MANILA, Philippines, May 7 (UPI) -- The Asian Development Bank urged countries in the Asia-Pacific region to take immediate action to reduce the negative impact of climate change.
A new ADB study, unveiled during the bank's 45th annual meeting in Manila, calls for governments in the region to create a carbon market, phase out pervasive fossil fuel subsidies and to establish an Asian free-trade zone for high-impact, low-carbon technologies and services.
Noting that Asian-Pacific countries have been the world's largest resource users since the mid-1990s, ADB warned that if current trends continue, by 2050, the carbon dioxide emissions of these countries are likely to more than triple, putting an "unbearable strain" on the Earth's ecosystems.
Developing Asia is now responsible for 35 percent of worldwide energy-related carbon dioxide emissions, compared with 17 percent in 1990, ADB says.
But that figure could reach about 45 percent by 2030 if the region doesn't take steps to improve energy efficiency and switch to renewable energy. By that year, the study predicts, the Asia-Pacific region will need more than $6 trillion worth of investments in new energy infrastructure.
"Asia is at a crossroads. The region's rapid economic growth has often come with concerns over environmental degradation," said ADB President Haruhiko Kuroda in a statement.
"We are increasingly using resources at the cost of environment. Unless we change, the hard-won gains in reducing poverty and improving the quality of life for Asian people could be reversed."
The U.N. University Institute for Environment and Human Security says that seven out of the 10 nations at greatest risk to climate change and natural disasters are in Asia and the Pacific, three of which are small Pacific island states.
ADB says it invested $2.1 billion in clean energy-related projects in the region last year.
For countries in the Asia-Pacific region to make the transition to low-carbon and climate-resilient economies, $40 billion would be needed annually, ADB says.
An ADB report on food security and poverty in the Asia-Pacific region, also released during the annual meeting, says that the region's soaring population, coupled with rising demand for food, animal feed and biofuel will lead to higher regional food prices that could erode the purchasing power of households and undermine poverty reduction.
Asia's households spend more than half their income on food, ADB says, with the poorest spending up to 70 percent.
The report suggests governments set up a "hunger alleviation fund" equal to 1 percent of a country's gross domestic product, to access when food prices rise beyond the reach of the poor.
The four-day ADB meeting, attended by about 5,000 delegates from 67 member countries, concluded Saturday.