This past week, former American Vice President Al Gore sharply criticized the Obama administration for failing to significantly alter United States policy on climate change and energy. What role should American leadership play in shaping government policies on climate change throughout Asia? Alternatively, what global leadership role exists for developed and developing Asian countries themselves in areas like clean energy and global warming mitigation? Is the possibility of a global deal on climate change completely dead? If so, can it be resuscitated?
Rohit Viswanath is a foreign policy analyst with the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER) in New Delhi.
Whether or not an immediate global deal on climate change is secured, it is imperative for developing Asian countries to evolve a strategy of environmentally sustainable development, for the sake of their own vested national interests. This is because being dependent on petroleum imports implies being more and more vulnerable.
The countries must therefore seek to further improve energy efficiency standards, by not only upgrading technology but also by improving management and adopting best international practices. Many Asian nations have proven capabilities in coming up with relatively cheap and innovative solutions to deal with climate change. A platform needs to be created where varied nations could share these innovations.
It is important that the model of public-private partnerships that had been evolved in many Asian countries to fight climate change be successfully replicated across the world. The common platform could help here as well since government action needs to be supported and augmented by not just the private sector but also the civil society at large. This would go a long way in advancing the greater common good.
Asian countries have a great potential to take on a leadership role in the areas of clean energy and global warming mitigation, given that these societies are endowed with a unique cultural heritage that has high regard for nature. All of them have an almost divine mandate for environmental conservation and maintenance of ecological balance. This is of great significance.