Japan sets example with green grants

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 07 May, 2007, 12:00am

Asia's headlong rush to modernise is improving the lives of hundreds of millions of people but is also having a detrimental effect on the environment. Striking the right balance is difficult for governments focused on poverty reduction, so moves like that from Japan yesterday to contribute to Asian Development Bank environmental protection measures are to be commended.

The US$100 million will go to two of the bank's funds promoting renewable energy resources, environmentally friendly infrastructure and green investment. On a per capita basis, the amount is miniscule; but coming days after a landmark United Nations report putting in place the world's first road map to fight global warming, Japan is maintaining the impetus and sending a clear message to other developed nations that because of rapid Asian industrialisation, they must follow suit.

Asia cannot be ignored, either from a financial or environmental viewpoint. Over the past 30 years, the region's energy consumption has risen 230 per cent and is expected to double by 2030. With almost half the world's population and a rapidly growing thirst for the trappings of development - fossil-fuel-hungry power plants, factories, cars and air conditioning among much else - the contributions to global emissions of greenhouse gases responsible for climate change will be devastating if unchecked.

The bank, established 41 years ago with the objective of alleviating poverty through economic growth, can play a central role in heading off such a situation. Advocating and supporting environmental sustainability is already one of its major functions and that position will grow as pollution levels threaten the well-being of communities across the region.

Japan has made a significant gesture towards that aim and other nations with the economic means and technology should also help. Asians do not have the means by themselves to successfully tackle climate change; the effort has, after all, to be a global one.