Note: This is the 1997 edition of UNEP's Global Environment Outlook. If you are interested in more recent information, please see the 2000 and 2002 editions.

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
Global  Environment Outlook-1 - The Web version

Chapter 3: Policy Responses and Directions

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Asia and the Pacific

Regional Initiatives

Since the Earth Summit in 1992, there has been great emphasis on regional environmental co-operation. (See Box 3.10.) Every five years, a State of the Environment Report of Asia and the Pacific is prepared by ESCAP, with assistance from members of the Interagency Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.

Several regional networks and joint programmes address land degradation. An Asian Network on Problem Soils was established in 1989, involving 13 countries and supported by FAO. FAO, in co-operation with the Asia Soil Conservation Network for the Humid Tropics (ASOCON), is developing a Framework for Action on Land Conservation in Asia and the Pacific (FALCAP). It has commissioned a study on land degradation in eight countries of South Asia funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UNEP in 1993 (ESCAP, 1995). The Fertilizer and Development Network for Asia and the Pacific (FADINAP) is concerned with fertilizer production, trade, and use in the region.

Box 3.10.

Regional Mechanisms of Co-operation

In July 1993, the ASEAN Senior Officials on the Environment (ASOEN) agreed on the development of a new Strategic Plan of Action on the Environment (1994-98). Environmental co-operation in this region is thorough and may provide a model for other regional organizations. (ASEAN encompasses Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam*.)

Countries of the South Asia Co-operative Environment Programme (SACEP)-Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Iran, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka-implement an Action Plan called SACEP's Strategy and Programme (1992-96). Key areas of activity include capacity building and awareness raising; systematic information exchange and intraregional technology transfer; training on environmental management and institutional development; management of mountain ecosystems, watersheds, and coastal resources; and wildlife and wildlife habitat conservation.

The South Pacific Regional Environmental Programme (SPREP), established in 1993 and covering 22 Pacific Island countries and territories, aims at enhancing the institutional capacity of its members. It has also initiated an Action Plan (1991-95)-a regional strategy covering many aspects of environmental assessment, management, and law in the subregion.

The Mekong River Commission (MRC), consisting of Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Vietnam, and Thailand, is an intergovernmental organization responsible for co-operation and co-ordination in the use and development of water resources of the Lower Mekong Basin. In 1991, an Environment Unit was established within the Technical Support Division to deal with the environmental issues in this subregion.

The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMD), established in 1983 in Nepal, implements programmes to attain environmental stability, sustainability of mountain ecosystems, and poverty eradication in the Hindu Kush-Himalayas. The members are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan.

Note:
* - Vietnam joined in 1995.

A Regional Network of Research and Training Centres on Desertification Control in Asia and the Pacific (DESCONAP) was established in 1988. It includes 19 Governments, international organizations, and non-government agencies. More recently, ESCAP has helped develop National Plans of Action on Combating Desertification for Mongolia and Pakistan. Similar plans are being developed for China and Iran (ESCAP, 1995).

A Forestry Research Support Programme for Asia and the Pacific (FORSPA), organized by FAO's Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (RAPA), includes work of relevance to combating land degradation. The programme supports research on tropical deforestation, forestry's role in sustaining agricultural productivity, management of fragile tropical soils, fuelwood, and forestry and the environment.

Regional initiatives on forestry include SACEP's Strategy and Programme (SPR-1, 1992-96), promoting regional co-operation in social forestry as one of 15 Priority Subject Matter Areas (SACEP, 1992), and UNEP's ongoing Land Cover Assessment and Monitoring project in Asia and the Pacific, primarily focusing on the assessment of major land cover types and detection of the land and forest cover changes for countries in the region.

Several regional conventions, covering parts of the Asia-Pacific region, deal with aspects of biological diversity. The most significant are the Convention on Conservation of Nature in the South Pacific (Apia Convention), the ASEAN Agreement on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (ASEAN Agreement), and the Convention on the Protection of the Natural Resources and the Environment of the South Pacific (SPREP Convention). The ASEAN Strategic Plan of Action on the Environment, under Strategy 5, establishes a regional framework on biological diversity conservation and sustainable use. This strategy promotes the development of a framework for the protection and conservation of heritage areas and endangered species, to strengthen capacities for R&D, and to enhance biodiversity conservation in the region (ASEAN, 1994).

In line with the spirit of the Convention on Biodiversity, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has initiated efforts to translate its recommendations into concrete actions through provision of financial assistance to developing member countries. For example, in 1992, the ADB approved a loan and technical assistance to Indonesia for biodiversity conservation covering an area of about 500,000 hectares using the integrated protected area system approach. The ADB also initiated a dialogue with the World Conservation Union (IUCN) to identify the issues and the constraints affecting implementation of the convention in the region (ADB/IUCN, 1994).

SACEP's Strategy and Programme includes regional co-operation in wildlife conservation and genetic resources and regional co-operation in conservation of corals, mangroves, deltas, and coastal areas as part of 15 Priority Subject Matter Areas (SACEP, 1992). In 1990, IUCN's Asian Elephant Specialist Group (AESG) completed the Asian Elephant Action Plan in collaboration with the 13 Asian countries where elephants still exist in the wild. The Action Plan provided both a status report and an outline of conservation priorities. Its implementation is the responsibility of the Asian Elephant Conservation Centre based at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, India.

In the field of fresh-water resources, examples of regional co-operation include activities under the Mekong River Commission. The Mekong is the largest river in South-East Asia, flowing through China, Myanmar, Lao PDR, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. The lower Mekong is the focus of international co-operation in water quality and pollution control. Basic networks for water quality monitoring of surface water have been established with funding from the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), and a Ground Water Investigation Programme formulated for 1989-92. One of the main achievements of the project has been the establishment of a hydrogeological network for observation of water table variations, regional hydraulic variations, and water quality variations in the Mekong countries (ESCAP, 1991).

