Compiled and curated by Purnima Joshi
In the scramble to transition to cleaner energy sources to fulfil their Paris Agreement commitments, most countries in Asia are caught in a Catch 22 situation – among the most vulnerable regions to climate change, their own economic growth and development goals seem at odds with their climate targets; and both must move ahead in parallel for a while until a convergence point is reached. This is the time for governments, businesses, investors and civil society to come together to think long-term and take steps to secure a more sustainable future for all.
The key themes in this issue are around renewable energy, GHG emission targets, the coal and fossil fuel industry, energy transition, net-zero commitments, eco-tourism, mangrove forests, agriculture, hydropower dams, energy policy, and fossil fuel financing.
Channel News Asia Insider, 14 May 2021
Key themes: Climate Change, Climate Education, Climate Curriculum
The Climate Conversations: What’s the state of climate change education in Singapore's school curriculum? | EP 35
Future generations will deal with impacts of climate change so education is key. How are our educators and those who shape our school curriculums dealing with climate change? What does it take to infuse a comprehensive climate change curriculum? Where are we now and how much more needs to be done? Jamie Ho in conversation with Associate Professor Chang Chew Hung, Dean of Academic and Strategic Development at National Institute of Education at Nanyang Technological University.
Financial Express, 11 May 2021
Key Themes: Renewable Energy, GHG Emissions, Climate Change
Climate Change: The world depends on a low-carbon India
By 2027, India is set to become the world’s most populous country, with 1.4 billion people, and moving to a low-carbon transition is in the country’s best long-term interests.
With India’s extreme vulnerability to climate change, policies that not only lower pollution and carbon emissions, but also alleviate energy poverty and create jobs for its growing workforce, are imperative.
Mass roll-out of distributed renewable energy (DRE) technology throughout India can facilitate its development goals, provide clean, reliable energy access to all, and limit future GHG emissions. But these projects are often overlooked by climate investors and policymakers because the projects are small-scale and dispersed.
The onus is on governments, businesses and investors—all of them together—to think long-term and take bold decisive steps to ensure securing a more sustainable future.
Channel News Asia, Singapore edition, 10 May 2021
Key Themes: Coal Industry, Fossil Fuels, Renewable Energy, Net Zero Commitment
Commentary: Indonesia’s coal industry is on its last legs
Indonesia is one of the world’s top exporters of coal, a commodity which is in global decline.
The three countries, China, South Korea and Japan, that offer financial support for the 17.4 gigawatts of coal capacity in Indonesia, are making moves to cut down on coal.
While countries around the world and around Southeast Asia have made moves to diversify their national energy mix, Indonesia has doubled down on coal and neglected energy security potential in renewable energy development; this coal lock-in is limiting space for renewable energy to grow.
With an unambitious 2070 net zero commitment, the repercussions for global emissions could be huge if Indonesia does not make the green transition faster.
Indonesia’s natural renewable energy resources have the potential to become a leading destination of sustainable investment, a growing trend in global finance.
The Sydney Morning Herald, 10 May 2021
Key Themes: Eco-tourism, mangrove forests, climate change
How a ‘green pillow’ is helping to save Hoi An from climate change floods
The future is bleak for the World Heritage-listed city of Hoi An. Barely two metres above sea level, the city is flood-prone and vulnerable to rising sea levels, storm surges and coastal erosion.
For decades, monsoon floods have been eroding the riverbank of Triem Tay, an island village close to Hoi An. And while two-thirds of the sonneratia mangrove forest planted along the 650-metre-long west bank of the island disappeared after eight consecutive floods in late 2020, the land remained nearly intact.
The mangrove plantations, are like the concrete embankments commonly used throughout Vietnam and worldwide as shields against surging waters. Instead of confronting forces of nature, the green levees adapt, aiming to restore the natural riverbank ecosystem.
As storms grow stronger as the climate changes, the force hitting concrete embankments increases. In landscape designer Dao’s words, “by fighting strength with strength, the destruction is going to be enormous”. The mangrove forest planted along Triem Tay’s riverbank is like a pillow that doesn’t stop but slows down the forces of nature.
The Third Pole, 10 May 2021
Key Themes: Climate change, agriculture, hydropower dams
Cambodian farmers can no longer rely on the Tonle Sap lake
Seasonal flooding of Asia’s largest freshwater lake in Cambodia is being disrupted by upstream dams and climate change, and is affecting 4.8 million people.
The livelihood of local residents depends on the natural flooding of Tonle Sap lake and its tributaries, but climate change, extreme weather and upstream dams have upended this.
