The Greater Mekong & Climate Change Report | WWF

The Greater Mekong & Climate Change Report

Posted on
02 October 2009

Bangkok, Thailand - The Greater Mekong region is already strongly affected by climate change and a lack of immediate action will come at great cost to the region, states a new WWF report released during the UN climate change talks in Bangkok.

Average daily temperatures across Southeast Asia have already increased between 0.5 and 1.5ºC over the last 50 years, and temperatures are predicted to rise between 2ºC to 4ºC in the Greater Mekong region by the end of the century. These changes have negatively affected the area, which is one of the most biologically diverse in the world.

“Greater regional cooperation and coordination among Mekong nations is necessary to best cope with the impacts of climate change,” said Geoffrey Blate, Climate Change Coordinator for the WWF Greater Mekong Programme. “Maintaining ecosystem health across borders and over larger areas is likely the most cost efficient and effective long term adaptation strategy available.”

Already sea level rise is threatening the region’s coastal communities and changes to the climate are stressing ecosystems. Land is being lost in coastal zones, glacial melting in the Himalayas may impact the region’s major river flows, and wetlands will either dry up or flood out.

Such climate changes exacerbate current regional pressures such as habitat loss, poorly planned infrastructure and unsustainable natural resource extraction, further degrading the ecosystems upon which the region’s social and economic future depends.

In its report, WWF recommends three key climate change adaptation strategies to reduce vulnerability across the region, which comprises Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, and southwest provinces of China. These strategies include the protection of regional ecosystems, a reduction in non-climate stresses such as unsustainable infrastructure and over extraction of natural resources, and the implementation of a regional climate change adaptation agreement.

“There is a leadership opportunity here to champion what would be Asia’s first regional climate change adaptation agreement to help Greater Mekong nations prepare for the inevitable impacts of climate change,” said Blate.

But the report stresses that without decisive action on a global scale it would be very hard to avoid the worst impacts. It urges politicians to strike an ambitious and fair agreement on a climate treaty at upcoming talks in Copenhagen.

“Rich and developed nations must make deep emission cuts and commit to significant financial help to assist vulnerable regions such as the Greater Mekong,” said Kim Carstensen, Leader, WWF Global Climate Initiative.

For further information contact:

Nicole Frisina, Communications Officer, Greater Mekong Programme
Mobile: +66807806035

Natalia Reiter, Media Officer, WWF International
Mob: +41 79 873 8099

Ashwini Prabha, (English, Hindi, Fijian)
Mob: +41 79 874 1682

Notes to the Editor

• To download the full report go to:

• WWF is working with governments and industry of the six Greater Mekong nations to conserve and sustainably manage 600,000 km2 of transboundary forest and freshwater habitats in this unique and rapidly changing land.

• The Greater Mekong grouping of countries is committed to increasing cooperation for accelerated economic development as facilitated by the Asian Development Bank. Economic activity and associated investments in infrastructure development is concentrated along three "economic corridors" that crisscross the region and have the potential both to lift the region's rural populations out of poverty but also to exacerbate existing threats, ultimately depleting the natural resource base upon which long-term development of the region depends.

• Sixteen of WWF’s Global 200 ecoregions, critical landscapes of international biological importance, are found in the Greater Mekong. These landscapes are home to rare Asian elephants and Indochinese tigers, and one of only two populations of Javan rhino in the world. In addition to rare populations of Irrawaddy dolphins, the Mekong River basin is estimated to house at least 1,300 species of fish, including the Mekong giant catfish, one of the largest freshwater fish in the world. By length, the Mekong is the richest waterway for biodiversity on the planet, fostering more species per unit area than the Amazon. Many of the species are endemic to the region.