State of the Climate in Asia 2021
The report on the State of the Climate in Asia 2021 is the result of collaboration between NMHSs in the region, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and other specialized agencies of the United Nations. This multi-agency effort provides a summary of the state of climate, extreme events and their socio-economic impacts in Asia region in 2021. The 2021 report is the second in the series of the report; the first can be found here.
Asia is a diverse region with multiple topographies, coastlines and rich natural ecosystems. However, the risk in Asia is expanding. It is also intensifying with climate change impacts, while the ongoing mission of COVID-19 recovery presents further challenges.
In 2021, floods, especially in India, Nepal and China, caused the most serious damage in Asia in terms of fatalities, affected population and economic losses. Unexpected and heavy rains in Nepal also resulted in significant losses to agricultural produce, as the event coincided with a critical period in the harvest season. In Afghanistan, prolonged drought and cascading impacts jeopardized food security. Similarly, rain deficits hit Pakistan while heatwaves engulfed several parts of Asia, including China, Japan and the Russian Federation.
These events shine a spotlight on gaps in adaptation capacity and highlight the urgent need to implement key adaptation solutions. The Glasgow Climate Pact adopted at COP26 in November 2021 boosted adaptation action and added momentum, as it aims for a decade of transformative climate action. However, policy pathways for adaptation must be solidly rooted in scientific evidence.
The Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) Asia-Pacific Disaster Reports 2021 and 2022 estimate that in Asia, the annual investment in adaptation would need to be highest for China, at US$ 188.8 billion, followed by India at US$ 46.3 billion, and Japan at US$ 26.5 billion. As a percentage of the country’s GDP, the highest cost is estimated for Nepal, at 1.9%, followed by Cambodia at 1.8%, and India at 1.3%.
Given that floods and tropical cyclones in the region account for the highest economic losses, investment in adaptation must be directed towards prioritizing anticipatory action and preparedness. Notwithstanding the progress in establishing early warning systems, further strengthening is needed as climate change intensifies. Similarly, new infrastructure needs to be made more resilient, alongside improvements in water resources management and dryland agricultural crop production, while nature-based solutions bring durable and wide-ranging benefits. Investing in these solutions would also ensure progress on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 13 (Climate Action) and accelerate progress on multiple SDGs, including Goal 1 (No Poverty), Goal 2 (Zero Hunger), Goal 3 (Good Health and Well-being), Goal 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure) and Goal 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities).
In this context, the State of the Climate in Asia 2021 is timely, as it unpacks the interconnections between climate indicators and the SDGs, and helps bridge gaps between science and policy practice. ESCAP and WMO, working in partnership, will continue to invest in raising climate ambition and accelerating the implementation of climate policy actions. To this end, the ESCAP Risk and Resilience Portal, which uses the latest climate information and identifies risk hotspots and adaptation measures by country and subregions provides much of the evidence base for this report. Policymakers are invited to use the Portal to help streamline evidence-based decision-making.