The keys to greening Asia and the planet Speech

May 04, 2012 - 2:22pm

Introductory comments in a panel titled “Greening Asia and the Planet” at the Global Foundation Summit, May 4 2012.

Delivered by John Connor, CEO, The Climate Institute

Chairman, Secretary General, honourable diplomats and fellow citizens.

Last September I had the pleasure of joining with a Global Foundation tour to China.

Amongst other activities we visited Tianjin's eco-city for 350 000 which is emerging from polluted salt pans and wetlands. The Eco-city's first residents moved in last month

Greener, cleaner urban growth is key not only to "greening asia and the planet", but also to China’s 12th five year plan.

Such growth will require not just green fields development as in Tianjin, but redevelopment of existing urban space, like the docklands site where we are here today. A site populated by many green buildings, with ready commerciable Australian experience!

For the first time in its many thousand year history, China's cities have just become home to more than 50% of its population.  Its urban population is tracking to 80% by 2050

This will and must create vast opportunities in clean technology, clean energy and clean food services and delivery

China’s leaders are preparing for this by setting goals for its cities in its latest five-year plan, which stands out from previous versions for its emphasis on reducing carbon dioxide emissions and pursuing ‘active yet prudent urbanisation’.

This plan identifies seven strategic industries that could drive healthy economic growth while reducing China’s dependency on environmentally destructive industries and fossil fuels. These are smart grids, energy efficiency, green buildings, information and communication, low-emissions transportation and logistics, resource recovery and environmental protection.

Part of China’s strategy to reduce its energy consumption by 16 per cent from 2005 levels in 2015 involves reducing the energy demand from its buildings, which currently consume about 30 per cent of China’s electricity, by constructing green buildings and improving the energy efficiency of existing buildings.

China's cities are also the testing ground for seven pilot emissions trading schemes, this matches growing action across Asia on policies that constrain carbon, price carbon, incentivize renewable energy or drive energy efficiency.

This action ranges from India and Japan's levies on coal to Thailand's top runner energy efficiency program to emissions trading schemes emerging not only in China with South Korea's Parliament passing framework legislation just two days ago

Countries are not doing this just because of their concern on climate change, nor even just because of energy security, independence and air pollution.  These are important drivers economically and politically, but they are also doing this because they are determined to prosper in the challenges of this century.

This is a century where a number of trends are converging, highlighting the urgent need to build a vision of prosperity amongst the growing constraints on natural resources but also constraints on skilled workers and of course greenhouse or carbon emissions

That this century will not only be the Asian century (or Asia/Pacific century) but also the carbon constrained century has been recognized by those well known greenies at BHP, KPMG, GE and banks including Westpac and Deutsche bank amongst others.

In recent weeks KPMG released “Expect the Unexpected" an analysis of10 mega trends driving global business of which climate change was top of the list.  

Deutsche Bank last week released an analysis of policies which ranked countries with the best implementing policies that include market based carbon constraints as well as energy efficiency and renewable energy incentives.

Last month global industrial giant GE along with my organization TCI, in our Global Climate Leadership Review (also supported by Pacific Hydro), launched an updated carbon competitiveness index tracking progress from 1995 of G20 nations.  

This index measures 19 indices from clean energy investments to education and infrastructure investments. It ranks countries on their ability to provide prosperity for their citizens in a carbon constrained future

Australia is the only country to go backwards amongst the G20 countries and at 16th is behind Asian trading partners in Japan, South Korea and China. 

Australia's competitiveness, as well as its credibility in providing clean technology, clean energy and clean food to Asia, will be handicapped if we don't get on with the job constraining carbon, incentivizing renewable energy and cutting our historic energy wastefulness.

Greening Asia and the planet, as we surge from 7 billion to 9 billion people in the next few decades, will need a turbo boost in carbon and natural resource competitiveness and productivity.  

This will need not one not only from individual competitiveness but also collective cooperation in meshing national policies with globally coordinated policies on trade, environment and climate.

Out of the ashes of Hypenhagen has emerged, from later UN climate talks like Durban last year, a platform for action and a legally binding global climate agreement by 2015.  This is real progress and potentially removes a key barrier to global cooperation but more is needed.

While nations jostle for competitiveness in the burgeoning clean tech and carbon markets they'll need to lift their cooperation.  

Australia has a vital role to play in maintaining momentum and building ambition by signing up for a second Kyoto commitment, continuing a template legal framework which can be the basis for a global one.

The Climate Institute has also released research which recommends Australia should also leverage its carbon market system with a regional emissions trading coalition.  Such a coalition can not only link to the trading schemes in China and Korea but also link with reforms in Indonesian energy sector and more.

Greening Asia and the planet will need a revitalized approach to competitiveness and cooperation, it will need a fresh vision of prosperity and will need success from the endeavours of organizations like the Global Foundation.

I wish you well here today in your discussions. 

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