Asia: fuelling a green revolution
The recent COP26, United Nations climate summit in Glasgow unfolded with two weeks of power politics razzmatazz and a torrent of statistics and announcements, much of it confusing and contradictory.
But from that, three strands seem to be evolving.
The climate industry urgently needs to produce agreed standards with clear messaging, so that the wider public understands its language.
The private sector is beginning to forge ahead in establishing a cleaner planet.
Asia is taking the lead in long term solutions.
First, standards and messaging.
While Chinese president, Xi Jinping, was lambasted in the Western media for staying away from the summit, his climate envoy, Xie Zhenua, worked long hours with his American counterpart John Kerry in a makeshift office on the conference site. They succeeded in announcing an agreement which gave an unexpected lift to summit gloom.
As has so often be devilled this crisis, there was little meeting of minds among experts as to what the Sino-US pledge would actually achieve.
Yet, to the rest of us outside the climate industry, the message was clear and positive. These two antagonistic superpowers, swirling in hostile rhetoric against each other, were stepping up to show leadership to take on the gravest challenge facing the world.
Poorer nations, such a Bangladesh, also made a point of precise messaging free from foggy jargon.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina currently chairs the Climate Vulnerable Forum with 48 developing countries, 19 of which are in Asia.
The CVF comprises 15 per cent of the world’s population but is responsible for only five per cent of global emissions, underpinning a truth that those worst impacted by climate change are the ones least responsible for causing it.
According to Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh has a per capita emission of 0.3 tons compared to an average of 20 tons per person in developed nations.
This is a no-nonsense sharp comparison and it raises a critical question: why can we find a country’s gross national product per capita in seconds through an Internet search, yet it is near-impossible to find its carbon emission per capita without wading through research papers which often disagree with each other and use different methods of calculation?
Climate is a multi-billion-dollar industry with a myriad of vested interests. Yet, in too many areas, there is no agreed standard, making it difficult to measures pledges and hold governments, companies and institutions to account.
For example, China is often cited as the worst polluter and blamed for up to 30 per cent of emissions. The US, at first glance, comes far behind with 11 per cent. Except the American population is around a quarter that of China’s. Per capita, therefore, Americans would be the higher polluters.
Second, private sector solutions.
There is now an acceptance throughout much of the developing world that Western democracies that mostly caused carbon pollution will not deliver all that is needed to fix the problem.
As India’s environment minister Bhupendra Yadav argued, ‘rich countries have an obligation, responsibility, duty and a vow’ to provide climate finance to developing nations…if there is any gap that remains it is in the action for climate finance’. He pointed out that the promise of $100 billion a year lies unfulfilled.
With continuing friction between the developed and developing world, there has come a shift away from solutions through governments and aid to one of commercial entrepreneurism and individual initiative. Money is flowing into climate change technology.
‘The success of COP26 is in the strength of the market signals that fossil fuels are over,’ says Peter McKillop.CEO of Climate and Capital Media. ‘No and low carbon is where the world is going and that message was undeniably strong,’
Poorer nations like Bangladesh plan to exploit this trend by attracting inward investment to their green technology sectors, using climate change as a catalyst to cut their own emissions, set up factories for export and create jobs and wealth.
It is estimated that over the next 30 years, one in seven Bangladeshis will be displaced by climate change and, rather than relying too much on international pledges, the country plans to fix what it can itself.
The third strand is how Asia is taking a global lead.
Asia’s economic giants, China, Japan and South Korea, are already leading the way in sustainable and green technology. As of now, two-thirds of the renewable power is being built in Asia and half of that in China.
As manufacturing increases, factories will be set up in other Asian countries taking advantage of the green technology boom.
China’s 1 + N climate plan, little reported in the Western media, is a precise document with specific goals such as using non-fossil fuel for eight per cent of its energy by 2060.
‘Being China, it will set itself on track to achieve this,’ says McKillop. ‘There is no point in being the number one superpower if the world around you is flooded and burning down.’
Asian nations are bracing themselves for destruction wrought by decades of global warming. They need to now pick up the initiative and use the remedies to build new manufacturing sectors, boost their economies and raise standards of living.