Nearly 200 representatives from governments, businesses, academics, and non-governmental organizations in the Asia-Pacific region gathered here for a high-level dialogue on green transition.
At the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) Perth Conference held in this Western Australian city on Wednesday, discussion surrounding the theme “Clean Energy Drives Sustainable Development in the Asia-Pacific” took the center stage.
Vice Chairman of BFA Zhou Xiaochuan, joined by former Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and some other keynote speakers, dived deep into why clean energy becomes a must-have for a prosperous and sustainable Asia-Pacific development, while industry leaders and scholars offered their insights into the challenges and opportunities brought by the green transition.
As one of the world’s largest and fastest-growing players in renewable energy supply, China was also believed by some conferees to have the strength of setting examples from which others can learn to gain confidence to do it themselves.
CLIMATE CRISIS AT DOOR
“Today, we cannot waste any time in moving towards green transition,” Zhou sent out an urgent call for action, warning that the climate crisis is at everyone’s door.
“Droughts, floods, wildfires are more frequent and damaging…The global average temperature for July 2023 marked the highest since record,” he said.
“All of these climate emergencies call for immediate actions to pull mankind back from the edge of the climate cliff,” Zhou noted.
Seeing clean energy as one of the primary solutions, Zhou observed that the Asia-Pacific region has been moving very swiftly with concrete actions already taken.
Meanwhile, in the Pacific, major economies like Australia and New Zealand are earnestly pursuing greener paths.
“However, energy and debt crises have hindered green transition from remaining as one of the top policy priorities in many countries,” said Zhou.
Arroyo brought the consequence of global warming on waterfalls to the forefront.
“Every summer, we have 12-hour brownouts and that really gives us a concrete reason why we need more green energy investments,” she said.
JOINT EFFORTS URGED
When the participants brainstormed over possible solutions to tackle the challenge of climate change, “cooperation” became a keyword striking a chord for many.
Quoting the proverb “Many hands make light work” to open his speech, Western Australian Premier Roger Cook underlined “a sustained global effort” is needed to decarbonize.
According to Cook, geographic proximity, abundance of critical minerals and potential as a major producer of renewable energy — including renewable hydrogen — place his state in a prime position to support the region’s clean energy transition and sustainable development.
“The world’s shift towards a carbon neutral future presents immense opportunities for the Asia-Pacific region. Everyone has a role to play,” said Cook.
“Just as the city of Perth earned its title of the City of Light, we too can band together to create the clean energy futures that illuminate the globe for future generations,” the premier added.
For Zhou’s part, the renowned Chinese economist shed light on three areas where related parties in the Asia-Pacific region can work more closely, namely free trade, green capital as well as technology innovation and diffusion.
First, Zhou said, is to firmly implement the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement to remove trade and non-trade barriers and create a level playing field for green and low-carbon industries.
“Second is to more effectively mobilize green capital for the region,” said Zhou, citing the role of multilateral development banks, policy-making efforts related to green taxonomy and local green bond markets, and interconnections of carbon markets.
“Last but not least is to deepen technological cooperation, especially in clean energy,” he added, believing that collaboration in technology innovation and diffusion would “tremendously benefit” not only the region but also the whole world.
Executive Chairman and Founder of Fortescue Metals Group and chairman of the BFA Strategic Partners Committee Andrew Forrest told Xinhua that he supports the steps that China has taken to lead the development of green energy technologies, such as manufacturing automated robotics and other machines that the world needs to capture energy from sun and wind.
“Going to China, we will get very high technology, will get great automation, great robotics, will get the machines,” said Forrest, who regarded the power of technology as being instrumental to ending global warming.
In the eyes of Forrest, the world’s transition to clean energy is still in a “startup period” which entails solid actions from policymakers and business circles.
“It’s up to us to make sure that that energy and those goods do not harm your children,” said Forrest.
In an interview with Xinhua, Professor Michael Goodsite, pro vice-chancellor of the University of Adelaide, shared his experience of paying scholarly visits to China and collaborating with Chinese colleagues in the field of energy research.
“I found out that as China was growing, they were learning things about their own energy system, that was important for other people to learn about. Because then we didn’t all have to learn the same things. We could learn from China,” said Goodsite.
With hydrogen as one of his research focuses, Goodsite identified that Chinese technologies and hydrogen are generally cheaper than many others, as China has a lot of manufacturing and supply chains already established, and also the expertise to help create these technologies.
“China, as it has friends across the Asia-Pacific region, can help make examples where others can learn from and gain confidence to do it themselves, and show that there’s a success story in growth and prosperity without harming the environment even more,” he said.