The crop yields have been diminishing year by year, due to unpredictable rainfall, and less water.
In August 2020, the government stepped in to provide incentives to farmers to strengthen and support the agri-economy, but acknowledges the threat posed by upstream hydropower dams in China and Laos.
Conflict over access to water is rising.
Cambodia also put a 10-year moratorium on mainstream Mekong dam building.
China too agreed to share more upstream data and near-real-time data monitoring via the Mekong Dam Monitor - there is more information on the effects of mainstream dams.
Global Trade Review, 12 May 2021 Key Themes: Energy policy, coal power, energy transition, fossil fuel financing
ADB eyes ban on coal, oil and gas support, warned to proceed “with care”
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) announced plans to ban financing of coal mining and power plants, as well as upstream oil and gas activities. But the bank has been urged to proceed with caution and avoid abandoning countries that continue to rely on fossil fuels for energy and exports.
In a new draft energy policy report, it lays out commitments to end financing for “any coal mining, oil and natural gas field exploration, drilling or extraction activities”. The policy will become effective in Q4 this year.
The ADB has not financed investments in coal power plants since 2013, and support for new coal projects will also be formally brought to a halt.
Fossil fuels have dominated the power projects being built in the region. 451GW of power projects are currently under construction in Asia Pacific, with coal and gas accounting for 43% and 14% of the total, respectively.
Against this backdrop, the bank says in its proposal that it may only finance natural gas deals if a list of certain conditions is met.
Dawn, 16 May 2021
Key Themes: Climate change, energy policy, fossil fuels, carbon emissions, clean energy
Is Pakistan preparing for a decarbonised world?
For Pakistan “the time to resist international efforts to decarbonise” is up according to a lead analyst. Although the realisation has sunk in among local businesses and even the government and investors, it was still not translated into a plan leave alone much action on ground.
From 1994, Pakistan’s carbon emissions increased by 123pc in 2015 and are projected to increase by about 300pc by 2030 and energy (along with related areas) and agriculture sectors account for about 90pc of total emissions. But Pakistan can reduce up to 20pc of its 2030 GHG emissions with some hand-holding (to the tune of $40 million) by decarbonising transport and agriculture sectors
It is imperative it shifts from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to decarbonise electricity as 46pc of the country’s total emissions is coming from burning fossil fuels. Luckily for Pakistan, it has huge solar and wind energy potential that could satisfy not just its domestic electricity need.
Investment in human capital with renewable technologies needs to happen as besides being useful domestically, the trained professionals in renewable energy-related disciplines could tap into the global market, according to analysts.
The Asset, 17 May 2021
Key Themes: ESG investing, green finance, sustainability funds
Asset Managers must drive ESG Transparency
While the focus on environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing has been gaining momentum recently, 2020 witnessed substantial inflows into a range of ESG products. The Monetary Authority of Singapore will be placing additional funds with asset managers committed to enhance green finance activities out of Singapore.
With most interest in ESG/sustainability funds from discretionary investment managers in Asia, financial regulators in the region are still under pressure to issue directives around ESG investments, and this situation may change when ESG funds permeate into retail space when regulation will follow to provide transparency and protection.
An ESG academy has been established to help clients bridge knowledge gaps.
Mint Lounge, 14 May 2021
Key Themes: Climate change, GHG emissions, weather conditions
The effects of climate change on cyclone Tauktae in the Arabian Sea
As global warming gathers pace, intense cyclones from the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea are making landfall with greater frequency every year. Since satellite records began in India in 1980, this is the first time that pre-monsoon cyclones have been recorded in the Arabian Sea for four consecutive years. It is now a well known fact that the global ocean has absorbed 90% of the excess heat generated by greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions since 1970 leading to anomalous ocean warming, which in turn makes cyclones intensify rapidly.
The reason cyclones are intensifying so rapidly is because of unprecedented high temperatures over the Indian Ocean (Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea). Heat is energy, and cyclones intensify rapidly by turning the potential energy stored in the ocean to kinetic energy, according to experts. Also, the western tropical Indian Ocean has been warming for more than a century, at a rate faster than any other region of the tropical oceans, and turns out to be the largest contributor to the overall trend in the global mean sea surface temperature (SST).
Bloomberg News, 13 May 2021
Key Themes: Climate change, environmental risks
43 of 100 — India has most cities in the world vulnerable to environmental risks
According to a recent report, Asian cities face the greatest risk from environmental issues including air pollution and natural disasters with 99 of the 100 most vulnerable cities being in Asia. 37 are in China and 43 are in India, the world’s first and third biggest emitters of greenhouse gases respectively.
