Green industry in Asia

Managing the transition to resource efficient and low carbon industries in Asia

Manila Conference 2009

Opening ceremony of September’s international conference on green industry in Manila.

An international conference on green industry in Asia took place in Manila, the Philippines, from 9-11 September 2009. Co-organized by the Government of the Philippines, with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, the United Nations Environment Programme, and the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, the conference provided an arena for high-level policymakers and other key stakeholders to discuss policies and strategies for low-carbon and resource efficient industrialization. Making It spoke to three of the more than 1,200 conference participants.

Making It interviewed three of the participants at the international conference on green industry in Manila, the Philippines, in September 2009.

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PAUL HOHNEN– Sustainability Strategies advisory services.

Is there a business case for sustainability?
Well, instead let’s ask the question – ‘Is there a business case for ruining the planet?’ – and the answer is clearly, ‘No’. The business case for business is actually to have vibrant sustainable societies, investors, consumers, and markets that survive. Because only in that context can
business survive, and thrive.

What have been the major messages coming out of the conference?
I thought that the conference outcomes were very well captured by two comments. The first was that Asia can be, and must be, a leader of the world in green industry. The second – and this was a more chilling conclusion – is that in relation to issues like climate change, unless Asia does take the lead, there will be no future for the world. So, there is a win-win here.

The conference has been extremely good in focusing people’s minds on this dilemma of our existing patterns of behaviour and production, and the way that we need the transition to a more fuel efficient, low carbon economy. And indeed that there are economic, technological, and ecological reasons for us to do that. There is a sweep of policies out there that are being implemented in different countries. The challenge for us now is to fast-track them.

What are the specific lessons for Asia?
At this moment, Asia is at a turning point. China is an Asian country that has gone from having no wind energy ten years ago to become a world leader. There is an example of leadership in technology, in green industry. On the other hand, we have countries here in Asia, and indeed elsewhere in the world, that are lagging behind, that are waiting for the first movements, and that are hesitant to change from the existing business model.

There is a real danger for Asia, unless it leads on new technologies, on green industry, that it will be left behind, and indeed the industrial gap, the economic gap, may grow rather than close.

Interview by George Assaf, UNIDO

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AJAY SHANKAR – Head of the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India.

What is the position of your country on green industry?
Since the 1980s, under the visionary leadership of Indira Gandhi, India has felt the need to reconcile industrialization and development with preserving the environment. We are committed to greening industry….We have drawn up our own national action plans. We are already quite successful in the field of wind energy, and we are launching a national solar mission. Solar energy offers great promise because we get a lot of sun in India. We have launched a very strong programme of improving energy efficiency, and we want to build on our successes. In our energy-intensive industries like cement, steel, and fertilizer, we lowered energy consumption by about 28% per unit output. And similarly, if you look at the last few years, the economy in its peak period was growing at about 9% per annum, but energy consumption was growing at only 3.7 %. So, we have good achievements. We have to build on that, and do a lot more.

Can you give some examples of thesignificant national initiatives that should be adopted, not just by India, but also by other similar countries?
For developing countries, the first of two major areas would be urbanization, because the way we urbanize, the way we get green buildings mainstreamed, and the way we get energy efficient public transport into our urban settlements, will have a huge impact on how energy demand grows in the developing countries. The second big area is to move towards low carbon, or zero carbon,sources of energy. Solar energy offers huge promise because some experts believe that by 2015 or 2020 it could be commercially viable. And our Prime Minister has been wise by seeking international civil nuclear cooperation, because we believe that nuclear energy is a zero carbon source of energy and is an option which needs to be considered seriously at a global level. 

Interview by Linx Productions

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EDGAR CHUA – Chairman, Shell Companies in the Philippines, Guam, Palau, and Saipan.

Green industry – what is in it for business, and particularly for big business, which you represent?
First of all, I think business is not separate from society as a whole. There is no wall which could separate us. If there is a problem in society, like climate change, then business is a part of that. Secondly, I think this presents new business opportunities as well. So, it is not just going to be a cost, meaning you need to mitigate your emissions, your carbon footprint. I see this as providing business opportunities.

For oil companies, such as Shell, is there a contradiction in that this is a move away from your kind of business?
In the past we have been considered an oil and gas company, but now we see ourselves as an energy company…It is important for us to move into new areas for business, like renewables. Already Shell is the biggest marketer of biofuels for example. And we are working on different technologies, which we call second generation biofuels, which we believe will present new business opportunities for the company in the future.

Sometimes people in developing countries say, “Look, you are now telling us don’t do this because it’s ruining the environment, and don’t do that because there are finite resources. But you guys became rich doing exactly that.”
I think this is a valid point, and that’s why the developed countries should give the developing countries space, so that they can also develop. But the developing countries cannot use that as an excuse for not protecting the environment… We have available technology which will enable us to leapfrog. And I think that it’s not going to get us anywhere if we start having that sort of discussion, because that’s pointing fingers. I think if we come to the table with goodwill and trust, then we can come up with something which is workable for both developed and developing countries. Because – again – in the end you cannot put a curtain between developing countries and developed countries when it comes to emissions and climate change… We are all in this together.

Interview by Linx Productions

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