Asia Pacific is the fastest-growing economic region in the world. Unprecedented economic growth has lifted millions out of poverty in Asia and the Pacific but is putting heavy pressure on ecosystems. While the region houses 60 per cent of the world’s population, it accounts for only 30 per cent of its land. Increased demand for fossil fuels and natural resources are causing environmental degradation and biodiversity loss. The situation is exacerbated by adverse climate change effects and an increasing number of natural disasters, which are causing devastating human and financial losses in the region. Extreme climate events are projected to become the new normal. 
Asia Pacific is also a place of contrasts, home to some of the smallest and poorest countries and some of the largest and richest. Millions have been lifted out of poverty, but the region remains home to almost half of the world’s poor. Yet, countries lead in innovative policy and direction, like Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness, Thailand’s sufficiency economy and quality growth model of China. This provides the opportunity for South-South cooperation.

Key thematic issues and sub-regions covered

  • Ecosystem based Adaptation in the Greater Mekong Sub-region 
  • Sustainable livelihoods for mountain regions in the Pan-Third Pole region
  • Sustainable dryland management for promoting community welfare in Central Asia   
  • Coastal ecosystem`s sustainable management in the Asia-Pacific.

The Greater Mekong Sub-Region (GMS) is home to more than 300 million people, of which ~75 million have natural-resource-based livelihoods. The natural ecosystems of the GMS are of critical importance and the Lancang-Mekong River itself is arguably the most essential to supporting rural livelihoods and maintaining the functionality of associated ecosystems as it serves as a transboundary resource and support system by delivering numerous ecosystem goods and services to some of South-East Asia’s poorest people. Regardless of their regional importance, the ecosystems of the GMS face a wide range of both climatic and anthropogenic pressures that put at risk their capacity to provide goods and services for local communities.Ties between China and the downstream countries are growing under China-Indochina Peninsula Economic Corridor and China-ASEAN cooperation,  Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Mechanism. UNEP-IEMP will engaging partners from the GMS countries to collaborate on the region’s common interests such as ecosystem management that will generate benefits for local communities to improve their livelihoods while adapting to the impacts of climate change, as well as to enhance the relevant policies at the regional level despite the political complexity of the region. 

The Pan-Third Pole region covers an area of 20 million km2 extended from the Tibetan Plateau-centered Third Pole to the west and to the north, encompassing the Tibetan Plateau, the Pamirs, the Hindu Kush, the Iranian Plateau, the Caucasus and the Carpathians. Due to its high altitude geographic location,it is severely exposed to drastic climate change.Warming-induced glacier retreat, lake expansion and frequent Glacier Lake Outburst Flood are destabilizing the Asian Water Tower, hindering the socio-economic development of the countries. As it looks into the region’s carrying capacity, hazard risks and green development pathways, UNEP-IEMP will give priorities to vulnerable regions and countries for their sustainable livelihoods under the change environment. 

The Central Asia region is most sensitive and fragile on the Earth’s surface with respect to significant impacts caused by climate change and inappropriate human activities. Irrigated agriculture - the basis of the economic activity of the countries of Central Asia, is the source of many problems. The Aral sea area decreased by 90% in the past 60 years. Desertification and soil erosion, secondary salinization of soils, decrease in land productivity and health impact were observed. UNEP-IEMP together with its partners are promoting sustainable dryland management for promoting community welfare in Central Asia. 

The coastal zone is home to 40% of the world's population and is the area most affected by human activity. In the ASEAN region, by 2050 there will be approximately 500 million people living in or near coastal and marine areas. ASEAN countries contribute to 14% of global marine fisheries, 35% mangroves and 30% coral reefs with its 173,000 km of coastline. With the projected sea level rise associated with climate change, the densely populated, low-lying coastal zone will be the most vulnerable. Major threats to coastal and marine ecosystems in ASEAN include habitat destruction, sediment deposition, increased pollution, ineffective governance, coastal zone transformation, climate change etc. UNEP-IEMP will make efforts to promote nature-based solutions through land and sea integrated planning in the coastal zones.

Key Actions

  • Sub-regional and national  level assessment on key thematic issues and generating knowledge on synergies; 
  • Facilitating capacity development, South-South knowledge exchange, and concrete demonstrations on nature based solutions, integrated ecosystem management and ecosystem-based approaches to address climate change challenges;
  • Promoting relevant policy uptake, particularly at the regional level for information sharing and policy dialogue.