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ADB: green recovery to create 30.1 million jobs in Southeast Asia

PROMOTING a green recovery will create 30.1 million jobs in Southeast Asia by 2030, according to a study by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

In the report titled, “Implementing a Green Recovery in Southeast Asia,” ADB said these jobs can be created if ASEAN governments invest $172 billion a year on five green growth opportunities.

These opportunities are clean energy transition; circular economy models; sustainable urban development and transport models; productive and regenerative agriculture; and health and productive oceans.

“This report highlights key policy priorities for Southeast Asian economies that can help ensure that both socioeconomic and environmental aspirations are served in their pursuit of economic recovery,” ADB Director General for Southeast Asia Ramesh Subramaniam said at a webinar jointly organized by ADB and ISEAS– Yusof Ishak Institute.

“While several countries in the region have begun to support a green recovery, more needs to be done. We must encourage additional green stimulus, design carbon-pricing schemes, reduce dependence on fossil-fuel intensive power, and attract private sector investors to large-scale renewable energy, sustainable transport, and clean urban projects,” he added.

Based on the study, investing $82.5 billion a year on clean energy transition will annually create 6.7 million jobs in the region by 2030, while an annual investment of $54 billion on circular economy models will create 6.6 million jobs across the ASEAN.

The data also showed that investing $26.8 billion annually on sustainable urban development and transport models will yield 7.4 million jobs. Investing in this sector creates the most jobs.

ADB said in its report that between 2 percent and 5 percent of GDP is lost in Asian economies due to congestion. Other studies estimate that 2.5 percent of GDP in cities are lost due to flooding.

The study also stated that investing $6.9 billion annually on productive and regenerative agriculture creates 6.5 million jobs while pouring $1.8 billion worth of investments on healthy and productive oceans will create 2.9 million jobs.

The report noted that investing in regenerative agriculture is imperative for the Philippines given that mangrove destruction in the country since the 1950s has already cost the country $450 million annually in flood damage.

“The green growth opportunities bear strong relevance to the UN SDGs (United Nations Sustainable Development Goals). An analysis of their potential relevance to the full list of 169 targets under the 17 SDGs reflects that they are somewhat or highly relevant to almost 60 percent of these targets,” the report stated.

Investing in green recovery, the report stated, is crucial for Southeast Asia. Investing in green growth would help the region recover from the pandemic and make ASEAN economies resilient in the face of shocks.

In a forum, ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute Senior Fellow and Coordinator Sharon Seah said a survey conducted by the institute revealed that renewables were the only subsectors that experienced capacity gains during the pandemic.

In 2020, the ISEAS data showed that in the Philippines alone, the installed capacity of renewables (RE) grew 2.84 percent. Other ASEAN countries like Vietnam saw its installed RE capacity increase significantly at 129.57 percent year on year followed by Lao PDR at 117.5 percent.

Further, the ADB report noted that it is in the region’s best interest to invest in a green recovery given that two of its members, Myanmar and the Philippines, are among the top five countries affected by climate change globally.

Climate change has already made heat waves, droughts, floods, and tropical cyclones have also become more intense and frequent in Southeast Asia, threatening the region’s biodiversity and economic growth.

ADB said climate change could cost ASEAN economies an estimated 11 percent loss to their combined GDP in the year 2100, while land use change (typically driven by urbanization) caused the emergence of more than 30 percent of all new diseases reported since 1960.

“Without concerted actions to address the environmental crises of climate change and biodiversity loss, the region’s long-term growth prospects could be constrained. A green recovery from Covid-19 is crucial to ensure an economically and environmentally resilient future,” ADB said in a statement.

“Other policy options identified in the report include intensifying research on green technologies, encouraging women entrepreneurs to participate in green business opportunities, and managing biodiversity better through open and integrated data systems,” it added.

To implement a green recovery, Southeast Asian governments need to identify sustainable sources of financing that will fund climate-friendly infrastructure investments and leverage green growth opportunities.

According to the report, financing approaches should include mobilizing domestic resources through environmental and carbon taxes, reducing subsidies for fossil fuels, mobilizing private investors by addressing risks related to green investments, and leveraging public and private finance through green funds such as the ASEAN Catalytic Green Finance Facility.

Finally, strong collaboration among neighboring economies and new partnerships with various stakeholders should be forged to ensure that benefits accrue throughout the region.

Image credits: EDC

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