Monday, November 14, 2011

Asian alternatives

A longish compilation of recent news from around Asia with a focus on SE Asia. Topics covered are climate change and renewable energy.
Climate change to bring more floods: World Bank
AFP (via Google) 11/11

HANOI — Climate change will bring more floods and extreme weather to Southeast Asia, a World Bank official said Thursday on a visit to the region, where hundreds have died in severe inundation.

"What we are seeing is there are more floods, more extreme weather events, higher temperature, more variable rainfalls and we believe that is caused by climate change. And we should expect this to increase, sadly," Andrew Steer, the World Bank's special envoy for climate change, told reporters in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi.

Thailand's worst floods in half a century have killed 533 people and damaged the homes and livelihoods of millions around the country.

In neighbouring Cambodia, the deadliest floods since 2000 have killed at least 247 people while more than 100 have died in Vietnam, mostly in the southern Mekong Delta.

Steer, who cancelled plans to visit Thailand on his regional tour because of the disaster, said the floods there were "consistent with what we know to be true about climate change."

UN chief hails poor nations over climate change
AFP via Google 14/11
"Some of the countries most affected by climate change should be an "inspiration" to rich nations on reducing their emissions, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on Monday.

"In this time of global economic uncertainty, let (these countries') commitment to green growth be an inspiration to more developed countries -- the major emitters," he said.

He said it was unfair to "ask the poorest and most vulnerable to bear the brunt of the impact of climate change alone" and called for the release of agreed funds to help poor countries to adapt to global warming.

The meeting in Dhaka of 18 countries most affected by climate change hopes to agree on a united front ahead of UN talks in Durban, South Africa, in December, where a "Green Climate Fund" will be negotiated.

The forum reflected the fact that the pace of international climate negotiations was "very slow and inadequate" said Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, speaking at the opening on Monday.

"We are bearing the brunt of the damage though we made negligible or no contribution to the menace. This constitutes a serious injustice... and demands immediate rectification and remedy," she said.

China registers sharp drop in carbon intensity
China Daily 11/11

BEIJING - China has become the top emitter of carbon in the world after its emissions of greenhouse gases increased by 33.6 percent from 2006 to 2010, according to a report released by Tsinghua University on Wednesday.

At the same time, China's carbon intensity - a measure of a country's emissions compared with each unit of its economic growth - dropped by 20.8 percent, partly because of the country's work to become more energy efficient and rely more on renewable sources of energy.

It says central authorities' goal of controlling coal use in the next five years will be unattainable so long as local governments remain reluctant to use less energy while they pursue economic growth.

"Local authorities still have a strong desire for economic expansion," said Qi Ye, editor-in-chief of the report.

During the past five years, the country has gone from getting 68 percent of its energy from coal to getting 70 percent, despite its heavy investment in renewable energy, Zhang said.

From 2006 to 2010, China spent 1.73 trillion yuan ($272.8 billion) on renewable energy and another 859.2 billion yuan on projects meant to ensure energy is used efficiently, the report said.

"Investments on such a scale - equal to about $80 billion a year - are the largest ever in the country's history and have made China a global leader in green investment," Qi said.

Taiwan to Launch Voluntary ‘Green Electricity Prices’ in 2012
Bloomberg 10/11

Taiwan’s government plans to introduce a “green electricity prices” plan early next year to help fund the development of renewable power sources, Wang Yunn- ming, deputy director-general of the Bureau of Energy, said by phone today.

Customers will have the option to pay prices that are higher than current electricity tariffs, and any increased income will be used to help develop renewable energy, according to Wang. Details of the plan aren’t yet available, he said.

Taiwan should learn from EU
China Post 13/11

As Taiwan is discussing the adoption of a Greenhouse Gases Reduction Act, I would like to share the European Union's experience in this field.

The EU considers that the risks incurred by the whole world because of climate change are extremely high. The rise of the earth's average temperature has wide-ranging consequences not only on the level of ocean waters, but also ultimately on desertification, water resources availability, our ability to grow the food necessary for the world's population and the occurrence of extreme weather phenomena like typhoons.

First, we must face up to a fact: Taiwan's GHG emissions are significant at world level. They count for around 1 percent of global emissions, whereas Taiwan's population only counts for less than 0.4 percent. Per capita, emissions in Taiwan are already higher than the EU average. This means that Taiwan, just like the EU, has a responsibility in facing our common challenge.

Thirdly, and maybe more importantly from the point of view of Taiwan's self-interest, it would be risky for the future development of the economy to let things go as usual, allowing old methods of production and energy-greedy modes of consumption to continue and expand, while other advanced economies move forward and innovate. On the contrary, adopting ambitious GHG reduction goals and efficient policies to reach them would push the economy towards more competitiveness, better energy security, the development of new economic sectors and job opportunities in the “green economy” and so on.
Philippines at risk to climate change
Business World Online 13/11

THE PHILIPPINES has been ranked as one of the countries at risk to climate change impact due to the high occurrence of typhoons as well as other climate-related events, a firm involved in global risks analysis said yesterday.

