Reports / Reports

Asian Trends Monitoring Bulletin: A Storm is Brewing. Is Asia Ready?

Southeast Asia is already experiencing climate change effects: typhoons in the Philippines are now four times more frequent than before 1990; sea level rise is increasing the erosion rate in the Mekong river delta, and floods are becoming one of the top concerns of cities in the region. As the world struggles to stabilize GHG emissions, Southeast Asia must face the facts: over 50% of the population still depends on climate sensitive sectors such as agriculture; in addition, it is located at the edge of a massive landmass and in between large oceans. Southeast Asia is highly vulnerable to climate hazards and needs to invest in adaptation strategies, it must get ready.

Climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies are now part of almost every country’s national policies. However, with each new disaster that strikes the region, we continue to witness stories of unpreparedness and limited capacity of response that culminate in the loss of lives and livelihoods. To understand the status of adaptation strategies in the region, this issue takes a look at current projects attempting to reduce vulnerability and increase adaptive capacity of communities in Southeast Asian countries.

Successful strategies are the ones with a multidimensional approach: institutions, infrastructure and community should all be considered for a community to build resilience. Nonetheless, a multidimensional strategy requires significant resources and coordination; therefore, as it is shown in this bulletin, such efforts can only be implemented by governments or large international organizations. This type of projects account only for a third of all projects analysed, while the majority of the projects focus on community strategies.

This issue also highlights some of the gaps and limitations in current adaptation policies. Asia is home to roughly 60% of the world’s indigenous people, who have historically been marginalized and are among the most vulnerable populations. However, they hold a significant amount of knowledge that will be critical in allowing them to adapt to climate change. We explore why, despite the recognition of the critical role of indigenous knowledge, policies and plans have failed to find a place for it.

Additionally, Southeast Asia is undergoing rapid urbanization, most of which is located in mid and small size cities that seem to be overlooked by adaptation policies. Manila, Jakarta and other megacities are at the centre of the adaptation discussion. However when faced by extreme weather events, small urban places are at greater risk due to three main elements: proportion of affected population, institutional capacity, and distance from the centres of power. We invite you to share the ATM Bulletin with colleagues interested in pro-poor issues in Southeast Asia. The Bulletin is also available for download at, where you can subscribe to future issues.

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