1) Why does the writer claim this as a 'dilemma'?
2) What issues does this writer raise in the article and should we be concerned about them? Does it involve us?
3) What other solutions do you propose to solving this 'dilemma', if there is one?
Post your comments below.
Jan 26, 2008
Asia's dilemma: Go green or pursue growth
|PM Lee moots ways to help countries balance current growth needs and longer-term concerns about the environment|
|By Warren Fernandez |
|DAVOS (SWITZERLAND) - ASIAN countries are pressing ahead with the urgent task of growing their economies to raise living standards and reduce poverty and cannot be expected to forgo this to curb global warming, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said. |
Instead, practical steps to help them grow in an environmentally friendly way should be pursued, such as pricing energy correctly and pursuing sustainable development, he suggested.
PM Lee was giving an Asian perspective on the challenge of climate change at an informal leaders' meeting on the subject. Others on the panel were United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon and Latin American, African and European leaders.
Climate change and the environment have been major topics at this year's meeting, with several panel discussions on how best to fashion a new agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions after the Kyoto Protocol runs out in 2010, as well as others on water shortages and poverty alleviation.
As the only Asian leader speaking at yesterday's high-level, closed-door discussion, Mr Lee sought to put the region's economic challenges and environmental concerns in proper context.
Economic growth, he said, had helped Asian countries to grow and raise living standards for billions of their people. It had contributed to the stability in the region, as well as prosperity in the global economy.
Should Asian economies falter, there would be political and security implications for the rest of the world, he noted.
'Domestically, the drive among Asian peoples to improve their lives is tremendous,' he said, pointing to the rise in car ownership in China and India as symptoms of the push for a better life. Some 7 million cars are sold in China a year, he noted.
The same applies to South-east Asia, with pressures to exploit fully the region's natural resources, from minerals to timber and forest land.
'It is impossible for anyone or any government to stop this.
'Between providing for the welfare of billions today and addressing a problem that will happen gradually over a century or more, it is obvious which people will choose,' he said.
This push for rapid economic growth would mean more pollution, he said, adding that 'realistically, emissions are bound to increase...this is a human and economic reality'.
PM Lee said Asian countries were reluctant to constrain energy usage when the current greenhouse gas problem was the result of past emissions by the developed countries and, as Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh noted recently, they could not be expected to do more than their richer counterparts to tackle the problem.
'This is the only morally correct position to take,' PM Lee argued.
So how to balance Asia's immediate growth needs and longer- term concerns about the environment?
Mr Lee threw up three suggestions. Firstly, take practical steps which are in countries' own interest. One of these would be to price energy properly. Subsidising energy in China, India and South-east Asia has led to over-consumption and waste, he noted.
'If they phase out these subsidies, their economies will perform much better, and greener,' he said.
Secondly, countries should pursue sustainable development. China, he noted, has set targets to make more efficient use of energy and cut down carbon emissions by 2010, while Asean was also taking steps to make wider use of clean and renewable energy technology, and protect its forests.
Singapore, for its part, was also making sustainable development a national effort, he said. On Thursday, he had announced the setting up of an inter-ministry committee to develop a comprehensive strategy to enable Singapore to continue to grow economically in an environmentally sound way.
Thirdly, add substance to the mantra of 'common but differentiated responsibilities', he said.
This means developed countries should take the lead in cutting emissions, while helping developing ones to do so too through technology transfer or financial incentives.
Noting that the Kyoto Protocol agreement was 'flawed' as it did not include all major emitters, he said it was imperative to get China and India on board. Otherwise, the global warming problem would not be solved, and the US would not join the effort to do so.
Concluding, he said: 'We must each contribute our fair share towards a realistic, workable global solution.'