United Nations Environment Programme environment for development
Regional Work

Climate Change
 Asia Pacific is one of the most vulnerable regions to climate change and impacts are likely to become more intense in future. Rising temperatures and extreme weather events have contributed to loss of crop yield in many countries. Crop yields are projected to decline by a further 10 percent by 2020. More

Disasters and Conflicts
Nearly half of the world's natural disasters occur in the Asia and the Pacific region. In 2008 alone, the region accounted for more than half of the 220 major disasters that took place, which affected more than 55 million people and resulted in 7,000 deaths and US$15 billion in damages. More

Ecosystem Management
The Asia Pacific region boasts a high level of biological and cultural diversity which has greatly shaped its history and economic activities. While the region occupies less than 10 per cent of the planet's total surface, it is home to more than half of the world's human population and some of the most diverse plant and animal species in the world. More

Environmental Governance
While there has been significant progress in the last decade in the development of environmental institutions and legislation, the region's burgeoning economic growth and growing population have taken a toll on its natural resource base and the environment. More

Chemicals and Waste
In Asia Pacific, harmful and hazardous waste threatens millions of people. Left unchecked, these wastes could pose severe hazards. Asia's high population density and often tropical climate put it especially at risk for contamination. Regulations have increased but enforcement remains inadequate. More

Resource Efficiency
Most of the global growth in resource use has occurred in high-income Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, but recently the Asia and the Pacific region has emerged as a major global resource consumer and has surpassed the rest of world in material use. More

Environment Under Review

Rapid economic growth in recent years in Asia and the Pacific region has come at an enormous environmental cost. Appropriate environmental safeguards are urgently needed to contain this trend. Decision-making that promotes sustainable development requires a sound understanding of the complex relationship between the environment and social and economic development. More

Regional News
New UN Report Details Ecosystem Services of Almost One Billion Dollars Annually in Four Pilot Countries

ProEcoServ assessed ecosystem services such as water, soil retention, shoreline protection, carbon sequestration and pollination in South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, Viet Nam and Chile

Nairobi, 7 October 2015 - A project aimed at integrating the economic value of ecosystems into government policies has identified almost one billion dollars of benefits in four pilot countries, highlighting the importance of ecosystem conservation to the recently adopted 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The four-year ProEcoServ, the flagship project of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) focused on the valuation and mainstreaming of ecosystem services into policy design, studied four pilot countries: South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, Viet Nam and Chile.

From soil retention services worth $622 million in Trinidad and Tobago to $166 million in savings through an ecosystem service-based disaster risk approach in South Africa, the project’s final report adds further weight to body of evidence proving ecosystems are crucial to sustainable development.

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said, “The true value of ecosystems is frequently misrepresented in markets and economic decision-making. But the real economies that underpin our societies are themselves fundamentally rooted in the natural world. While ecosystems provide multiple health, scientific and aesthetic benefits, we must enhance our capacity to also reflect their economic value to national and local communities.

“As we take up the challenge of the Global Goals, capturing the ecological and economic value of healthy ecosystems enables us to speak to all three dimensions of sustainable development, including social equity and livelihoods.”

Crucially, the project developed ecosystem assessment tools and products to be used by policymakers to assess the value of ecosystems and to integrate this value into investment decisions and macro-economic models. ProEcoServ left a lasting legacy in the pilot countries in their spheres of governance, ranging from local, provincial, national and regional levels.  

Some of the benefits the project uncovered are as follows:

Trinidad and Tobago

•                    Soil retention services worth up to $622 million annually were identified in the northern range tropical forests in northern Trinidad, equivalent to 6 per cent of governmental tax revenue.
•                    Coral reefs provide up to $49.6 million of shoreline protection services annually to the national economy.

South Africa

•                    In the Eden District of South Africa, an area affected by natural disasters of floods, wildfires and droughts, financial savings of up to $160 million were identified in the 2003-2008 public budget.

•                    400,000 jobs can be created in South Africa from ecosystem restoration activities.

Viet Nam

•                    In the Ca Mau province, 45,523 hectares of mangroves generate ecosystem services worth up to $1,560 - 2,985 per hectare, per year

•                    Of this, up to $1,720 comes from carbon sequestration.


•                    Data from an Earth Observation System, a satellite-based information system, was combined with data on tourism flows collected from internet-based platforms to assemble information on water and ecotourism systems in Chile.

These findings, and the tools developed, ensure the project has contributed to policies integrating the value of ecosystem services.

In South Africa, for example, the role of ecosystem services is now recognized as a part of an ecological infrastructure, with an active contribution to the $93 billion National Infrastructure Development Plan.

In Trinidad and Tobago, ProEcoServ demonstrated policy intake to the Development of Land Bill before the Parliament, as well as the Spatial Development Strategy and National Development Plan.

In Viet Nam, the project’s findings were used in land-use planning at the Ca Mau province level, the National Green Growth Strategy to 2020, and the National Strategy for Environmental Protection to 2020.

In Chile, one of the results was the first-ever tourism development plan for the Municipality of San Pedro de Atacama, which clearly recognizes the role of ecosystem services in sustainable land and tourism management in one of the driest landscape in the world.