Regional progress has also been made in training and information exchange. With financial and technical assistance from the ADB and other donors, projects have been developed that focus on Subregional Environmental Training and Institutional Strengthening in Selected Priority Areas and on Subregional Environmental Monitoring and Information Systems. The former addresses, among other issues, the standardization of national environmental legislation, particularly with regard to environmental standards; water quality management and industrial pollution; and appropriate technology transfer within the subregion.

Transboundary issues are complicated scientifically as well as politically. Very few regional scientific studies have been conducted in the past on trans-boundary pollution problems. But this is changing. Considerable effort has gone into studying the creation and flow of acid rain, such as in the RAINS-ASIA programme.

Climate change is also an issue of concern; one regional programme in the field is the Asia Least-Cost Greenhouse Gas Abatement Strategy (ALGAS) project under the Global Environment Facility (GEF), co-ordinated by ADB and UNDP. This project assists 12 developing states to formulate least-cost greenhouse gas abatement strategies and to develop the capabilities for a greenhouse gas inventory, including the scientific infrastructure to develop emission factors necessary in the inventory methodologies.

ESCAP, in a 1993 seminar on climate change co-sponsored by ADB and the Environment Agency of Japan, outlined the elements of a regional strategy for combating climate change. The strategy includes the establishment of a Regional Network on Climate Change (ESCAP, 1995). ADB also funded a pioneering Regional Study on Global Environmental Issues that produced an integrated assessment of climate change impacts and analysis of policy options for mitigation and adaptation. Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam were included in the study. SPREP has developed and implemented a climate change programme with bilateral and multilateral support mainly focused on the assessment of sea level rise, climate monitoring, and development of national response strategies.

Regional co-operation in the field of coastal and marine resources is far advanced. The Coastal and Marine Environment Management Information System (COMEMIS), a collaborative project of UNEP and ADB, aims to develop and improve the capacities of all countries in the South China Sea region to engage in multisectoral analysis and apply geographic information systems for environmental impact assessment and management.

The ASEAN Strategic Plan of Action on the Environment, under Strategy 6, promotes the protection and management of coastal zones and marine resources (ASEAN, 1994). It aims to improve regional marine and coastal environmental co-ordination and to develop a framework for the integrated management of regional coastal zones. The SACEP Strategy and Programme focuses on regional co-operation in the conservation of corals, mangroves, deltas, and coastal areas and on co-operation in the regional sea programme as part of the 15 Priority Subject Matter Areas. Other regional co-operation programmes for coastal and marine environment protection include action plans under the Regional Seas Programme initiated by UNEP. These include the South Asian Seas (SAS) Action Plan; the East Asian Seas (EAS) Action Plan; the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP); the North West Pacific Action Plan (NOWPAP); the ASEAN's Working Group on ASEAN Seas and Environment; the ASEAN Senior Officials on the Environment (ASOEN); the Council of Petroleum's Plan for the Control and Mitigation of Marine Pollution.

Bilateral and multilateral projects that have contributed towards the management and protection of the marine environment are the ASEAN/U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Coastal Resources Management Project; the ASEAN Australian International Development Assistance Bureau (AIDAB) Projects on "Red Tides and Tidal Phenomena" and on "Living Coastal Resources Management"; the ASEAN/Canada Project on assessment of marine pollution by heavy metals; and the GEF project on the prevention and management of marine pollution covering nine countries (Brunei Darussalam, China, Indonesia, Korea DPR, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam).

Regional co-operation in energy and environment is a priority under the SACEP Strategy and Programme. The promotion of environmentally sound management of toxic chemicals and hazardous wastes and the control of the transboundary movement of hazardous wastes are priorities under the ASEAN Strategic Plan of Action on the Environment, Strategy 7 (ASEAN, 1994). This involves the establishment of regional guidelines for assessing highly polluting industries and for safe handling of potentially harmful chemicals entering the ASEAN region. In addition, it addresses the strengthening of an information network on the transboundary movement of toxic chemicals and hazardous waste. Efforts, particularly by ASEAN, to improve trade arrangements that support environment and development are further examples of regional co-operation. This also aims to strengthen capacity in trade-environment policy analysis, planning, and evalua- tion, consistent with the principles of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).

In the field of environmental economics, ADB, the Government of Norway, and Harvard University have developed a set of environmental indices for monitoring environmental change. This involves a systematic evaluation of the cost of impacts on the environment by calculating how much it would cost to restore an environmental situation. The study resulted in the development of a Cost-of-Remediation (COR) index for ADB's developing member countries. An Environmental Elasticity (EE) index, which aims to measure changes in the environmental quality relative to change in the economy over time, has also been developed by this consortium (ADB, 1996). Regional co-operation in environmental impact assessment and cost-benefit analysis is among the priority subject areas under the SACEP Strategy and Programme.

Progress is being made in information exchange for environmentally sustainable development planning and management-an area of major concern in developing countries in Asia and the Pacific. UNEP, through its Environment Information and Assessment Programme in Asia and the Pacific, provides assistance to developing countries in improving the availability of reliable environmental data for assessments and decision-making for sustainable development. Formulation of assessment frameworks and laying the foundation for standard State of the Environment databases supports national and regional reporting, policy formulation, priority setting, and action planning. In addition, environment and natural resource information networks for co-operative international assessments of shared resources are being co-ordinated by UNEP in the South Asia, South-East Asia, the South Pacific and Greater Mekong subregions.

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