An Asian news roundup with a focus on sustainability (however defined?) and sustainable energy starting with preparations for the upcoming UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio – 20 years after the famous “Earth Summit”.
The Peoples Daily in China bonds with Brazil:
The attendees of the 2012 conference will discuss two major themes -- fighting poverty with a green economy and creating institutional frameworks for sustainable development. Three meetings of the PrepCom will be held before the conference begins, in order to carry out planning on substantive and procedural issues of the conference.
Sha said it is "very fitting" that Brazil hosts the conference, not only because Rio de Janeiro hosted a landmark UN environment and development conference in 1992, but because Brazil itself has made great strides in sustainable development in recent years.
"Since the first Rio Conference, Brazil has achieved an impressive track record in growing its economy, lifting tens of millions of people out of poverty, and protecting its environment, " said Sha. "Brazil has certainly shown the world how to put sustainable development into practice."
The UN News room quotes the more urgent words of the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs.
The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, next year will be an opportunity for humanity to strengthen its commitment to making the transition to a “green economy” to help lift people out of poverty, a senior UN official said today.
“We cannot wait for another 20 years,” Sha Zukang “The time to commit is at Rio 2012” .
UN Members States have, through a General Assembly resolution, identified three objectives for the Conference – to renew commitment to sustainable development; to identify progress and gaps; and to identify new and emerging challenges.
The Conference’s two themes are green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, and institutional framework of sustainable development.
Mr. Sha said he hoped Member States will be able to agree on “green economy as a pathway to sustainable development” and come up with a “tool kit” for the implementation of the principles that they will agree on.
Last week, Mr. Sha cautioned that the failure to tackle poverty can only lead to rising social tensions, ecological pressures and economic crisis, stressing the importance of a transition to a green economy that fosters sustainable development and poverty eradication.[The] “Earth Summit” was held in Rio de Janeiro, where countries adopted Agenda 21 – a blueprint for rethinking economic growth, better protecting and managing ecosystems and creating a safer, more prosperous future for all.
In the Philippines the Manila Bulletin picks up on the FAO food issue.
HYDERABAD, India (PNA) -- With the Food and Agriculture Organization's (FAO) warning that the world is heading towards a food crisis, coupled with the political instability in the Middle East, which resulted in the incessant increase in oil and food prices, a former agriculture secretary said that a "perfect storm" is threatening the agriculture sector in developing countries such as the Philippines.
International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) Director-General William Dar… said "the perfect storm (is already) converging in the horizon."
"The Middle East situation continues to escalate not only in Egypt and Tunisia. Now, Libya is one big case that will escalate or impact to various countries. Although the contribution of Libya to the oil market is very small, the whole situation impacts into the world oil market,"
Dar said both the increase in prices of food and oil will affect mostly low income earners.
"The government should have contingency plan, there's a need to enhance food production in areas not frequented by typhoons such as Mindanao to increase level of production this year. Mindanao will be key for food sufficiency," he said.
"Organic farming has its own niche in the world food market, it is not bad, but it cannot substantiate to the needs of the country's growing population," he said.
"The millions of idle degraded lands and infertile soils in the rainfed areas comprise an untapped resource for the cultivation of drought-tolerant cereals and legumes for food and feeds as well as biofuel crops that will not compromise food security and sustainability of the environment," it said.
In the Philippines, Dar said, there are research institutes devoted to rice, coconut, sugarcane, cotton, tobacco, fiber and abaca, silkworm, root crops, biotechnology, plant breeding, carabao, fisheries and other strategic commodities "but there is none devoted to rainfed agriculture in general and crops such as corn, sorghum, legumes and important bioenergy crops for food, feed, forage and biofuels."
"At present, rainfed agriculture lacks support. In this point in time, the government should intensify strategies for rainfed agriculture if it attains food self-sufficiency in 2013," he said.
Worries about poor weather have led to warnings that prices of key grains could rise further this year, it said.
Even the development lender World Bank (WB) has said that food costs are continuing to rise to near 2008 levels, when price spikes in food and oil had devastating impacts on the poor.
