KYOTO, Japan – Japan pledged $100 million in grants to the Asian Development Bank on Sunday to combat global warming and promote greener investment in the region and called for a stronger international agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
The money is part of a new initiative by the government in Tokyo to support sustainable development in response to increasing concern that Asia's breakneck economic growth is destroying the environment.
It comes just days after a breakthrough agreement in Thailand set the world's first roadmap for fighting climate change.
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Addressing environmental problems is a priority at the ADB, which was founded four decades ago to fight poverty through economic growth.
The ADB is working to counter the mentality that poor nations that want progress must sacrifice the environment — and criticism that the bank funds rampant development.
"I think for quite some time, Asia has made the assumption that you grow first and worry about the environment later," ADB Managing Director General Rajat Nag said. He said regional governments no longer believed "that the environment is something you don't need to worry about today."
Over the last three decades, Asia's energy consumption has grown by 230 percent, and it is expected to double again by 2030, ADB President Haruhiko Kuroda said Sunday.
The region already accounts for a quarter of the world's greenhouse gas emissions — a leading cause of global warming.
Japan, which has the biggest voting power in the ADB along with the United States, will channel up to $100 million into two new funds — the Asian Clean Energy Fund and the Investment Climate Facilitation Fund.
Japan will also provide up to $2 billion in loans to the Asian Development Bank over the next five years to promote general investment in the region.
The $100 milllion in grants is intended to promote renewable energy resources, such as solar power, and encourage environmentally friendly infrastructure. The money is also aimed at attracting greener investment.
The bank, which currently spends $1 billion a year on clean energy, has come under criticism for funding coal projects, which are vilified as fanning global warming. The bank says coal is more economical for poor countries.
Organizers hope the ADB's environmental agenda will get a boost from the host city, Kyoto, where an international protocol to fight global warming was born 10 years ago.
Japanese Finance Minister Koji Omi said it was time for something stronger than the Kyoto accord and called for "a new, practical and effective framework in which all countries, including the United States, China and India, will participate."
On Friday in Bangkok, delegates from 120 countries approved the first blueprint for stemming greenhouse gas emissions, laying out what they said was an affordable arsenal of anti-warming measures that must be adopted.
The report, a summary of a study by a U.N. network of 2,000 scientists, said the world has to make significant cuts in gas emissions through increasing the energy efficiency of buildings and vehicles, shifting from fossil fuels to renewable fuels, and reforming both the forestry and farming sectors.