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Asian Energy and Environmental Policy: Promoting Growth While Preserving the Environment

Zhang, ZhongXiang (2008): Asian Energy and Environmental Policy: Promoting Growth While Preserving the Environment.

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Abstract

Asia has truly experienced spectacular economic growth over the past 15 years. However, this economic progress has come at a high cost. It has led to unprecedented environmental consequences. The ecological footprint shows that, despite the fact that one-fifth of the population in Asia still lives on less than US$ 1 per day (PPP-adjusted), the region is already living beyond its ecological carrying capacity. The region is facing a dilemma. On the one hand, continued economic growth is needed to alleviate the poverty of the two-thirds of the world’s poor living in this region. On the other hand, that economic growth will further place tremendous strains on the natural environment.

In order to extricate itself from this difficult position, the region needs to shift the conventional pattern of “develop first and then treat the pollution” to a different trajectory of sustainable development. To that end, this paper examines a variety of policy responses at national, regional and international levels to deal with growing concerns about the environmental challenges in Asia in order to help to put the region on a more sustainable development path. In the context of national responses, special attention is paid to the following issues: coordination between the central and local governments, market-based environmental instruments and industrial policies, tougher emissions standards for mobile and stationary sources and for fuel quality, policies to promote energy efficiency and the use of clean energy and biofuels, the integration of environmental policies with economic and sectoral policies, and engagement of the private sector through e.g., ecolabelling, green government procurement, corporate ratings and disclosure programs, and drawing the support of financial institutions to promote improved corporate environmental performance. It is concluded that having the right policy mix, coupled with strengthened cooperation at national, local and regional levels, will ensure continuing economic growth in the region without compromising its limited ecological carrying capacity and environmental quality.

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