"Global food prices are rising to dangerous levels and threaten tens of millions of poor people around the world," said World Bank president Robert Zoellick said in a statement.
Also in the Philippines, there is a wild desire down down down where the flames are higher, to develop geothermal.
Geothermal leader Energy Development Corporation (EDC) and World Wide Fund for Nature, Philippines (WWF-Philippines) joined forces to accelerate geothermal development in Asia, starting with the Philippines and Indonesia, via the landmark “Ring of Fire” project. The Ring of Fire initiative aims to replicate the Philippines’ global success in sustainable geothermal production for Indonesia’s largely untapped geothermal energy resources.
The Philippines gets 17 percent of its electricity supply from geothermal power plants and is the second largest geothermal energy producer in the world, next to the US while Indonesia holds approximately 40 percent of the world’s conventional geothermal reserves.
The “Ring of Fire” is in line with and in support of WWF’s 100 percent by 2050 Renewable Energy Vision and has the ultimate goal of increasing installed geothermal capacity in the region by 150 percent in 2015 and 300 percent by 2020. On top of increasing geothermal production, the project will also address issues on environmental sustainability, energy security and climate change.
Indonesia, owing to its location in the pacific ring of fire with over 130 active volcanoes has a reserve of nearly 27,000 MW of Geothermal power. Despite having the highest reserves in the world, Indonesia has, so far utilized only 4 percent of it. It has typically relied on oil and gas for energy production. Conditions however, have changed now with Indonesia being a net oil importer, thereby posing a need for greater exploitation of geothermal energy, along with other renewable forms of energy.
Current scenario however seems to be set for a change. Firstly, Indonesian government has started removing subsidies from oil, which would bring geothermal to a level playing field with fossil fuels. As Indonesia became a net importer of oil and suffered from high oil prices, President Susilo Yudhoyono during his previous regime curbed the oil subsidies thereby hiking the oil prices. With Mr. Yudhoyono set to return to the Presidential office for a second term, oil price rationalization is expected to resume, which would increase the competitiveness of geothermal energy.
High risk and capital-intensive nature of business are, however not the only reasons why only about 1,000 MW of a potential 27,000 MW in Indonesia has been capitalized. USA and Philippines, despite having lower potentials of geothermal energy score much higher in terms of the installed capacity of Geothermal power plants. USA has an installed capacity of approximately 2900 MW. Philippines also has an installed capacity of nearly 1900 MW which serves nearly 25% of country's energy needs.
The energy blueprint for year 2025 has outlined the government's plans to increase the share of geothermal energy in Indonesia's overall energy mix to about 5 percent from a current 1.3 percent, along with nearly doubling the overall installed capacity in the country. This would mean that nearly 30% of the additional 30,000 MW installed capacity would come from geothermal energy. Such high growth would present a huge potential for both project developers and equipment manufacturers.
Indonesia is being urged to adopt green development initiatives (my cynical observation is no “gift” no “green” – if you no what I mean).
Indonesia should adopt green economic policies to ensure the sustainability of its economic growth, an international meeting on green economics concluded in Jakarta on Monday.
The experts at the meeting agreed that Indonesia should apply green economic projects as an important means to influence its economic activities, concentrating on areas including economic growth, industrialization pattern and regional economic cooperation and integration in Southeast and East Asia.
The meeting`s participants also discussed how enterprises and governments in both Southeast and East Asia countries need to reorganize the development of their industrial sectors in terms of competitiveness.
They also noted that the development of a green economic concept should be preceded by interaction between policymakers and citizens. Green economics was believed to have impacts on energy efficiency, efficient resource utilization, industrial upgrading and diversification as well as on the development of regional markets.
Singapore continues to corner the SE Asian market for research labs.
The new Solar Fuels Laboratory at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore is now open. It aims to create efficient and sustainable sources of fuel by developing a device that uses artifical photosynthesis to extract large amounts of hydrogen from water using sunlight.
Current technology requires huge amounts of energy to draw minute amounts of hydrogen from water, but the university is working on a commercially viable solution. For large-scale production of solar fuels the researchers need to find suitable combinations of chemical catalysts to speed up the artificial photosynthesis process while using minimal energy.