In its Climate Change Vulnerability Index (CCVI), which is part of the Climate Change and Environment Risk Atlas report released yesterday, British firm Maplecroft said that the Philippines was among the countries rated as having “extreme risk” to climate change, as it placed 10th out of 193 countries.

“Like much of Southern and Southeast Asia, the Philippines is particularly exposed to extreme climate-related events with multiple threats particularly from tropical cyclones and storm surge, landslides, flood risk and drought, exposing a significant proportion of the population to associated risks,” he said.

The CCVI also showed that an analysis of risks to cities placed Manila, along with Calcutta in India, Jakarta in Indonesia, as well as Dhaka and Chittagong in Bangladesh as having “extreme risk” to climate change.

The impact of climate change, he said, could have far reaching consequences not only for local populations but also in business as well as on the balance sheet of investors.

The Philippine government, it said, should prioritize improving adaptive capacity to better respond to such events.
Making effective decisions in a changing climate
Bangkok Post 2/11

A third of Thailand is under water. Epic floods have taken people's lives, destroyed businesses and crops, and are now sweeping into Bangkok.

As the capital braces itself, some people are beginning to point fingers at various culprits: the unusually heavy rains possibly linked to climate change, ineffective communications within government, and poor infrastructure decisions.

It will take time to sort out the main causes, though it will most likely turn out that a combination of factors led to this degree of devastation.

While the floods are the worst in several decades, this is not an isolated example.

This is the topic of a major new report, World Resources 2010-2011: Decision Making in a Changing Climate, which investigates how national leaders can make effective decisions to adapt to climate change.

Thai leaders, therefore, have to prepare for extreme events along with longer-term impact associated with rising seas. What can be done to prepare for such changes?

Vietnam offers some useful lessons. In Vietnam, government officials have advanced programmes to proactively plant mangroves along its coasts as a protective barrier to future sea-level rise and storms. From 2001 to 2008, this project added 15,000 hectares of new mangrove forest. This measure has gained particular traction in southern Vietnam, where mangrove restoration was coupled with the construction of schools, health clinics and roads, and the provision of more electricity.

Making effective infrastructure siting choices: Despite the clear links between human well-being and ecosystems, many countries have not prioritised the maintenance of ecosystem services when deciding where to site large infrastructure and plot urban expansion.

An example from South Africa shows, however, that short-sighted choices can be avoided. The government of South Africa has developed a strategy that can help avoid exacerbating the risks posed by climate change.

While the global response to climate change remains both too slow and too timid, these examples indicate how some countries are coming to grips with the changing climate.

Thailand needs solid long-term strategy to deal with floods – experts
Alternet 10/11

As Thailand struggles to contain the worst floods in decades, experts are warning the country needs to be better prepared for future extreme weather events likely to be triggered by climate change. which is expected to exacerbate rainfall, storm surges and droughts.

The floods have so far killed 529 people and disrupted millions of lives. To mitigate the impact of such disasters in the future, experts said Thailand needs a comprehensive, long-term policy to tackle floods instead of seeing them as ad-hoc disasters in need of short-term relief.

“Everyone’s expectation is for the frequency and intensity of these sorts of events to occur more often,” Craig Steffensen,  Asian Development Bank's country director for Thailand, told AlertNet.

A 2009 report by ADB found extreme weather events in Thailand have already become more frequent and damaging, while a 2010 World Bank – ADB joint report predicted an increase of bad weather in Bangkok's flood-prone area.

Despite those warnings the government was caught somewhat unprepared this time, partly because of the sheer volume of water from heavier-than-usual rainfall and more than 9 billion cubic metres – equivalent to some 3.6 million Olympic swimming pools – from upstream dams.

“Bangladesh offers a good example of a country that has moved from disaster relief to disaster preparedness with the development of pioneering early warning systems,” said Kelly Levin, senior associate at the World Resources Institute and research director for the report “Decision Making in a Changing Climate”.

When Cyclone Sidr battered the country in 2007, early warning systems helped reduce the death toll dramatically to 3,400, compared to a 1991 cyclone of similar magnitude, which killed 140,000 people.

Climate change is only one factor though. Land use planning, water resource management and seasonal tides are also responsible for the destruction wreaked by the floods.

The high level of urban, infrastructure and agricultural development on natural flood plains have increased the number of people and businesses exposed to such natural disasters.

"The 2011 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction told us that risks (of losses from natural disasters) have increased and the real driver is increase in exposure," Jerry Velasquez, senior regional coordinator at the United Nations' disaster reduction agency UNISDR told AlertNet.  "What drives exposure? Economic development."

Seven major industrial estates producing everything from cars to electronics are currently under water. The stoppage has not only left hundreds of thousands people jobless but also disrupted global supply chains.

Kingdom's ambitious renewable-energy sector attracts China
The Nation 7/11

The recent announcement that China's Suntech Power Holdings, the world's largest solar-energy company, is considering investing in a solar-cell assembly plant in Thailand is welcome news and hopefully a sign of more good things to come.

