods and droughts are affecting every aspect of life – from nutrition and health to safety and income.

While the region’s poorer communities contribute the least to greenhouse gas emissions, they are the ones feeling the consequences of climate change the most. Unpredictable weather patterns can lead to failing crops, spiking food prices, and spreading diseases that threaten to wipe out decades of development gains and undermine efforts to reach the targets outlined in the Paris Agreement and Sustainable Development Goals.

The nations of the Asia-Pacific region are rising to the challenge. With support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and financing from key donors such as the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and Green Climate Fund (GCF), these nations are accelerating the ambition of NDCs, formulating effective National Adaptation Plans, protecting coastlines and supporting a blue economy, enhancing food systems, building urban resilience, and ensuring young people and women are active participants in guiding a green recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

UNDP’S CLIMATE PROMISE

UNDP’s Climate Promise is the largest offer of support to countries to enhance their Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement. The Climate Promise is currently supporting 27 nations in the Asia-Pacific region to help countries take bold action to reduce their emissions, increase their resilience to climate impacts and support sustainable development priorities.

Overall, almost all 12 Climate Promise countries in the region have demonstrated increased ambition and commitment to the goals of the Paris Agreement, including net-zero pathways, including the Maldives have recently announced ambitious plans to reduce 26% of emissions by 2030 and achieve net zero by 2030.

PLANNING IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA

More than 80% of Papua New Guineans live in rural areas, with over 70% of households dependent on subsistence agriculture – which accounts for nearly 30% of GDP. As a result, most of PNG’s population is vulnerable to climate variability and change. PNG is in the process of developing a National Adaptation Plan to align with adaptation priorities in the country’s 2020 Enhanced Nationally Determined Contribution. UNDP is supporting efforts of the Climate Change Development Authority under the Ministry of Environment, Conservation, and Climate Change with funding from the Green Climate Fund’s NAP Readiness Window. Currently, the NAP project is bringing together a wide variety of stakeholders for a consultative process to inform drafting and finalization of the NAP later in 2021.

At present in the Southern Region, consulting climate risk impacts for four priority sectors – agriculture, health, transport and infrastructure – stakeholders from the National Capital District, and Central, Western, Gulf, Oro and Milne Bay provinces – took a deep dive into gaps and vulnerabilities, knowledge sharing, and how national coordination can help build a financing framework for climate change adaptation actions into the future. Workshops are ongoing across Papua New Guinea.

RESILIENT COASTS

Launched in 2017, with backing from the global Green Climate Fund and in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme, the Tuvalu Coastal Adaptation Project aims to reduce exposure to coastal hazards and to develop a long-term coastal adaptation strategy for the Small Island Developing State.

An atoll nation, most of Tuvalu sits just meters above sea level, but there are surprisingly few accurate data sets that map the nation’s topography. One of the first and most fundamental tasks of the project has been to secure baseline data to determine the relationship between land elevation and sea level, to model future scenarios, and to inform design of coastal infrastructure, as well as development planning. This protects vulnerable communities and future-proofs investments.

To gather the data, the project last year turned to airborne LIDAR, or Light Detection and Ranging – state-of-the-art airplane-mounted technology which has now collected precise information on land surface height and seafloor depth.

NATURE-BASED SOLUTIONS IN TIMOR-LESTE

At the heart of the Coral Triangle – the global center of marine biodiversity – lies the small island developing state of Timor-Leste. Flash floods, coastal erosion, and a loss of mangrove wetlands are impacting people’s livelihoods.

Funded by the Global Environment Facility’s Least Developed Countries Fund, the UNDP-supported 'Coastal Resilience Program' is Timor-Leste's largest ever effort to conserve coastal ecosystems, with a view to protect people's livelihoods and forge more resilient communities in the face of climate change.

Taking a multi-faceted approach, the program seeks to address upstream and downstream processes simultaneously, while also offering people alternative livelihoods, a holistic approach from ‘mangrove to mountain.’

Downstream, fish-farming, mangrove protection and replanting, and livelihood diversification have been helping local communities take ownership of mangrove restoration and sustainable ecosystem management.

Upstream in the mountains and water catchments, the program focuses on complementary land management measures with the planting of species such as Casuarina, Acacia and Vetiver grass along riverbanks and on steep slopes.

Along with these on the ground efforts, Timor Leste has also recently finalised its National Adaptation Plan with the support of the UNDP-UNEP NAP Global Support Programme to enable long term adaptation planning.

URBAN RESILIENCE

Cities in the Asia-Pacific region are highly exposed to the impact of multi-hazard disaster events. Climate change is projected to increase the frequency and magnitude of regional hazards including tropical cyclones, droughts, extreme heat, and floods, threatening the lives and livelihoods of urban residents throughout the region and the delivery of essential services that communities and businesses rely upon.

