A green future for ASEAN: responding to climate change through sustainability

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The region focuses on technological innovation and respect for the environment

On Tuesday the 10th of November, the third round table of the Digital High Level Dialogue organized by The European House Ambrosetti in collaboration with the Italy-ASEAN Association was held on the theme of the relations between Italy and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The region is revealing to be a promising area for import/export activities, as well as a good destination for investments in sustainable development and circular economy. For instance, the experience of ASEAN countries in managing the Covid-19 pandemic has shown us how international problems can be addressed through collective actions and with a resilient approach. However, the threat of climate change persists and it requires the adoption of appropriate solutions by institutions and companies.

A hopeful sign comes from the “Renewables 2020” report of the International Energy Agency (IEA), according to which in 2020 we have witnessed an increase in renewable energy worldwide, accounting for 90% of the new energy generated globally with the remaining 10% derived from gas and coal. The growth forecasts for 2021 also suggest an equally optimistic result: Renewable Energy Sources (RES) will become the main source of electricity production on a global scale by 2025.

As far as ASEAN countries are concerned, climate change is a challenge to their very existence. Indeed, the region is known for its humid tropical climate, characterized by an average temperature of over 18ºC and by continuous monsoon rains. However, the consequences of pollution, rising sea levels and increasing CO2 emissions already appear in a disruptive way through natural disasters and the so-called "climate migration" which affects the region’s socio-economic dimension. According to a study by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the region’s GDP could shrink by 11% by 2100 in the absence of suitable measures.

However, ASEAN governments are moving on the right track by enhancing their intention to adopt sustainable, inclusive and long lasting development models. They will meet at the 38th edition of the ASEAN Ministers on Energy Meeting (AMEM) which will take place from the 17th to the 20th of November, a moment of discussion on the issue of “Energy transition to sustainable development” to assess to what extent "sustainability" and "circular economy" are becoming a priority within the institutional agendas.

During the meeting, in order to underline this path of growth towards sustainable development, statements from companies in the region have been crucial relatively to sectors that, alongside the action of governments, are showing a clear interest upon increased green development. This is the case reported by Claudia Anselmi, CEO of Hung Yen Knitting & Dyeing Co., a leading company in the textile industry founded in Vietnam in 2008 by the Italian group Carvico, and remarked for its sustainable approach aimed at reducing waste and improving the efficiency of the production chain. However, for what other sectors are concerned, as pointed out by Alberto Maria Martinelli, President of the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Singapore, green investments are necessary to achieve sustainable infrastructure and technologies. The case of the agricultural sector, which is increasingly threatened by natural disasters and in which digitalization can play a fundamental contribution through the use of predictive models, serves as an example. This phenomenon, known as “digital agriculture”, is becoming increasingly central in the debate over the protection of populations threatened by natural disasters, and is in line with the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.

Therefore, there is no doubt that climate change has existed way before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, but only the latter has succeeded in disclosing the need for sustainable global change. For that reason, Italy and the ASEAN countries are showing that they are able to seize this opportunity through greater investment in technological innovation and an eco-friendly approach aimed at strengthening international cooperation.

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