I got a phone call a while ago from the commander-in-chief of Asian Correspondent asking about green issues in Asia and would I be willing to write a blog. My own interest is vested: I’m involved in a new venture covering these issues, but more importantly, I’d prefer not to see the collapse of civilization as we know. While I’m not arguing that the world is altogether a civilized place, unless the ecological issues facing the globe are tackled realistically, we’ll be lucky to find a creek or wood to make a paddle.
But green issues and Asia? If you’d asked me 20 years ago I’d have fallen about laughing. That was when the most proactive green advocate in Hong Kong was the government!
In 1992 former Malaysian prime minister, Mohamad Mahathir, got great plaudits from his comrades-in-arms for telling the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, that it shouldn’t apply to ‘us’ because you’ve (the homogeneous West) already had your development based on polluting the environment.
It might have had an element of truth in so far as no-one knew the effects of twentieth century development on the world in 1900, but to say it was no concern of his was, politely, a myopic viewpoint. Indeed within a short time that Asian capitals from Kuala Lumpur to Jakarta were choking from thick layers of smog as a result of indiscriminate, legal and illegal burning of rainforest to facilitate logging. That was another case of falling about laughing; something to do with irony.
So how far has Asia come in recognising the importance of green issues in the past 15 years? Well, without trying to plod into a quagmire of ranting debate, I’d say it has come a long way.
On the 60th anniversary of South Korea’s independence, the government announced a new paradigm for the country — green growth. During the global financial crisis its stimulus package of $38.5 billion focused on clean technology and environmental expenditure.
Even Indonesia, has pulled together a Clean Technology Fund to promote large-scale projects sponsored by the country’s finance ministry.
Meanwhile arch-polluter China is subsidising solar power generation at a level that equates to half the set-up costs and promises 15% of power generation by 2020 from clean tech.
But issues remain. Can projects overcome narrow-minded nationalism, the scourge of corruption or even the simple fact that just because it does not currently affect you, does not mean it can be ignored? Hopefully over the coming months we can debate what’s happening, what’s not and what’s being ignored. Input is always welcome.