To help cities address these mounting risks, UNDP is working with municipal governments to integrate climate and disaster risk information into territorial planning processes and decision making and ensure that local investments in infrastructure and service delivery are informed by climate risks. This Integrated Urban Resilience approach was piloted in 2020-21 in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, and Waling, Nepal. By assessing the existing and future climate and disaster risks and understanding how they affect development priorities, these cities have launched “Resilience Roadmaps” to help municipal planners not only prepare and respond to current and future natural, man-made and hybrid risks and hazards, but also prioritize actions that will enable long-term risk-reduction to advance progress towards the SDGs at the local level that is resilient to climate change and disaster threats.

A GREEN ECONOMY

In Mongolia, overgrazing and climate change are contributing to land degradation and desertification. Goat-herding and cashmere production are part of the problem – and part of the solution – as the nation tries to build resilience to the clear and present risks presented by drought, desertification and other climate and environmental risks.

About 70% of pastureland here is degraded to some extent. However, through climate-informed planning, protection of land and water sources, and sustainable livestock management, most of the degraded areas can be restored.

UNDP supports the Government of Mongolia through a number of complementary initiatives, including the Improving Adaptive Capacity and Risk Management of Rural Communities in Mongolia project. The GCF-financed project brings together climate-informed natural resources management and sustainable livestock planning, building on traditional cooperative approaches among herders while also introducing innovative technologies for traceability and verification of sustainably sourced livestock products (e.g. blockchain technology). UNDP has also launched the Sustainable Cashmere Platform, which engages brands, local processors, herder group representatives, development partners, civil society organizations and public authorities for common agreement on sustainability in cashmere (considering herder livelihoods, animal welfare, rangeland management and protection of wildlife habitats), and establishes partnerships and coordinated investments to advance the sustainability of production and processing in Mongolia.

FOOD SYSTEMS AND LIVELIHOODS

For rural people living in poverty in Bangladesh, a rise in extreme weather events, severe monsoon floods, rising temperatures, and salinity and erosion driven by sea-level rise are putting lives and livelihoods in the crosshairs.

Led by the Local Government Division of the Ministry of Local Government Rural Development and Cooperatives, the Local Government Initiative on Climate Change (LoGIC) project is a joint four-year initiative of the Government of Bangladesh, UNDP, UN Capital Development Fund, the European Union and Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).

The LoGIC project created a Community Resilience Fund, providing small-scale grants (up to US$350) to households in highly vulnerable areas to enable them to undertake proven, incremental, ‘low-regret’ adaptation activities with immediate benefits for their income, food security and well-being.

Since the scheme started last April, more than 17,000 households (98% of them women who have lost their livelihoods – or their existing livelihood is at risk – due to climate extremes) have received grants. Recipients have used the finance to implement a range of livelihood alternatives, from climate-resilient agriculture and livestock-rearing (for example sheep-rearing in saline and drought-prone areas) to crab cultivation, salinity-resilient aquaculture (for example poly-fish culture) and stress-tolerant agroforestry.

WATER AND WOMEN

Bhutan is exposed to a wide range of climate change-induced threats, including glacial lake outburst floods, flash floods and landslides, windstorms, forest fires, and seasonal water shortages.

Climate change is not solely driving more extreme weather events, it is also having a direct impact on the people who rely on subsistence agriculture.

In Bhutan, women are largely tasked with gathering water, cooking and cleaning, and seasonal water shortages greatly impact their health, livelihoods and well-being.

UNDP-supported projects funded through the GEF have supported the construction of a climate-resilient water harvesting, storage and distribution systems that are benefitting over 1,000 households. Women and children have been the first beneficiaries, as they no longer have to endure long walks to fetch water. In turn, this has allowed many children to go to school regularly, and women are able to undertake extra income-earning activities in their new free time.

“In the past, women and children walked for hours at night with burning torches to fetch water. Because of the time required, our children were unable to go to school, we could not main proper hygiene at home, and most women faced hardship in carrying out their daily household chores. Today, our lives have changed drastically. Sanitation and hygiene conditions have vastly improved and since we no longer need to spend many hours fetching water, we can spend more time earning income.” - Norbu Zangmo, Kengkhar Village, Mongar

CLIMATE HEALTH

Implemented in partnership with WHO with finance from the GEF, the UNDP-supported 'Building Resilience of Health Systems in Asian Least Developed Countries to Climate Change' project is working in six Least Developed countries – Bangladesh, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Nepal and Timor-Leste – to improve hygiene in health care facilities, implement climate resilient water safety plans, build capacity for health professionals, and disseminate health-related technical guidelines. A similar project is in development for the Pacific region, covering Kiribati, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

The projects seek to strengthen institutional capacities in integrating climate risks and adaptation into health sector planning; to improve climate health surveillance, early warning systems, and health advisories; to strengthen health facilities to climate impacts; and to support communities with water and vector borne disease prevention measures, such as water, sanitation and hygiene investments.