Notes to editors

The project built on the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA), and is part of the ongoing MA follow-up process.

Download the full report here

Download a set of infographics summarizing the key findings here

Supporting images (Wild pollinator in action, Trinidad and Tobago; Tourists enjoy the sunset at Moon Valley, San Pedro de Atacama, Chile; The Ca Mau National Park, Ca Mau Province, Viet Nam) can be downloaded here. Please credit ProEcoServ:

For further information, contact:

Shereen Zorba, Head of News and Media, UNEP
+254 788 526000, shereen.zorba@unep.org

SAARC Makes Headway in Greening Economies but More Investment in Environment and Ecosystems Crucial for Meeting Development Goals

Bangkok, 22 September 2015 – The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Member States have made good inroads towards greening their economies, but environmental degradation continues to take a toll on the region’s economies, according to a new SAARC – UNEP report released today.

The South Asia Environment Outlook 2014 says the region has taken positive steps toward policy transformation, with green growth and green economy policies and low carbon and emission plans in many countries. Investment in ecosystem restoration and ecosystem based adaptation has also yielded benefits for communities.  However, climate change and unsustainable development will impinge on the region’s growth.

“Achieving the ambitious 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in South Asia will require a major shift towards sustainable consumption and production, sustainable management of natural resources and fast action on building resilience to climate change,” said Kaveh Zahedi, UNEP Regional Director and Representative for Asia and the Pacific.

“Smart policies that increase investments in protection of biodiversity and ecosystems and foster energy efficiency will not only drive inclusive growth but also protect life-supporting systems that ensure food, water and livelihood security for the people of the region.”

Nearly 1.6 billion people live in the region, fast growing from a rural to a predominantly urban society. Large concentrations of populations are living with deteriorating air quality and declining infrastructure. Particulate matter (PM10) concentrations are exceptionally high and regularly exceed World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines.

Nearly 700 million people in eight countries (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka) lack access to basic sanitation. Traditional biomass – the predominant cooking fuel used by almost 70 per cent of the region’s population – is a major source of indoor pollution in South Asia.

“SAARC Member States have given high priority to systematically addressing the pressing environmental challenges through enhanced collaboration, partnership and regional cooperation towards conservation, protection and management of our environment,” said H.E. Mr. Arjun Bahadur Thapa, Secretary General of SAARC.

Reduced water supply, a result of poor management and climate change, is a growing concern and will have major adverse effects on food production and livelihood security for the majority of people who depend on agriculture for a living. The region is also prone to climate-related disasters. There were 220 flood incidents from 2005-2014.

The report spells out a number of cross-cutting policy options for South Asia’s transition towards a green economy, which include greater awareness of environmental solutions to development challenges, more participatory community management of natural resources, sustainable and responsible business practices and transfer of environmentally sound technologies, along with increased collaboration across borders on the environment.

The South Asia Environment Outlook 2014 will be made available at: www.saarc-sec.org  

For more information, please contact:

Ms. Satwant Kaur, Regional Information Officer, UNEP, Bangkok, Thailand, Tel: +66-2-288 2127, Email: satwant.kaur@unep.org

Mr. Ananda Dias, Regional Coordinator, Early Warning and Assessment, UNEP, Bangkok, Thailand, Tel: +66-2-2882617, E-mail: ananda.dias@unep.org

 Director-ENB, SAARC Secretariat, Kathmandu, Nepal, Tel. +977-1-4228929; E-mail: dirbhu@saarc-sec.org

Bangladesh Prime Minister Wins Top United Nations Environmental Prize for Policy Leadership

Bangkok/Dhaka, 14 September 2015 – The Prime Minister of Bangladesh, H.E. Ms Sheikh Hasina, has been announced as one of the winners of the United Nations’ highest environmental accolade, in recognition of Bangladesh’s far-reaching initiatives to address climate change.

With a population of more than 159 million, Bangladesh is one of the world’s most populated countries. It is also one of the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Cyclones, floods and droughts have long been part of the country's history, but they have intensified in recent years.

Serving as Prime Minister of Bangladesh – one of the world’s least-developed countries – Sheikh Hasina has proven that investing in climate change is conducive to achieving social and economic development.

The Champions of the Earth award in the Policy Leadership category, which the Prime Minister will accept at a ceremony in New York 27 September 2015, recognizes Bangladesh’s first-off-the-block initiatives under Prime Minister Hasina’s government to prepare the ecologically fragile country for the challenges it faces from climate change.

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said, “Through a number of forward-looking policy initiatives and investments, Bangladesh has placed confronting the challenge of climate change at the core of its development. These initiatives, from climate change adaptation measures to ecosystem preservation legislation, mean that current and future generations of Bangladeshis are better prepared to address climate change risks and reverse the impacts of environmental degradation.”

“Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has demonstrated leadership and vision in both making climate change an issue of national priority and advocating for an ambitious global response. As an early adopter and advocate of climate change adaptation policy, she continues to be an example to follow as world leaders seek to take action on climate change as part of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris climate conference in December.” 

