By Aiming Zhou This year’s Asia Clean Energy Forum (ACEF) comes at a critical time in the lead-up to the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), to be held in Paris in late November-early December. Not since COP15 in Copenhagen, 2009 has there been such momentum toward a binding global agreement to limit global greenhouse gas emissions. While the 2009 meeting fell short of expectations for a new and binding global agreement, there are high hopes that the upcoming Paris meeting will deliver on a new post-2020 framework, with many countries already pledging significant commitments in the lead-up to the event. Asia has a very important part to play in these UNFCCC negotiations and in setting the world on a course to limit global warming to less than 2°C to avoid the most dangerous impacts of climate change. More specifically, the Asian energy sector has a vital role to play in achieving the transition that will be required. Asia is home to over 60% of the world’s population and, as economic growth and development proceed apace, Asian energy demand growth until 2035 is projected to be the world’s highest. By that time it is estimated that Asia will account for 44% of global GDP and 51% of global energy consumption, and before 2030 it will surpass the OECD grouping as the world’s largest energy consumer. It is therefore imperative that new pledges are made to focus squarely on an increased role for clean energy in the energy mix, across all corners of the continent.
Ahead of Paris, all countries are in the process of setting out their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions to greenhouse emissions reductions, which will include their consideration of renewed efforts to incorporate clean energy into national development plans. The ACEF meeting in June provides a key opportunity for policymakers, clean energy advocates and the private sector to be updated on these emerging plans and perspectives, with many speakers and a wide array of the expected 1,500 delegates coming from the policy communities of key Asian economies. Of course the Asian energy sector faces issues beyond just the de-carbonization of energy supply and the transition to clean energy – countries must grapple with all three points of the so-called “energy trilemma,” including not just reducing environmental impact, but also finding ways to increase energy security and also access for the many millions of people who still live without reliable energy. To address these broader issues, the ACEF will also feature key discussions convened by the World Energy Council among thought leaders and government ministers. The World Energy Leaders’ Summit scheduled for 17-18 June in Manila will be an important forum for both understanding the levels of commitment that can be expected from Asian countries, and considering the economic benefits that may flow from greater regional cooperation as a mechanism for solving the “energy trilemma.” The main program also incorporates many speakers who can shed some light on the readiness of the clean energy sector to play its part in the expected new global framework for greenhouse emissions reduction.
All of the above points to the importance of the discussions and dialogue at the ACEF as a milestone on Asia’s road to the COP21 meeting in Paris. In providing a high-level forum to raise these issues and discuss Asia’s role in the new global framework, the conference aims to connect, inform and inspire delegates to define their own role in Asia’s clean energy future. We hope to see you soon in Manila to help you write your chapter in Asia’s clean energy story.