This year, Asia will account for half of the world’s GDP growth. And while this has undoubtedly improved living standards and reduced poverty in recent years, such gains have come at a cost.
Degraded natural resources and ecosystems, worsened water stresses, and increased levels of hazardous waste, comprise just some of the many unintended byproducts of Asia’s resource-intensive growth model–exposing the entire region to a domino effect of risks. Take water, for example, one recent study by MIT suggests that more than 100 million people in the region could endure severe shortages over the next decade, with devastating impacts on food security, economic growth and political stability. Without meaningful action to address climate risks, GDP in the Asia-Pacific region could decrease by more than 3% by 2050–a significant erosion of the region’s economic gains in recent decades. Furthermore, Asia-Pacific economies still feature among the highest rates of income inequality in the world. In this region, one percentage point increase in the Gini coefficient, a generally accepted measure of inequality, reduces GDP per capita by $154.