Nature and Biodiversity

How Asia’s green economy will transform the world in the next decade

Asia is a major player in global green economy and is well-positioned to lead the way.

Asia is a major player in global green economy and is well-positioned to lead the way. Image: Illustration

Ravindra Ngo
Founder, The Asian Network
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Climate and Nature

This article is part of: Centre for Nature and Climate

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  • Asia is set to play a transformative role in the world over the next decade.
  • Three key pillars on that transformation are leadership of Asia, leadership of business and opportunities to make the planet greener.
  • Governments, businesses and civil society must work together to build a sustainable future for all.

Asia's green economy is uniquely positioned to transform the world in the next decade if stakeholders, including government, business and civil society, collaborate to promote sustainable policies and practices to mitigate environmental risks and improve access for all. It will also require the use of technologies and innovations, such as developing climate-smart agriculture, to help shift towards agricultural and food systems that are more resilient, sustainable and productive.

On 27 March 2023, I attended the launch of the International System Change Compass report at the OECD, in Paris. The report provides analyses and recommendations which are meant to serve as a practical guide for policy-makers on how to implement the ambitions of the European Green Deal in a global context and at a global scale. A month ago, I also had the pleasure to read that the High Seas Treaty has been agreed, which is a breakthrough for both the planet and its oceans. Despite these initiatives giving me hope, there nevertheless remains a sense of urgency to act for the planet.

Have you read?

On 22 March 2023, the Asian Network co-organised with the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia a high-level online conference on “Innovating for a greener Future in Asia”, gathering 19 experts from Asia and Europe to share their expertise on the Future of Environment, Climate Action and Technology for Social Good.

During the opening remarks, Mr Erik Solheim former Norwegian minister of Environment, shared his views about the role Asia will play in transforming the world in the next decade by combining three key pillars: leadership of Asia; the leadership of the business; and opportunities to make the planet much greener. I echo Mr Solheim’s views and share my thoughts on perspectives from the speakers.

Leadership of Asia

Asia has been leading on several fronts in technology, nature-based solutions and smart cities among other sectors. One reason is the support of regional development banks such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) – for example, SDG Indonesia One is an infrastructure investment platform that ADB is supporting in Indonesia. Such financial support is critical, as Southeast Asia needs $210 billion of annual investment in renewables to meet its climate goals according to Reuters.

President Xi Jinping made three major promises on behalf of China over the last two years. China will peak its carbon emissions before 2030, be carbon neutral before 2060, and will plant an area the size of Belgium every year from now until 2030. Meanwhile, the Indian government has started to implement India’s long-term, low-carbon development strategy, which includes reducing fuel demand and greenhouse gas emissions through improved fuel efficiency, and transitioning to a low-emission pathway to become carbon neutral by 2070.

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Leadership of business

Hong Kong and Singapore are competing to be the financial hub of Asia. That battleground is now shifting to the environmental, social and governance (ESG) space, with potentially trillions of dollars at stake. From green bonds to carbon trading, both cities are well-positioned to serve as a regional base for sustainable finance with governments and companies increasing investments in the fight against climate change.

The Asia-Pacific Green Deal for Business is an initiative of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) Sustainable Business Network, which advocates for business leadership in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

For companies and a more sustainable future, the fundamentals need to be built on those pillars: economic viability; environmental protection; and social equity regardless of the size of the business.

The regulatory environment is also important. The ESCAP Taxonomy Regulation establishes a classification system, which provides businesses with a common language to identify whether a given economic activity should be considered "environmentally sustainable".

Opportunities to make the planet greener

Understand interconnected risks: mitigation and adaptation

  • The rising water levels of the Mekong River might affect marginalised groups such as women, fishermen and floating villagers, but also farmers in Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and Laos. Through data collection and management from those communities, we can anticipate and mitigate those risks.
  • Droughts, floods and extreme weather will also affect migration due to forced displacement and by putting local food security at risk.Water, food and energy form a nexus at the heart of sustainable development.
  • Countries can adapt and learn from best practices to enhance their own capacity and implement climate commitments.

Importance of balancing innovation and inclusive technology

  • Renewable energy technologies including solar, wind, hydro, geothermal and biopower, are increasingly critical to push for green recovery.
  • Promoting sustainable transportation, encouraging green finance and raising awareness on food, water and energy solutions will contribute to a much greener environment.

Proactive step and paradigm shift: all together

  • Governments, businesses and civil society must collaborate on promoting sustainable policies and practices to mitigate environmental risks. The three Ps for “people, planet and profit” are not as important as the P for “purpose: to make and contribute to a better world.

In the words of Sir David Attenborough: “The truth is: the natural world is changing. And we are totally dependent on that world. It provides our food, water and air. It is the most precious thing we have and we need to defend it.”

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

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