Countries in Asia and the Pacific are at a crossroads and must strike a balance between rising prosperity and rising emissions as their success or failure will have repercussions worldwide, the United Nations Development Programme has said in a new report.
"The Asia-Pacific region must continue to grow economically to lift millions out of poverty, but it must also respond to climate change to survive.
"Growing first and cleaning up later is no longer an option," says the Asia-Pacific Human Development Report 2012 --One Planet to Share: Sustaining Human Progress in a changing Climate.
The publication is aimed at reinvigorating climate change dialogue by bringing people's concerns into the fore in the lead-up to the Rio+20 conference.
The report argues that in the face of climate change, countries in Asia and the Pacific "will need to change way they manufacture goods, raise crops and livestock and generate energy".
This will mean 'moving to greener, more resilient, lower-emission options that not only sustain the environment but also offer opportunities to the poor for employment and income,' it said.
Observing that the Asia-Pacific region has some of the world's fastest-growing cities, the report said cities in the region are central to the world's battle against climate change.
"Asia and Pacific are home to some of the world's largest urban areas. Of the world's top 20 mega cities -- those with populations with 10 million or more -- half are located in Asia," the report said.
"The fastest growing of the region's megacities is Dhaka: between 2005 and 2010 its population has increased by more than 16 per cent.
"In terms of total population, however, the largest city by 2020 is likely to be Tokyo (37 million), followed by New Delhi (26 million) and then Mumbai (24 million), with Shanghai (19 million) and Karachi (17 million) not far behind," the report said.
"Around 40 per cent of Asia-Pacific's population resides in urban settlements.
"Asian cities also tend to be densely populated, with 6,500 people per square kilometre, compared to 4,500 in Latin America and 4000 in Europe," the report said.
Cities with higher concentrations of people are likely to be worst affected by climate change as was evident during the devastating flood in Mumbai (2005), Jakarata (2007), Brisbane (2010-11) and Bagkok (2011).
"By 2026, Asia's population is likely to reach a tipping point: by then, over half its population will be urban, and by 2050 the proportion could reach two-thirds," it said.
"Actions in cities will be 'make or break' for climate change," it added.