If you remembered that the 90s or early 2000s was not as hot as compared to recent years, you are right. According to NASA, the average surface temperature of Earth has risen by about 0.9 oC since the late 19th century. Global sea-level also rose by about 20 cm since the last century. Also, the rate of rising sea-level is accelerating every year. In preparation for the increasing sea-level, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong expects to spend at least $100 billion over 100 years, starting with building polders in Singapore. With the impact of climate change more prominent in recent years, there is a need for Southeast Asia to revamp its energy systems by charging the full cost of energy and incorporating sustainable energy.
The Impact of Climate Change in Southeast Asia
As the Amazon is depleting due to the recent fire, so is our oxygen supply, increasing the rate of climate change and its impact on us. Brazil might be far, but the effects of climate change are closer than one realises. Rising sea-level is a significant threat to Singapore and the region. For instance, a one-metre increase in sea-levels will result in severe flooding in the low-lying parts of Singapore, even when there are measures to deal with heavy rains and other external factors. In Vietnam, for example, a 1 m rise in sea-levels would mean that 40% of Mekong River Delta would be submerged in the water, affecting 55% of the population in the region. Extreme weather conditions caused by climate change will also disrupt the economy of a country. Thailand, the world's biggest rice exporter, was hit by a flood due to extreme rainfall in 2011, affecting 12.5% of all cropland in Thailand. The El Nino pattern, which occurs once every three or four years, is recurring more often due to climate change. The dry weather extends the scale of forest fires and impedes the effort to put the flames out. With the Southeast Asian region feeling the impact of climate change, there is a pressing need for a more sustainable environment.
Lessons for Southeast Asia from Sustainable Energy Pioneers
Sweden is one of the countries which primarily consumes renewable energy instead of fossil fuels, using sources like wind and solar energy to produce electricity. Renewable energy sources generate 54% of the total energy consumed, and the country aims to reach 100% by 2040. On the contrary, several Asian nations are in the top 20 list of countries with the most carbon emissions in 2017. Efforts in neighbouring countries in the region are insufficient, based on a report regarding the power generated by each sector in Southeast Asia. Most ASEAN countries use coal as their primary source of energy, which produces carbon dioxide when burnt. For example, 52% of the power generated in Indonesia comes from coal. Burning of coal gives the reason behind Indonesia’s contribution of 1.3% to the global carbon emission in 2017. However, there is hope. ASEAN members signed the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015 and are working together to reduce carbon emissions and adopt the use of renewable energy for a more sustainable future. Countries such as Singapore have implemented a carbon tax on industrial facilities that emits direct GHG equal to or above 25,000 tCO2e annually from 2019 onwards. It is currently at $5 per tonne of GHG emissions (tCO2e) from 2019 to 2023. The tax will be reviewed by 2023, with plans to increase it to between $10 and $15 per tonne of GHG emissions by 2030.
How Can Southeast Asia Take the Lead in Driving Sustainability?
Several companies in Asia have also started to promote sustainability. For instance, Nippon Koei brings renewable energy to rural and remote areas to over 35 countries in Asia, Latin America and Africa. Sunseap sells solar energy to its residential and commercial customers, promoting the use of solar energy. Wärtsilä solutions meet the needs of the modern data centre and provides businesses with the flexibility and efficiency to maximise the usage of clean energy in place of using local electricity supply. On the other hand, there are several startups as well that are creating innovative sustainable solutions. For instance, Lumani is a startup in Singapore that uses AI and data analytics to reduce energy consumption. RESYNC builds intelligent machine learning and data analytics-driven energy cloud solutions for smart grids and systems with distributed energy resources. HiGi Energy, a Philippines based startup, converts water hyacinth into briquettes as a form of alternative cooking energy.
A Platform That Brings Sustainability Players Together
For the sustainability movement to accelerate and go mainstream, many players from the clean energy ecosystem will need to come together to think of new business models and innovative technologies in creating a sustainable environment. Sustainable Energy Association of Singapore (SEAS), is driving this conversation for the need to use sustainable technology and provides a common platform for companies in the sustainable energy sector to meet, discuss, collaborate and undertake viable projects together. One of these platforms is the Asia Clean Energy Summit (ACES) 2019, which is a meeting point for leaders in the ecosystem to come together and share insights.