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Global Sustainability: The Asian Perspective
By: Richard King

During the past few years, we have developed a new vocabulary rising out of our growing concern for our planet:  “global warming”, “going green”, “renewable energy”, “sustainable development”, “bio-fuels”, and many more.  This has not been limited to the United States, but is a global phenomena, and Asia is in the forefront of the challenge to achieve global sustainability.
Let’s examine sustainable trends in three of the leading economies in Asia, China, India, and Japan.

China probably is the global focal point regarding environmental issues and this is exacerbated by the coming Olympics in Beijing.   It may be the biggest enigma in the environmental issue right now, and the most important.  Three facts are relevant.

  1. During the past four years both China’s GDP and its energy consumption have grown at an average of 11% a year.
  2. China has just passed the United States as the world’s biggest emitter of carbon dioxide.  By 2030 it is projected to emit almost as much as the United State and Europe combined.  (Economist, June 5th, 2008).
  3. China is now bringing 2 full–scale coal plants online every week.

China has massive incentives to act.  Local pollution caused by acid rain, sulphur dioxide and wastewater is a dangerous problem.  “Acid rain affects a third of China’s land and hundreds of thousands of people die from pollution-related cancer every year” (Economist, June 5th, 2008).

Both local pollution and energy security can be solved by renewable energy.  The Economist discussed China’s push into renewables:  “China is making considerable efforts to boost the amount of energy produced by non-fossil fuels.  By 2020 the aim is to generate 15% of energy from renewable sources, up from around 7% in 2005.  This is a big step up from the previous goal of 10% by 2020”.

So, China is awakening to the importance of a sustainable economy.  But it seems spurred on mostly by local pollution and the goal of energy independence.  Mark DAndrea, Vice President of Operations for Go Green Solutions says, “There is a growing sensitivity in China for environmental issues, but it is still taking a while”.

India does not view itself as a main culprit in global warming, and it is right to a large extent.  It takes the issue seriously and wants to improve sustainability, but its main focus is on economic growth and living standards, and it is waiting for the U.S. and other wealthy nations to take the lead.

To show their commitment, India has just released their priorities for climate change, which include:
1.    Solar Energy
2.    Enhanced Energy Efficiency
3.    Sustainable Habitat
4.    Conserving Water
5.    Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem
6.    A “Green India”
7.    Sustainable Agriculture
8.    Strategic Knowledge Platform from Climate Change

Japan has long been a leader in the environmental movement.  With companies such as Sanyo Electric and Sharp leading the way, Japan joins Germany and Spain as the largest solar markets in the world, larger than the U.S.  The automobile industry has led the way with innovations in hybrid technology, and as a result the Toyota Prius is the top-selling hybrid in the world.  Its Renewable Portfolio Standard Law from April 2003 requires electric power companies to use new energy sources, including wind power and solar.  Japan’s energy efficiency is said to be the highest in the world.

In a speech in January, Japan’s Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda discussed his ambition to lead the world in efforts to cut greenhouse gas emission using Japan’s advanced technology on clean energy and efficiency.  He proposed a “low-carbon society” as a model for the world and said his government plans to establish a “financial mechanism” to encourage developing countries to adopt measures against global warming.

Asia’s emphasis on green technology and sustainability provides the opportunity for Southern California firms to partner with Asian firms in bringing products and technology to market.  Also, Asia’s developing countries need products and technology from California that can enhance the quality of life and give practical meaning to sustainability.

Richard King,
Chairman Emeritus /Trustee, Woodbury University
Chairman/Founder King International Group
Chairman, Go Green Solutions