The first Asia-Pacific Ministerial Summit on the Environment opened in Bangkok this week with a call for governments in the region to forge a transformative alliance that will drive forward an innovative, productive, resource efficient low carbon and pollution free economy as a means to deliver the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

High-level officials from over 35 countries are gathered at the four-day Summit held jointly by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and UN Environment to assess the state of environmental sustainability in the region, identify regional perspectives and priorities, and agree on concerted actions to promote a resource efficient and pollution-free region, sound environmental management and sustainable use of natural resources, according to press release issued by ESCAP.

At the opening of the ministerial segment, United Nations Under-Secretary General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP Dr. Shamshad Akhtar highlighted on September 6 that Asia and the Pacific continues to exhibit high resource intensity and underlined the importance of the Summit theme ‘Towards a resource efficient and pollution free Asia-Pacific region,’ which acknowledges that earth’s natural resources, including clean air, oceans and freshwater, are fundamental for human survival, prosperity, and well-being.

Whilst Asia and the Pacific has made major progress in terms of economic growth and poverty reduction, the same regional megatrends that are transforming societies and economies, such as urbanization, economic and trade integration, rising incomes and changing consumption patterns are multiplying environmental challenges in the region.

Regional CO2 emissions have doubled between 1990 and 2012, from 8,027 million tons to 16,849 million tons, and the use of resources in Asia-Pacific, such as minerals, metals and biomass, has tripled since 1990.  Air, ocean and fresh water pollution is on the rise. Unhealthy environments are causing significant health problems including more than 7 million deaths annually, mostly attributable to outdoor and indoor air pollution.

Regional priority areas of action identified at the Summit will feed into a Ministerial Declaration and the third meeting of the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi later this year.