The award cites the progressive Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan of 2009, which made Bangladesh the first developing country to frame such a coordinated action plan. Bangladesh is also the first country to set up its own Climate Change Trust Fund supported by nearly US$300 million of domestic resources from 2009-2012.

The government currently earmarks 6-7 per cent of its annual budget – some US$ 1 billion - on climate change adaptation, with only 25 per cent of this coming from international donors. A ‘Climate Change Fiscal Framework’ is also in the works to enable the government to track the demand and supply of climate change funds. For the first time, climate change is no longer merely an additional demand, it is central to the country's development prospects.

In addition, under her leadership, the Bangladesh Constitution was amended in 2011 to include a constitutional directive to the State to protect the environment and natural resources for current and future generations. Prioritized in the constitution along with wetlands and wildlife, the forestry policies initiative by Prime Minister Hasina has provided a natural barrier from some extreme weather events and the country’s forests cover has increased by almost 10 per cent.

Moving beyond physical and capital investment in climate change adaptation, the government is implementing a wide range of measures to help citizens prepare for an increasingly unpredictable future. These include new health services dealing with waterborne diseases linked to increased floods, training community groups about early warning systems and promoting climate-friendly agricultural technologies. 

As part of climate change mitigation, the government is giving high priority to clean and renewable energy including one of the world’s largest solar home energy systems, covering 10 per cent of the off-grid population, and reducing emissions from brick-making, one of the largest sources of stationary emissions in the country. 

In a major initiative to protect environment, human health and livelihoods, legislation is being enacted to step up regulation of the coastal polluting from the ship-breaking industry that employs a huge workforce in hazardous conditions.

“As one of the most disaster prone countries in the world, Bangladesh understands the importance of addressing the impact of climate change. The country is already experiencing its detrimental effects, and it is often the poorest and marginalised who feel it most,” said Robert Watkins, UN Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh.

“From 1990 to 2008 Bangladesh averaged annual losses of 1.8 per cent of the country’s GDP due to natural disasters, yet it is important to remember that addressing the impact of climate change is more than just a question of economics. High tides in coastal areas of the country are rising faster than the global average, which leads to loss of livelihoods and displacement.

“By 2050 it is estimated that one in every 7 people in Bangladesh is likely to be displaced by climate change, and they are also likely to move to urban centres already burdened with meeting the needs of a dense population.

 “I congratulate the Government of Bangladesh for being proactive in tackling climate change as a priority of the country. It is also a clarion call for the global community to take action today, and to realise that climate change is not a problem of the future, it is already happening in our lifetime.”

About Champions of the Earth

The annual Champions of the Earth award is the highest environmental accolade that the United Nations can confer upon outstanding individuals and organizations. Previous laureates of this inclusive award range from leaders of nations to grassroots activists – all visionaries whose leadership and actions drive the world ever closer to its aspirations of environmental sustainability and a life of dignity for all. To date, the Champions of the Earth has recognized 67 laureates in the categories of policy, science, business and civil society.

The other winners named so far are the National Geographic Society (Science and Innovation); Brazilian cosmetics firm Natura (Entrepreneurial Vision); and South Africa’s Black Mamba Anti-Poaching Unit (Inspiration and Action). Other winners will be announced throughout September. The awards will be handed out at a Gala Ceremony at the close of the Sustainable Development Goals summit, on September 27.


For more information, please contact:

Ms. Danielle Naranjilla, Communications and Partnerships Officer, United Nations in Bangladesh, Tel: + (88 0) 55667788, Email: danielle.naranjilla@one.un.org

Ms. Satwant Kaur, Regional Information Officer, UNEP Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Tel: + (66 2) 2882127; Mobile: +(66 8) 17001376. Email: satwant.kaur@unep.org

More News

Enhancing Adaptation and Mitigation Investment: Market-Based Mechanisms and Mobilizing Private Sector Finance, 14-15 October 2015, Singapore
The Southeast Asia Climate Change Network is organizing a workshop titled ‘Enhancing Adaptation and Mitigation Investment: Market-Based Mechanisms and Mobilizing Private Sector Finance’ on 14-15 October 2015 in Singapore. The workshop will examine current and planned emissions trading schemes, status of market mechanisms and related challenges in the current climate discussion. It will also explore potential options for market policy tools and ways to mobilize private sector finance so that countries will become better equipped to address barriers in mitigation and adaptation investments. The workshop will bring ASEAN climate change focal points, together with other key actors including policymakers, research institutes, intergovernmental organisations and development agencies.

Sustainable Rice Platform 5th Annual Plenary Meeting, Manila 27-29 October 2015
Stakeholders representing 29 UN agencies, governments, research institutions, supply chain actors, non-profits and advocacy groups will be gathering in the Philippines for the Sustainable Rice Platform’s 5th Annual Plenary, to be held in Manila from 27-29 October. During the event, hosted by the International Rice Research Institute, the world’s first Standard for Sustainable Rice Cultivation will be released, along with a set of performance indicators to provide a quantitative measure of compliance for rice production systems. The Sustainable Rice Platform’s Advisory Committee will also meet at IRRI Headquarters. The Sustainable Rice Platform is a global multi-stakeholder alliance working to promote sustainability in the rice sector and based in the UNEP ROAP.

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