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OPINION: LEDS Asia is shaping up

Ari Huhtala, CDKN’s Director of Policy and Programmes, reports from the first Asia Low Emission Development Strategies (LEDS) Forum in Bangkok

The Asian Development Bank estimates that developing countries in Asia will account for 43 percent of global GHG emissions by 2030, while the impact of climate change will erode GDP growth by 50 percent annually.  To find ways to sustain the high growth rates without accelerating global warming, 160 people gathered in Bangkok on 18-21 September for the first Asia Low Emission Development Strategies (LEDS) Forum. I was there for one of the many international support organisations to interact with representatives of 16 countries in the region. This took place within the LEDS Global Partnership (GP). More information on the event can be found at the website which is hosted by USAID Bangkok.

The Forum discussed the challenges of catalysing green growth in Asia, reviewed emerging initiatives in the region, and provided an opportunity for concurrent debates on LEDS tools and processes, sector challenges, and financing. Open space sessions on country LEDS initiatives, case studies and experiences in the form of poster displays and manned booths proved a dynamic way of stimulating interaction and mutual learning.

The Forum was the first step in creating an Asia Platform within the LEDS Global Partnership (LEDS GP). This will be a place to learn, share and collaborate. There is a need to include as many initiatives as possible to avoid duplication and ensure added value. Developing countries in the region were encouraged to articulate what really matters, and several priorities were identified through a series of consultations and voting. The Asia LEDS Platform is at its infancy and still needs to develop stronger regional ownership, but the Forum laid a good foundation for its further elaboration. CDKN will contribute to contribute to this process in many ways, through its role in the LEDS GP Steering Committee, Green Growth Best Practice Initiative, working group on finance, and regional presence at LEAD Pakistan.

The stakes are high for Asia. The current pace of transformation to a low emission economy is far too slow. The former drivers of the Asian economic miracle were cheap labour and resources including fossil fuels. This is no longer the case, and the LDCs in the region are even more vulnerable to fluctuations in resource costs. A rapid transformation to energy efficient solutions requires widespread political commitment and support.

Fifteen years ago I was involved in developing the Asia-Pacific Roundtable for Cleaner Production which has gone a long way in raising awareness on resource efficiency in the region, but has not been able to kick off the required revolution in development practice. The Asia LEDS Platform needs to move faster and aim higher, if it wants to have an impact. Or in the words of the President of the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT), Said Irandoust, at the opening plenary: ‘Let’s think big and long-term’. It is now primarily in the hands of Asian stakeholders whom the international community should wholeheartedly support in this endeavour.

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