The Second Asia Environment Lecture "The Green Economy : Will Asia Embrace It?"
7 October 2014
ABOUT THE LECTURE
The dawn of the 21st Century has seen our global natural environment under its greatest stress from human impact, and global civilization at its greatest risk of eroding the natural resources which sustain our well-being, our economy, our very lives. Today, we are far more aware of the problems, the drivers and the implications, as well as the solutions. Yet action is lagging far behind.
As a global community we cannot be passive by-standers in a world increasingly undermined by irresponsible human activities driven by greed and selfish pursuits. While there is growing academic acknowledgement of climate and environmental changes, there is still the need to educate sceptical politicians, government bureaucrats and the public, that Green issues need urgent attention.
By 2050 there will be 3 billion more consumers on the planet – one third of whom will join the over - 4 billion now resident in Asia. We are heading towards a disastrous 3 degrees C temperature rise by the end of the century, and losing biodiversity at an unprecedented rate – undermining the functioning of ecosystems and the provision of their crucial services. We are facing difficult choices in terms of cultural, behavioural and systemic change. Can we continue to be a reactive species, not well equipped to plan long-term nor to efficiently coordinate at a global level?
The world, and Asia in particular, is witnessing an extraordinary wave of innovation, accelerating growth in civil society mobilization, and fast-growing environmental awareness in all sectors. Are we reaching the tipping point for wide-scale change? As Asia is moving towards confirming itself as the demographic and economic world powerhouse, can it be the world's driver for sustainable living? Can the global community find a harmonious and balanced relationship between economic motives and sustainable green requirements?
Greater focus is needed to ensure that the region's natural capital is maintained to support long-term social and economic prosperity. Natural capital such as biodiversity, forests, freshwater, and coastal and marine ecosystems, is essential to making green economies a reality. Protecting natural capital will require a clear vision, careful stewardship, and tangible investments, to ensure effective protection, management, and wise use of the region's precious resources. Despite sounding overly utilitarian, we absolutely need a price tag attached to nature's services in order to make it an integral part of Asian economies. For example, WWF promoted sustainable commodities such as certified palm oil and fish that help reduce the world's footprint on the planet and provide better prices and market access for producers. We tested ideas for smart green infrastructure that address the need of the people for energy, water and transport and help sustain Asia's natural resources. We initiated payments for water services, whereby communities get paid for managing the forests to increase the lifetime and sustainability of hydropower plants.
What should an Asian "green economy" strategy look like? This lecture will discuss trends and roles of the three key sectors of the sustainable development agenda (public, private and civil society) vis-à-vis the environmental status of the Asian continent. We will explore the risks, challenges and reasons for hope – and how they link with the global picture.
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MEM Tenth Anniversary Celebration
The MEM programme celebrated its 10th anniversary with a conference and gala dinner on 15-16 December 2011 at NUS. The theme was "Sustainable Environmental Management in Urban Asia". Mr Kamal Malhotra, UNDP Representative for Singapore, was guest of honour. The keynote speaker was Professor Nicholas Robinson of Pace University Law School, USA. NUS Provost and Deputy President Professor Tan Eng Chye launched a book by MEM faculty members. Some 120 practitioners, researchers, alumni and students attended the conference. Other speakers were from Singapore, Australia, Hong Kong, Korea, the Philippines and the United States. The gala dinner was attended by about 100 MEM alumni, students, faculty members and guests. Professor Tommy Koh, Ambassador-at-Large and Chairman of the MEM Advisory Committee, was the main speaker. A commemorative 10th anniversary booklet was produced by the MEM alumni.