Government officials, business leaders and media executives discuss how region should tackle common challenge of climate change
A top United Nations official has urged Asian nations to sustain the momentum of brisk investment in green economic growth and to avoid falling back on old developmental patterns in the post-financial crisis era.
At the 2010 Asia Forum on Reaction to Climate Change in Beijing on Thursday, from left: Zhu Ling, editor-in-chief of China Daily; Suwit Khunkitti, Thailand's minister of natural resources and environment; Zheng Guoguang, director of China Meteorological Administration; and Sun Cuihua, an official representing Xie Zhenhua, vice-minister of the National Development and Reform Commission and China's top climate change negotiator. [Zhang Wei / China Daily]
"Asia is taking the lead globally in pumping a larger portion of stimulus money into a green recovery after the financial crisis. My concern is whether the momentum can be sustained," Nick Nuttall, chief spokesperson for the United Nations Environment Program, told China Daily on Thursday.
Nuttall said nearly all environmental ministers in Asia have shown great commitment to bringing in more radical measures to foster greener economies.
"But the most important thing is how to make other cabinet members, especially the finance minister, realize the importance of this move and to turn this political commitment into action."
Official figures show that more than 30 percent of China's stimulus spending has been injected into sustainable development, with the rate in South Korea surpassing 80 percent. Japan has also invested a huge sum in green industries.
Nuttall revealed his concerns at a panel discussion, titled Common Challenges and Differentiated Responsibilities for Asia, with Chinese experts and NGO representatives on Asia's role in tackling climate change on Thursday.
Han Wenke, president of the energy research institute of China's National Development and Reform Commission, said Asian countries should take an active, cooperative approach to both climate change negotiations and economic transformation.
"Asian countries, such as India and China, have already taken an active role in global negotiations and, as they continues, we should deepen such cooperation," Han said.
In the interim, he recommended setting up a regional mechanism to mitigate global warming while growing a greener economy. Expressing the hope that the whole of Asia will benefit from common development and growth, he said: "There should be a platform to help realize such a goal."
However, the panelists cautioned that challenges need to be overcome to achieve such a collective goal, as Asia comprises diverse economies with different cultures and at various stages of development.
"Compared to Africa, it is more difficult for Asia to have a single voice on climate change cooperation and this is a challenge," Nuttall said.
Lot S. Felizco, climate change policy head of Oxfam Hong Kong, said the diverse combination of economies in Asia dictates that each country take on different responsibilities, despite his wish that the whole of Asia join together in facing up to the challenges.
"The deepening of emission cuts in developed economies should be the key to the negotiations, though every economy has a role to play in reducing carbon emissions," said Felizco. "Each country has a different responsibility."
Pan Jiahua, China's leading climate change policy advisor with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Asia, as a group, has already started to play a global role.
"To make the role bigger, we must understand our own challenges in tacking climate change," said Pan, who recently discussed climate change with China's top leaders including President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao.
Listing the major challenges facing Asia, he said many countries are still in the early- or mid-stages of urbanization and industrialization, as a result of which their economies need to expand.
Meanwhile, Asian countries remain vulnerable to climate change and extreme weather conditions, such as typhoons, floods and droughts.
"In facing these challenges, we have to take the lead in the fight against global warming," said Pan. "And we are more ambitious than Europe and the US, which are talking more than they are doing."