by Tamara Amalia. This article was first published in The Diplomat.
Energy serves as the backbone of human and economic progress globally. However, the escalating consumption of fossil fuels has led to a surge in carbon dioxide emissions, changing the global climate. The impact is notably severe in Asia, with numerous weather-related disasters disproportionately affecting the region. According to the World Meteorological Organization, Asia had 81 such disasters in 2022, 83 percent of which were floods and storms, claiming over 5,000 lives and more than $36 billion in property damage and losses.
Individuals in vulnerable communities, exemplified by Afsari Begum* in Matarbari, Bangladesh, experience the adverse effects of fossil fuel consumption. In 2014, the government acquired her family’s salt land for a coal power station, resulting in the loss of their livelihood. Health challenges stemming from the coal-fired power plant led to her husband’s premature death. Afsari and 20,000 others in Matarbari also face socioeconomic devastation due to unfulfilled promises of employment training by the Coal Power Generation Company Bangladesh Limited (CPGCBL) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). This underscores the tangible impacts, broken assurances, and the adverse consequences associated with fossil fuel development.
Transitioning to renewable energy not only addresses these issues but also paves the way for a more just and equitable world. It ensures widespread access to employment opportunities and electricity for all, fostering a more sustainable and inclusive global community.
But how practical is it for developing nations in Asia to completely phase out fossil fuels by 2050?
Asian countries have made progress in adopting renewable energy, but the transition away from fossil fuels remains challenging for developing nations like Bangladesh, Indonesia, India, and the Philippines. China and Japan, in particular, heavily rely on fossil fuels, with over half of China’s power generation in 2022 coming from coal. Japan’s reliance on coal and gas hinders its capacity to meet the growing demand for renewables.
As leaders convene at COP28, here are four vital discussion points that should be addressed and agreed upon to advance the clean energy transition.
First, governments around the world need to shift subsidies from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Financial aid and investment for renewable energy projects in developing nations is an area of increasing importance and focus. As highlighted in the 350’s recent report launched on November 22, in 2022, only $260 billion was invested in the Global South despite it being home to approximately 5 billion people. In Asia alone, while numerous Southeast Asian countries have pledged to achieve decarbonization by 2050, the shift to renewable energy production requires a substantial financial commitment. According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Southeast Asia will need a minimum of $367 billion to stay on track in achieving its decarbonization objectives over the next five years. Therefore, developed nations must triple their financial support to ensure a successful transition from fossil fuels.
Second, wealthy countries must advance action on climate adaptation and loss and damage. Despite the growing evidence of climate change impacts, those least responsible bear the brunt of the devastation. Current levels of action and financing for communities to build resilience are insufficient. Developing Asian countries need $340 billion annually by 2030 for climate adaptation, but received only $29 billion – less than one-tenth of the required amount – in 2020. At COP28, developed nations must provide the necessary finance for adaptation and aid in recovering from losses and damage in the most affected countries, thereby facilitating a seamless transition to renewable energy to ensure long-term sustainability and resilience.
Third, governments must implement clear and robust policies at COP28. Building upon policies implemented in previous years, leaders must go beyond rhetoric and implement clear and robust policies. This involves reviewing and setting new targets, refining regulations for changing circumstances, and ensuring ongoing clarity for both public and private sectors. Efforts should prioritize gradually reducing fossil fuel subsidies, maintaining a fair playing field for renewable energy, and reinforcing stable regulatory frameworks.
Fourth, the developed world must offer cutting-edge technology for renewable energy infrastructure in developing countries. Acknowledging the efforts made in initiating renewable energy infrastructure projects in developing nations, leaders at COP28 should focus on ensuring that advanced technologies reach these markets at reasonable prices. This assistance may include knowledge transfer, training programs, and collaboration on research and development initiatives. Developed nations, with advanced technological capabilities, can partner with developing nations to deploy innovative and cost-effective renewable energy technologies.
To attain a full transition to renewable energy by 2050, developed nations must enhance their commitment. Achieving net-zero targets demands a collective effort, underscoring the necessity for collaboration between the developed and developing worlds. The dream of universal access to a just and fair transition is not just an aspiration; it is an imperative that requires immediate and concerted action. Realistically, this goal becomes achievable if developed nations step up their game, ensuring that no one is left behind in the pursuit of a sustainable and inclusive energy future.