Thailand, over the best part of the past decade, has successfully established itself as Southeast Asia's largest renewable-energy market, offering strong incentives to attract investment in all forms of renewables, from biomass to solar energy. As China's demand for renewable energy keeps growing, Thailand has a real opportunity to do more business of this kind with Chinese firms.

While Suntech is waiting to see exactly what the new government's energy policies will be before making a final decision, its proposed US$20 million (Bt600 million) investment could see Thailand emerge as the company's largest market in Asia-Pacific, claiming pole position from Australia.

Thailand's ambitious goal is for renewables to contribute 20 per cent of total energy supply by 2020. To achieve this, Board of Investment incentives and a diverse range of tariffs and benefits have been used to drive local financing initiatives for clean-tech projects. Meanwhile, the high level of local technical expertise and an established legislative framework for the renewable sector have added to Thailand's allure for both investors and technologists.

Most of the renewable projects in Thailand have focused on waste-to-energy conversion, predominantly biomass and biogas projects
Sugar association blames climate change for production drop
Jakarta Post 11/9

Indonesia’s sugarcane production volume is expected to be down by 30 percent this year due to climate related impacts, an association says.

“The sugarcane production decreased by up to 30 percent in 2011 due to climate change that has occurred since 2009,” Indonesian Sugarcane Farmers Association (APTRI) chairman Arum Sabil said on Wednesday, as quoted by

He said that this year’s sugarcane production forecast had been revised from 2.8 million tons to 2.3 million tons due to climate change.

Old Obstacles in Indonesia's Renewables Sector
Jakarta Globe 8/11

Whenever renewable energy experts gather, as they did recently at a world congress in Bali, the discussion among the Indonesian participants inevitably takes on such a familiar ring, you would swear you were among miners and oilmen.

Presentations begin with how prospective Indonesia is and what great business opportunities there are - yes, even in the long neglected, but now increasingly fashionable renewables sector.

We are told there is a lot of money to be made in geothermal, biomass, solar, wind and even ocean waves. "Renewables are not altruistic," says Star Energy's chief executive Bret Mattes. "There are huge opportunities here."

Rather than simply focus on forestry and agriculture to reduce emissions, he says, Jakarta should develop a coherent national policy and use it to build consensus at the local government level, where officials and community leaders' knowledge of energy alternatives remains low.

In its ambitious plan to reduce emissions by 26 percent over the next eight years, the government expects the power industry to cut carbon output by only 30 million tonnes, not 770 million tonnes as required.

So if this promises so many great business opportunities, why the lack of interest?

Then comes the lament: It is difficult to get projects off the ground because of a 'combination of factors' - all of which seem to begin and end, as they always do, with government regulations and bureaucratic red tape.

That means the lead time for building geothermal plants in Indonesia is a ludicrous nine years, when it should only be four. No wonder there have been no significant new projects since the 1990s.

Sounds familiar? It should. Apart from the boom in relatively easy coal exploration, there has not been a single new hard-rock mine opened in Indonesia in at least a decade - and only one significant oil discovery, which will take another three years to bring on stream.

In a country with 28,000MW of potential geothermal power, the government has only just decided that geothermal exploration is not mining after all and should not be subject to the same onerous regulations.

But the Mines and Energy Ministry has yet to introduce a proper contractual regime for serious geothermal developers to follow. Nor has it resolved some of its differences with local governments over who actually owns the steam and who gets to issue tenders.
India, Maldives seek 2nd commitment period of Kyoto Protocol
Hindustan Times 12/11

Ahead of the UN Conference on Climate Change in Durban, India and Maldives on Saturday pressed for a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, the only international pact aimed at fighting global warming.

They also underlined the substantial voluntary pledges of the developing countries towards mitigation.

"Both sides agreed that climate change was one of the most important global challenges," the statement said.

India Says Third of Solar Power Projects May Miss January Deadline
Bloomberg 10/11

A third of solar power projects awarded by India in its first national auction may miss their January deadline for completion, an official at a state-run lender that’s helping to fund the program said today.

Of the 35 photovoltaic plants due to be finished in the first major round of India’s national Solar Mission program, about 12 are unlikely to make it, K.S. Popli, director at the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency, said today in an interview in Hyderabad. He declined to name the companies that wouldn’t meet the deadline.

Highlighting Opportunities in India’s Renewables Energy Market 10/11

India has a bright future in solar energy.

Its renewable energy market is currently valued at $17 billion dollars, and is growing at an annual rate of 15 percent. And remarkably, there is potential for even bigger things.

According to one estimate, to keep economic growth at current levels, India will need to add 150 gigawatts of capacity over the next five years. Clearly, there is both a market and a need for clean energy in India. And, U.S. companies have the technology and products to meet these needs and help spur economic development.

There is a tendency for people to think of the solar market as just a bunch of panels on roofs. But, it's much more; there is a whole supply chain of opportunity behind each product. I'm talking about:
  • engineers and manufacturers developing more efficient solar cells and modules;
  • mechanics building new electricity grids that can monitor and distribute solar energy more effectively; and
  • workers and installation professionals building new solar energy power plants. We at the Department of Commerce recognize this incredible potential and have led several clean energy trade missions to India in recent years.

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