Will Asia embrace clean energy?
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Will Asia embrace clean energy?

Developments around Asia and the Pacific suggest that clean power generation may soon have its day.

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Maldives, pic: Nevit Dilmen (Wikimedia Commons)

Japan looks like it may be leaving nuclear power behind in favor of energy saving measures and cleaner power sources, while China’s next generation is more concerned about climate change than youthful populations in many other major nations.

This is a start, but concrete policies, investment and wide scale adoption of clean energy is still unrealized.

For small island nations, however, clean energy use makes obvious sense. Pacific and Caribbean islands are usually completely dependent on oil and gas imports from large mainland countries. Low lying island nations like Micronesia and the Maldives may not create enough greenhouse gas emissions to make, well, any contribution at all to climate change whatsoever, but they are among the places in the world most vulnerable to rising sea levels, a consequence of global warming/climate change. Therefore, they see going carbon neutral or drastically reducing their emissions as a political move with which they hope to influence the real polluters and ghg emitters.

A UN analysis of 52 small island nations showed some impressive goals. Dominica, in the Caribbean, proved to be the most ambitious, followed by Tuvalu, the Cook Islands and East Timor (Timor-Leste). They plan to achieve or work towards carbon neutrality by 2020 or 2030 via switching from fossil fuel imports to homegrown renewable energy sources.

From the Guardian:

With Tonga, Samoa, Nauru, Mauritius and many other countries also volunteering to switch to solar, geothermal and wind energy, the collective target of the group of 52 small island developing states is a 45% cut in emissions in the next 18 years – considerably more than the world’s rich countries who between them have pledged 12-18% cuts by 2020.

Such changes will require significant investment, but the current oil dependency of island nations is already a huge expense for the often-poor states.

Barbados recently hosted a pre-Rio+20 Earth Summit conference called “Small Island Developing States Achieving Sustainable Energy for All”, where 39 small island nations met over 2 days to discuss energy policy. Read more about that or listen to the radio show from ABC Radio Australia.

Not to be completely upstaged by the small island upstarts, larger Asian nations are also conducting meetings on clean energy development. The 14-16 of May will see the Clean Power Asia conference, hosted in Bali, Indonesia. Major participants will include the Southeast Asian nations of Thailand and Malaysia, as well as the host country.

From a press release by the Indonesian government:

Clean Power Asia will gather leading Asian renewable and cleaner fossil power experts, utilities, energy ministries, regulators, investors and technology and service providers to discuss the latest renewable and cleaner fossil power developments in the region as well as the main challenges that utilities face to adopt greener power sources.

Southeast Asia is a growing area of investment for clean energy, with a new US $150m fund being launched for small-scale projects.

Whether it’s small island nations as guinea pigs for transforming their energy infrastructures from fossil fuel-dependent to shining examples renewable energy use or major countries simply adding cleaner energy into the mix, perhaps some real change is afoot in Asia.