Can the Asian Countries Go Green Soon Enough?

The Intelligence Squared Green Festival on Climate Change has provided an excellent opportunity to hear experts debate issues of crucial importance to us and our planet. Topics have included "Countdown to Armageddon--how long have we got?" and "Biofuels--essential or a waste of time?" and "Green Capitalists--a contradiction in terms?"

"Can Asia go green? (and if it doesn't has the world had it?)" was a fascinating discussion amongst four women (finally!) from Asian countries. Malini Mehra, from India, Christine Loh, from Hong Kong (a Time magazine Hero of the Environment), Svati Bhogle, Indian and winner of an Ashden Award for Sustainability and Isabel Hilton, editor of China Dialogue each examined their respective country's status and future.

The question was "Can Asia go green " and Christine Loh from Hong Kong was first off, explaining an important issue about development in the East. She said that the right to develop is non-negotiable. However they are not talking about development in the western wealth and consumption way. They are talking about basic things such as lack of running water, lack of clean water, compulsory education and good health care. This was echoed by all of the speakers.

Malina Mehra, from India pointed out that India has the largest number of poor people in the world. China is the largest emitter of emissions and India is fourth. There is much innovation from Indian business leaders, but the government has not given them support. India is very involved in solar technology.

Isabel Hilton, editor of China Dialogue was more critical of China. She said that the country has not implemented very quickly and all of the west's efforts are pointless if China doesn't move. The rising sea levels are critical to China since its largest cities are all on the water. The melting of the Himalayan glaciers which is happening right now will affect China and all Asian rivers. She acknowledged that coal forms 90% of China's main source of energy and this will have to be replaced.

But she asked, why should China pay for the sins of developing countries...who should pay. The West made the mess and continues to consume and the developing countries are being asked to bear the burden. Historic responsibility is a factor. Whose emissions are they? China says that 20 to 40% are tied up in the export trade to the West. One must look at current matters and history too--it is two-edged argument and a very complicated issue.

Svati Bhogle also echoed this theme--she said that rich countries look for big solutions for big problems but it was time to reframe the debate. There are small solutions that can affect many people, such as those acknowledged by the Ashden awards, but thousands more must be unearthed.

All agreed that there must be collaboration between the developed world with the developing world. They all agreed that Japan is the leader in the east.

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Tags: Asia | Biodiversity | Energy Efficiency | Global Climate Change | Renewable Energy