UN official highlights Asia’s role in the fight for the world’s climate
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    UN official highlights Asia’s role in the fight for the world’s climate

    The European Commission said Belgium must present more ambitious plans to meet its emissions goals by the 2030 deadline. Credit: Pixabay

    Asia, whose increasing energy needs still entail building thermal plants, will play a decisive role in the success or failure of the war on global warming, a senior UN official stressed on Friday.

    “It is really in this region that we will succeed or fail in the energy transition in order to be able to meet our climate change goals,” the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Sustainable Energy for All, Rachel Kyte, said at an audio conference organised ahead of the Climate Action Summit to be held in New York in September.

    These objectives include zero net emissions of greenhouse gases worldwide by 2050.

    “Southeast Asia is one of the fastest growing economic regions in the world,” Ms. Kyte said. “This is where population and urbanisation mean that electricity demand is expected to triple between 2015 and 2014.”

    “In order to meet this, Southeast Asia is turning to fossil fuels,” Ms. Kyte added.

    Southeast Asia is in third place for the number of projects entailing the construction of coal plants, which belch out greenhouse gases, behind China and India. The regional countries with the most projects are Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines, said Ms. Kyte, who also heads the UN’s Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) initiative. Moreover, countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh with no historic links with coal are also becoming involved.

    However, there is really no future for coal, Ms. Kyte stressed. It’s not clean and if you clean it, its cost becomes prohibitive, she argued, citing the use of CO2 for growing algae or its processing for the manufacture of construction material.

    The idea that an economy based on fossil fuels protects growth is no longer valid, not to mention the impact on human health, Ms. Kyte said, welcoming the fact that there has been a large number of project cancellations for lack of funding and that some large Japanese banks are beginning to be reluctant to fund coal plants outside Japan. Another plus mentioned by the UN official was the very rapid progress in energy efficiency in China and India.

    According to an Indonesian government report, less coal-intensive and more efficient production systems can fuel growth, on average, by the equivalent of 6% of GDP per year by 2045.   

    “Fighting climate change is fully compatible with the fight against poverty,” according to the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Climate Action Summit, Luis Alfonso de Alba.

    China and its huge “New Silk Road” infrastructure project, launched in 2013 to connect Asia, Europe and Africa to China, and including coal plants, will play a crucial role.

    Ms. Kyte stressed that it was absolutely essential to make the New Silk Road green. Mr. De Alba added that the UN was strongly hoping for an announcement from China between now and the summit.

    Oscar Schneider

    The Brussels Times