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The challenge

Sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific

Asia and the Pacific has been the most dynamic region globally for several decades, most notably due to the economic rise of China.

Millions of people have been lifted out of poverty and a new middle class has emerged in the vibrant cities of the region.

Balancing economic growth with human well-being while maintaining a healthy environment and resource base is a major challenge in both prosperous and developing nations.

Economic development in the region is putting increased pressure on natural resources for materials, energy and water, and consequently creating waste and pollution.

Governments and regional authorities are making it a priority to deal with these challenges in the context of their national, urban and regional development plans. They are working on policies that will enable sustainable consumption and production, support ‘green’ economic decisions, and separate economic growth from negative environmental pressures and impacts.

For these policies to be successful they require a sound information base about the extent of natural resource use and emissions to develop targets and monitor the success of policy initiatives.

Furthermore, these policies are now been reinforced by agreement on the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which require countries to report on their environmental performance.

Our response

Authoritative and informative data for the region

Material use in Thailand. Each block represents 10,000,000 tonnnes.

We collaborated with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to address the information gap that exists in many countries in Asia and the Pacific around economic activity, natural resource use and emissions, establishing comprehensive data sets for all 26 countries in the region.

This information was brought together into a report: Indicators for a Resource Efficient and Green Asia and the Pacific which proposes 118 indicators to assess natural resource use over the past 40 years. It includes how each Asia-Pacific country uses materials, energy and water and generates emissions to fuel their economy.

We analysed policy development and capacity needs in developing Asian countries and proposed a new indicator approach for pressure indicators that complement economic accounts.

Additionally, we developed country-specific information for Mongolia, Laos, China, India and Pakistan and snapshots of how countries are tracking on environmental and resource measures of the SDGs.

We have also been assisting training efforts and developing environmental accounting skills within local workforces in Mongolia and Fiji, in collaboration with their national statistical offices.

The results

Guiding sustainable development decisions

New data collated in this project is now used for policy planning and monitoring progress of SDG targets for natural resources in many countries in Asia and the Pacific.

Previously, sustainability policy decisions relied on a small set of economic indicators such as GDP, employment and trade balance which did not capture the complexity of sustainability issues. Now, governments are taking into account natural resource use data alongside economic accounts.

The new data and indicators are helping to inform policy makers about emerging issues, such as import dependency of resources and the growing footprint of consumption.

Governments are using these data and indicators in policy statements, setting targets based on actual past trends, and monitoring the progress of policy initiatives such as environmental taxes and regulations.

Green Asia country reports

Natural Resources and the sustainable development goals: A country snapshot

  • 17 reports published in the CSIRO Research Publications Repository.

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