Spanish company Gamesa is increasing it investment in India.
Gamesa, the Spanish company specialising in sustainable energy technologies, mainly wind power, today announced the investment in a new blade factory, nacelle factory and tower factory (joint venture) in India; and also the launch of its R&D centre at Sholinganallur in Chennai. Gamesa’s Indian outfit has also taken a lead role in ‘RePowering’ of existing old turbines with state-of-the-art new Wind Turbine Generators (WTGs), which is the first of its kind in the country.
Considering the tremendous talent pool, knowledge and skill level availability in India, we are planning to recruit more than 100 engineers in 2011 for research and development activities. The capacity will be doubled in the year 2012. This R&D centre will support the global engineering research and development activities, working all through the value chain. The engineers will work on major projects in the value chain including mechanical, aerodynamics, material research and electronics aspects.
In 2011, Gamesa is planning to set up new manufacturing facilities for making Nacelles of 2MW turbines, Blades and Towers (JV) in different locations in the states of Gujarat and Tamil Nadu.
Gamesa India is pioneering the Re-Powering initiative which aims at using the existing wind energy resources on site more efficiently, with technically advanced and high performance turbines. There is a significant potential for enhancing wind power generation in India through the repowering of existing WTGs. As much as 50 to 60% of wind farms in India were installed with first or second generation turbines that are less efficient. Also, these turbines were installed at prime locations with higher wind speed. The first Re-Powering project in India is being executed by Gamesa India in the state of Tamil Nadu currently, with 5 more projects in pipeline. Re-Powering of such old turbines will result in enhanced generation and low cost of power generation for investors, on a life cycle basis.
And returning to China, ABC Radio Australia has an interview reporting that the latest 5 year plan aims to battle inequality…
SNOWDON:There is a heavy emphasis on social justice - an 8 per cent a year increase in the minimum wage, a target of 20 per cent low income housing by 2015. That means building 36 million low income apartments, ten million of them this year.
He says the focus on keeping inflation to 4 per cent and GDP growth to just 8 per cent is important but will be difficult to achieve.
High commodity prices mean Inflation is likely to exceed five per cent.
LIU: Well, I think this could be a triggering effect for social discontent. We know that inflation will hurt the poor the most and we also know China's income inequality has deteriorated quite a lot in recent years.
SNOWDON: The growing gap between rich and poor with the risk of social instability is causing considerable concern in Beijing.
Concern that is growing in the current international context of people power movements.
SUN: The inequality between the rich and the poor, between rural and urban, has widened to such an extent that at the end of the third decade China had become one of the most unequal societies in Asia as well as the rest of the world.
SNOWDON [TO SUN]: So in the past the emphasis was on dealing with severe poverty and now it's that inequality that's the really the target isn't it?
SUN: Yes, that right, to build up so called people orientated and harmonious society that is characterised by so called coordinated and sustainable development. And the social justice agenda has been put back on the agenda but to be able to implement that, to be able to bring up real consequences in material, practical, every day terms for the people is another matter.
SNOWDON: Wanning Sun says the biggest impediment to closing the growing income gap is the continuing existence of the household registration system.
This ensures China's millions of migrant workers, essential to the growth of city based industries, are excluded from most benefits.
SUN: So unless this fundamental system of inequality is somehow got rid of a lot of the policies which aim to bring back inequality are limited in terms of how effective they are.
… all while simultaneously achieving a transition to a more sustainable economy.
A leading member of the UN's Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change says it is possible for China to achieve its economic aspirations without [further?] harsh damage to its environment.
Mark Levine, who also heads the US government's China Energy Group, says China has been devoting attention to energy efficiency and sustainable resources.
Dr Levine has told Radio Australia's Connect Asia program sustainable energy resources and the environment are important issues for China, but the message has not always filtered through to local governments.
He says local governments are often more concerned about economic growth but they have to balance it with environmental concerns.
He says China's economic goals are achievable if they moved from heavy to light industry, and from energy intensive exports to high value added ones.
Well, its a big ask. And for all the (sometimes well deserved) criticism, China recently (but not always) appears to be more effective than some other superpower.