The Guardian • Issue #2095

Boao Forum 2024 – Green Development, leadership, and lessons for Australia

The rehabilitation of the Suzhou Creek has improved the environment of large areas of Shanghai by improving sanitation services and also by providing greater access to parks and green spaces along the riverbanks.

The rehabilitation of the Suzhou Creek has improved the environment of large areas of Shanghai by improving sanitation services and also by providing greater access to parks and green spaces along the riverbanks. Photo: Asian Development Bank – flickr.com (CC BY 2.0)

“Policymakers need to strike a balance among safeguarding power supply, addressing social equity, and achieving sustainable transformation,” writes Li Baodong, Secretary-General of the Boao Forum for Asia. This quote is from his introduction to the Forum’s report titled “Striding Towards Zero-Carbon Electricity Era and Bolstering Green Development in Asia,” released earlier this year.

The report notes the intensifying climate crisis as necessitating broad action to bring about a “green industrial revolution.” For Asia, the region with both the largest greenhouse gas emissions and the highest investment in green development globally, robust climate action is both a desperate need and, in some regions, an emerging reality. Renewable energy, digitisation, and zero-carbon technologies have been cited as the leading “new productive forces” to drive this revolution by the report. These words should sound  all too familiar to anyone acquainted with climate change politics. 

What sets the Boao Report apart is action. Specifically, China has emerged as the leading contributor to Asia’s green development investment, as well as renewable energy production. To quote the report: “China contributes more than 50 per cent of Asia’s installed power generation capacity and about 70 per cent of Asia’s green power installed capacity.” China is also a leader in solar, hydropower, nuclear, and thermal energy production, as their drive towards “clean and low-carbon” energy has intensified in recent years. Vietnam, Japan, and other countries have also taken steps towards sustainable and zero-carbon development.

Contrast this to Australia’s current performance in tackling climate change. Despite our media’s attempts to portray China and our other Asian neighbours as careless polluters, these nations have been at the forefront of regional and international green development. Australia meanwhile has destroyed its international reputation through our appalling record in international climate change forums and domestic action.

Crucially, the report brings attention to the obstacles facing green development, including the burden placed on the Global South for whom the costs of projects including renewable energy may be high. The attitude of countries like Australia has long been that poorer nations must bear the brunt of climate action to the detriment of their own development. Countries such as China, however, have demonstrated an alternative approach by supporting investment in poorer countries to better allow them to develop sustainably.

Australia played a founding role in the history of the Boao Forum through Bob Hawke’s collaboration with leaders from China, Japan, and our other neighbours. Australia ought to learn from this history of collaboration and the example of China’s climate action to take on a positive role in our region’s future.

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