By Beh Lih Yi
JAKARTA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Developing economies in Asia will have to spend $300 billion a year until 2050 to meet targets set by the Paris climate deal, but can expect to save thousands of lives and avoid worsening poverty if they shift to low-carbon growth, research showed on Tuesday.
As part of the landmark accord reached in December, nearly 200 nations agreed to keep global temperature increases to "well below" 2 degrees Celsius to curb global warming.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) said the economic returns of spending on the Paris climate targets far outweighed the costs in the developing region - one of the most vulnerable to climate change and disasters like typhoons and flooding.
The Manila-based bank's definition of developing Asia comprises 45 of the ADB's member countries in Asia Pacific including Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam.
"ADB estimates that the region can generate more than $2 in gains for each $1 of cost it bears to reach the Paris goal - if the right steps are taken," ADB's deputy chief economist Juzhong Zhuang said.
The extra cost for developing Asia is equivalent to the size of Denmark's gross domestic product (GDP) or the GDPs of Portugal and Morocco put together, according to World Bank data.
The ADB said by meeting the Paris climate deal goals, Asian countries would see better air quality and could avoid nearly 600,000 air pollution-related premature deaths.
Spending on renewable power, carbon capture and storage, and smart grids could also help communities who rely on climate-sensitive agriculture and land for their livelihoods from plunging deeper into poverty, it said.
"Developing Asia has some of the world's poorest and most vulnerable populations, whose livelihoods are fundamentally tied to natural resources," ADB said in the report.
"Unmitigated climate change could reverse decades of progress in poverty alleviation and jeopardize Asia's ambitions to pursue development that is economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable," the report said.
Three Asian countries - China, India and Indonesia - are among the world's top 10 greenhouse gas emitters, according to the World Resources Institute.
Six of Asia's developing economies are ranked among the world's top 10 countries most affected by climate risk based on frequency, death tolls and economic losses, according to the 2016 Global Climate Risk Index by think-tank Germanwatch.
The ADB warned that if no action was taken to tackle climate change, it could slash the region's economic growth by more than 10 percent by 2100.
ADB urged the region to slash its heavy dependence on fossil fuels, which currently contribute to over two-thirds of Asia's total emissions, and boost investment in renewable energy.
(Reporting by Beh Lih Yi @behlihyi, Editing by Katie Nguyen; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)