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UN urges Asia to reduce carbon footprint
A new UN report urges developing nations to do more to mitigate the effects of climate change.

The United Nations has called on the developing world and especially the nations of the Asia Pacific to take greater responsibility for tackling climate change.

In a report unveiled by Indonesian President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the UN Development Program warns that unless nations in the region take more action their own vulnerable communities will suffer.

Indonesia correspondent Helen Brown reports from Jakarta.
HELEN BROWN, REPORTER: Asia's rising prosperity has been a boon for many. Creating jobs and lifting millions out of poverty, as the developing world plays catch up with its developed neighbours.

But a new report by the United Nations Development Program says that Asia Pacific countries need to put more emphasis on environmentally sustainable growth.

AJAY CHHIBBER, UNDP ASIA-PACIFIC DIRECTOR: President, ladies and gentlemen, our world and this region in particular is at a crossroads. Asia Pacific is required to do what has not been done before: sustain growth, lift people out of poverty, but do it with much lower emission intensity.

HELEN BROWN: As the third largest nation in the region, Indonesia is seen as critical to curbing climate change. Its president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who has been lauded for his vision, unveiled the report.

SUSILO BAMBANG YUDHOYONO, INDONESIAN PRESIDENT (Translation): If we succeed and it has to succeed, then this region will be able to play a vital role in humanity's attempt to mitigate the effects of climate change.

HELEN BROWN: The UNDP says one of the key issues is managing the demands of mega cities. Half of the world's cities with populations of 10 million or more are in the region.

And the rising affluence to be found in them also means they're contributing more to the problems. There's more rubbish for instance that's burned or dumped producing noxious gases. There are more fumes from traffic and more demand on fossil fuels.

The argument has been that developing countries have the right to grow to bring economic benefits to their people. But the report says these nations now need to do more to be a part of the solution.

ANURADHA RAJIVAN, UNDP REPORT AUTHOR: We have to see how we can produce things differently. Generate energy differently, manufacture things differently and grow our food and animals differently.

HELEN BROWN: Indonesia is part of the solution for one very stark reason. It's home to large reserves of tropical forest and rich peat lands. These biologically diverse areas soak up huge amounts of the world's carbon dioxide but for decades they've been degraded through burning, logging and conversion to plantations.

BUSHAR MAITAR, GREENPEACE: Forest is the key issue in Indonesia. If the Indonesian government is not dealing with the forest issue, it means we will fail to address the climate change.

HELEN BROWN: Last year Indonesia imposed a nationwide moratorium on new logging permits. But policing that policy on the ground is proving more difficult. Recently, a team from the Ministry of Forestry and the national police made a trip to Aceh to see for themselves the claims of activists that protected areas were still being destroyed with impunity by palm oil companies. Activists say the national vision lacks strong governance and legal backing.

BUSHAR MAITAR: This year is critical for Indonesia. In terms of the dealing with the climate change, the president's SBY has already made the highest commitment. And this is something that everybody's watching, how he and his administration deliver that commitment.

KUNTORO MANGKUSUBROTO, HEAD, REDD FORESTERY TASK FORCE: If you're asking whether there's some improvement, for sure there's an improvement. But if there's accidents here and there, misconduct here and there, well, basically, don't forget that we are in crisis stage.

HELEN BROWN: The president used his speech to outline several initiatives started by his governments including planting a billion trees a year to a new energy policy to be introduced in June.

But the challenge is to introduce initiatives such as this while also eradicating poverty. A point made by the president several times.

The report calls for policies that give poor households a better life in a sustainable manner. It also highlights some of the efforts already being made; from a massive floodplain restoration plan in China to installing home solar systems in Bangladesh.

But the UNDP says the efforts are sporadic and piecemeal and countries have to find ways to work together.

ANURADHA RAJIVAN: So we need to together think about what can be done and everybody is more and more on the similar page and has a common shared objective of human quality of life. And that's where we want to go.
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