How Asia’s Green Economy Will Transform the World in the Next Decade

In this piece, Ravindra Ngo, Founder & CEO of the Asian Network, provides a recap of the discussions held in a high-level online conference on "Innovating for a greener Future in Asia".
How Asia’s Green Economy Will Transform the World in the Next Decade
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On March 27th, I attended the launch of the International System Change Compass report at the OECD, in Paris. The report provides analyses and recommendations which are meant to serve as a practical guide for policymakers on how to implement the ambitions of the European Green Deal in a global context and at a global scale. A month ago, I also had the pleasure to read that the High Seas Treaty has been agreed, which is a breakthrough for both the planet and its oceans. Despite these initiatives giving me hope, there nevertheless remains a sense of urgency to act for the Planet.

On March 22nd of this year, the Asian Network co-organised with the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia a high-level online conference on “ Innovating for a greener Future in Asia", gathering 19 experts from Asia and Europe to share their expertise on the Future of Environment, Climate Action and Technology for Social Good.

Source: ERIA Experts Call for Collective, Integrated Actions to Mitigate Risks of Environmental, Climate Crisis

During the opening remarks, Mr Erik Solheim former Norwegian minister of Environment, shared his views about the role Asia will play in transforming the world in the next decade by combining three key pillars: leadership of Asia, the leadership of the business, and opportunities to make the planet much greener.

I will echo what Mr Solheim said whilst considering some perspectives from the speakers.

Leadership of Asia

Asia has been leading on several fronts in technology, nature-based solutions, and smart cities among other sectors: one reason is the support of regional development banks such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (“AIIB”) and the Asian Development Bank (“ADB”) (for example SDG Indonesia One is an infrastructure investment platform that “ADB” is supporting in Indonesia). Such financial support is critical, as  Southeast Asia needs USD210 billion of annual investment in renewables to meet its climate goals according to Reuters.

President Xi Jinping made three major promises on behalf of China over the last two years. China will peak its carbon emissions before 2030, be carbon neutral before 2060, and will plant an area the size of Belgium every year from now to 2030. Meanwhile, the Indian government has started to implement India’s long-term low-carbon development strategy, which includes reducing fuel demand and greenhouse gas emissions through improved fuel efficiency, and transitioning to a low-emission pathway to become carbon neutral by 2070.

Also on the Forum Network: In My View: Bangladesh will continue to champion effective international partnerships for inclusive and sustainable development by Hon. Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister, Bangladesh
Bangladesh’s sustained economic growth, coupled with a sharp reduction in poverty, has grabbed the attention of global development narratives. But with the country striving to move away from climate vulnerability to long‑term sustainability and resilience, affordable financing will remain critical to achieve the SDGs by 2030, explains Hon. Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh. 

Leadership of business

Hong Kong and Singapore are competing to be the financial hub of Asia. That battleground is now shifting to the ESG space, with potentially trillions of dollars at stake. From green bonds to carbon trading, both cities are well-positioned to serve as a regional base for sustainable finance with governments and companies increasing investments in the fight against climate change.

The Asia-Pacific Green Deal for Business is an initiative of the ESCAP (Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific ) Sustainable Business Network, which advocates for business leadership in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

For companies and a more sustainable future, the fundamentals need to be built on those pillars: economic viability, environmental protection, and social equity regardless of the size of the business.

The regulatory environment is also important. The ESCAP Taxonomy Regulation establishes a classification system, which provides businesses with a common language to identify whether a given economic activity should be considered "environmentally sustainable".

Opportunities to make the planet much greener

  • Understand interconnected risks: mitigation and adaptation

The rise of the water level of the Mekong River might affect marginalised groups such as women, fishermen, and floating villagers but also farmers in Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, and Laos. Through data collection and management from those communities, we can anticipate and mitigate those risks. 

Droughts, floods and extreme weather will also affect migration due to forced displacement and putting local food security at risk. Water, food, and energy form a nexus at the heart of sustainable development.

Countries can adapt and learn from best practices to enhance their own capacity and implement climate commitments.

The three Ps for People Planet & Profit are not as important as the P for PURPOSE: the purpose to make and contribute to a better world.

  • Importance of balancing innovation and inclusive technology

Renewable energy technologies, including solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, and biopower, are increasingly critical to push for green recovery. Promoting sustainable transportation, encouraging green finance, and raising awareness on food–water–energy solutions will contribute to a much greener environment.

  • Proactive step and paradigm shift: all together

Governments, businesses, and civil society must collaborate on promoting sustainable policies and practices to mitigate environmental risks. The three Ps for People Planet & Profit are not as important as the P for PURPOSE: the purpose to make and contribute to a better world.

For Earth Day, I would like to end with this quote from Sir David Attenborough: “The truth is: the natural world is changing. And we are totally dependent on that world. It provides our food, water and air. It is the most precious thing we have and we need to defend it.”

To learn more, watch also the replay of the session 'How can sustainable and transition finance support the journey to net zero in Asia?' organised jointly by the OECD and the Ministry of Environment of Japan at COP27.

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