Adaptation to climate change often overlooked in East Asia

We can't reduce the affects of climate change by mitigation alone, says Jorn Brommelhorster from the Asian Development Bank

The Asian Development Bank has produced a report on climate change in East Asia, analysing mitigation and adaptation

chinadialogue: Is the Chinese government doing enough to combat climate change?

Jorn Brommelhorster: The Chinese government is well aware that climate change is having a big impact on the country’s development. In the current Five Year Plan, climate change is quite prominent, which suggests that China knows it needs to change to a different growth model. In that respect, China’s doing a lot already to try to reduce its greenhouse gases emissions. But it certainly can do more.

The study also deals with adaptation. Adaptation currently has been very often overlooked, because we all think that we can reduce the impacts of climate change by just mitigating right now.

The models we use in the report also reflects scenarios of rainfall. Precipitation is extremely important as it’s something where adaptation really comes in. When your rainfall pattern changes, it has very big impacts on agriculture. Together with the warming, it will lead to a change of crop planning patterns.

CD: What do you think China should do in the planning of new urban areas to reduce the impact of climate change?

JB: In the past 30 years there were a lot of short-term quick-fixes to get the country running. In the next phase of development, everything needs to be planned for a longer term. Hence, climate change considerations are extremely important for urbanisation. The urbanisation planners who are to bring people from the countryside to the big cities should better bring in the cost of adaptation into its planning right now.

CD: Earlier this year, an NDRC report said local government reluctance to promote emission reductions and energy conservation were hurting the national effort. How can this conflict between central and local government be resolved?

If the central government wants to promote emission reduction and energy conservation, it is the central government’s responsibility to install a proper monitoring system. If all the proper monitoring system is in place and yet the local government is still reluctant to implement, then I would say the central government should either revise the goals or force the local government to enforce them.

From the Five Year Plan, we can see that China is going in the right direction. We would be happy if everything written in the Five Year Plan can be vigorously implemented.

CD: How much awareness do you think the Chinese public have of climate change?

JB: While climate change is given much attention by the leadership, it might not be the public’s top priority and the awareness is still very low.

However, issues like air pollution and food safety are now getting a lot of attention, and they are to a degree related to climate change. If we approach climate change through the core benefits such as air quality and food safety, it will be a win-win for everybody.