The International Conference on Achieving Sustainability to Empower Future Generations was jointly organized by the Asian Productivity Organization (APO), and the Taiwan Bureau of Foreign Trade. The event was participated in by representatives of government agencies, private firms and academe from Cambodia, China, Fiji, Iran, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mongolia, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam. It served as a venue for the discussion of the latest trends in eco-policies and related businesses in the Asia Pacific.
The first two (2) days of the conference were divided into three main sessions covering: i) role of green energy in the future; ii) importance of behavioral changes (consumption and procurement) in achieving sustainability; and iii) smart/green cities. The third day was alloted for briefing and exposure trip to the Taipei 101 Building, the tallest building in the world, as well as to one of the locations for Taipei’s U-Bike Facility.
Green Energy in the Future
The existing potential policy directions that government can take in promoting sustainable development, primarily through the use of green energy was presented. The session featured the initiatives being undertaken by Taiwan, Japan, US and China with regards the promotion and use of green energy as their main pathways toward sustainable development. For Taiwan, the resource person mentioned that some of the main drivers for this move towards green energy are the effects of climate change and the worsening energy situation, whereas an average of 90 per cent of energy requirements is being imported, among others. Most of the showcased countries have tapped solar and wind power as major sources of renewable energy. They also provided an overview of the current policy environment ini their respective countries, which commonly featured an incentives system that would encourage private firms to contribute to the growth of green energy development in their countries. It was also emphasized that there is a need for the stakeholders to have a common understanding of the national goals on green energy and that the corresponding interventions of the government should be responsive to the stakeholders’ needs.
Importance of Behavioral Changes
The session noted that aside from putting in place relevant policies, the government must take the lead in concretizing actions towards sustainable production and consumption. Such action would involve green procurement that may also be supported by proper eco-labelling mechanisms to help the consumers make more informed choices to take place, agressive information campaigns and appropriate information and communications technology (ICT) are needed, especially those that would facilitate energy-saving measures. One specific ICT innovation presented was a software that enabled the analysis of households’ energy usage, as compared to their neighbors, was presented and that it showed positive results in terms of encouraging them to save on electricity.
Specific examples of places considered as “smart/green” cities were presented, which included the CX Technology-developed area in Ho Chi Minh (Vietnam); New York (USA); Taipei (Taiwan); and Jeju Island (South Korea). These cities featured state of the art facilities, including systems for segregated waste disposal, energy efficiency management, and environmental management. All these aspects are perceived to help enable cities to become smart/green. One important point raised during the discussion is the need for proper land use planning, as this would serve as the framework for the strategic and appropriate allocation of land resources in a sustainable manner.
Another highlight of the Conference is the presentation of the Outcome Document, which outlines the commitments of the involved countries with regards the attainment of sustainability and the group’s vision and targets, in view of the topics tackled by the conference. Contents of the document were solicited from a group of subject-matter experts, and were consulted with the participants of the Conference. While it was recognized that the focus of the Conference was more on the manufacturing/consumer side, the Philippines noted the need to pay equal attention to agriculture/the productoin side as this provides the raw materials. In particular, sustainable agricultural production practices and the need to mainstream the principle of sustainable consumption and production (SCP) were raised and acknowledged by the facilitator. According to APO, the Outcome Document will be submitted to the UN Secretariat as inputs for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Working Group.
The Participant’s Insights
Based on the discussions, the following are the undersigned’s insights on the activity that may be relevant to the Staff’s work on sustainable development:
1. The Staff can use the Outcome Document and the other conference materials as reference documents in crafting the country’s Sustainable Development (SD) Framework, especially in the areas that are beyond the Staff’s jurisdiction. Given that the Conference focused on the consumption side, the Staff may consider how the strategies being employed by other countries with regards policy setting, green consumption and information campaigns, among others, may be adopted in the Philippines;
2. There is a need for the government to determine how the country can make use of the latest available technologies that would encourage energy saving, as presented during the Conference (e.g., life cycle assessment, advanced electronics, energy consumption data/software). More importantly, strategies that would facilitate its adoption at the local level, especially among the households, should be developed;
3. The Conference highlighted the importance of eco-labelling as a useful tool in promoting sustainable lifestyle. It must be noted that the promotion of appropriate eco-labelling techniques is recognized as one key strategy in the updated 2011-2016 Philippine Development Plan under Chapter 4 (Competitive and Sustainable Agriculture and Fisheries Sector) in its goal to increase the sector’s forward linkage to the industry and service sector. Such initiative gives an indication that the Philippines is heading towards the same path as other more advanced countries in terms of achieving sustainable development goals;
4. Having a clear and specific set of targets that guides the appropriate selection of projects and other public investment activities can help countries to move faster towards the attainment of sustainable development. The government can consider the targets indicated in the Outcome Document, particularly for energy efficiency and RE generation, as a reference point in setting its counterparts here in the country to improve competitiveness and ensure alignment with other neighboring Asian countries.
MS. TAMARA JEAN PALIS
Senior Economic Development Specialist
National Economic and Development Authority