Globally, 1.5 billion people live in 414 cities that are at high risk from pollution, water shortages, extreme heat, natural hazards and the physical impacts of climate change.
A significant danger for many cities is how climate change will amplify weather-related risks. Higher temperatures and the increasing severity and frequency of extreme events will change the quality of living and economic growth prospects of many cities across the globe according to researchers.
Environmental risk needs to be a central consideration when it comes to making business, investments or real estate portfolio more resilient and the hope is that identifying these risks and stressing strategies for future climate scenarios will help investors gain a clearer view of the costs and benefits of investment decisions.
Channel News Asia, 14 May 2021
Key Themes: Climate change, carbon emissions, renewable energy, energy consumption
Commentary: Why China believes it’s go big on carbon emission cuts or go home
When China announced its goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2060 last September, local officials responded by cracking down on carbon-intensive industries. Tangshan city in Hebei province, China’s steelmaking hub, ordered factories to cut production by 30 to 50 per cent by the end of 2021, triggering thousands of lay-offs. This was only part of China’s plan to slash steelmaking capacity by half against last year. Being the world’s largest producer of crude steel, China’s capacity cut will push up global steel prices, increasing inflation risks for the domestic and global economy amid the pandemic.
China, the world’s largest carbon emission country that accounts for about 28 per cent of the world’s total, had been in defence mode. Fearing that exorbitant mitigation cost might slow down the economy and lead to unemployment, China had long shied from direct emission reduction obligations until recently, when it announced the 2060 target to the United Nations.
The sticking point for China is coal. As the world’s largest energy consumer, China accounts for about 24 per cent of global energy consumption, demanding the energetic equivalent of almost 3.3 billion tonnes of oil in 2019. Since 2011, it has burnt more coal than all other countries combined and it still sourced 58 per cent of its total energy consumption from coal burning in 2020.
Variables such as geographic and meteorological conditions, domestic supporting industries, and technological barriers related to power storage and transmission have constrained the country’s renewable energy development, and it is facing the world’s highest rejection rates for its existing wind and solar power capacity.
Channel News Asia, 15 May 2021
Key Themes: Climate change, carbon footprint, crypto currency
Commentary: Elon Musk wakes up to bitcoin’s environmental impact
Bitcoin prices tumbled too Tesla revealed it will no longer accept bitcoin for purchases of electric cars, being concerned about rapidly increasing use of fossil fuels for bitcoin mining and transactions, especially coal.
It seems that two-thirds of bitcoin to date has been mined – created through computing algorithms – in China, using data centres reliant on electricity generated by coal and it has been noted that bitcoin prices move whenever accidents occur in Chinese coal mines.
Also, the US$2 trillion crypto market has expanded so fast that it is gobbling up vast quantities of energy and mining bitcoin, which accounts for half of all crypto, currently uses the same amount of energy annually as the Netherlands did in 2019 and this threatens the Paris climate goals.
Bitcoin’s carbon footprint is embarrassing, not just for Tesla but for millennial crypto investors who care about green issues. This highlights three big lessons for all investors.
nobody can afford to ignore environmental, social and governance concerns today, even in stocks labelled as ESG
investors need to watch the debate around tech’s carbon footprint as an example of this shifting landscape
the sector is opaque and largely unregulated and Financial policymakers are now threatening a crackdown.
SDG Knowledge Hub, 12 May 2021
Key Themes: Climate change, ecosystems, climate resilient farming
Managing Tradeoffs between Adaptation and Decarbonization: Lessons from South Asia
Implementing the SDGs has to be adaptive, collective, and proactive as revealed by nature-based solutions for facing climate change in coastal India and Bangladesh. Float-farming in flooded areas of Bangladesh is a heritage practice now taking on a new avatar, wherein buoyant bamboo rafts are used to float organic grow-bags for regenerative agriculture on inundated floodplains. This old emissions-intensive practice to support carbon-neutral, climate-resilient regenerative farming has transformed to help farmers face saltwater ingress due to sea level rise and flood inundations in the region.
The integration of technology, innovative design, and community governance, as seen in the approach to float-farming could be used as a paradigm for sustainable practices at the interface of communities and ecosystems.
The Asia-Pacific Climate Digest is compiled by communications consultant Purnima Joshi.
With over two decades of experience in corporate communications, Purnima combines her skills in creative and communication along with her passion for working for the community. She has worked on a multitude of projects in waste management, circular economy, building active citizenship in the community, some of which have won awards. These also include a project on building climate resilience for UNICEF.