Publication in Economics, Politics and Public Policy in East Asia and the Pacific

The case for an East Asian ‘climate club’ led by Australia

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York City, United States, 25 September 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Carlo Allegri).

Authors: John Mathews, Macquarie University, Elizabeth Thurbon, UNSW, Sung-Young Kim, Macquarie University and Hao Tan, University of Newcastle

The Nobel Prize-winning US economist William Nordhaus fired a salvo recently when he published an article on how to drastically revamp international efforts to deal with climate change. He argued that climate negotiations operate according to a deeply flawed structure that has no chance of success, with no penalties for free-riding and non-membership. Read more…

Navigating ASEAN’s post-COVID-19 energy transition

An employee of PT Perusahaan Listrik Negara (PLN) cleans the surface of solar panels at a solar power generation plant in Gili Meno island, in this 9 December 2014 photo taken by Antara Foto (Reuters/Antara Foto/Widodo S. Jusuf.).

Author: Han Phoumin, ERIA

Daily global carbon emissions dropped by 17 per cent in the first quarter of 2020 compared with 2019 levels. While this is positive in mitigating climate change, the drop is due to the COVID-19 and measures to stop it spread such as nationwide lockdowns and travel restrictions. The COVID-19 induced economic downturn is contracting global energy demand and energy-related emissions. But this crisis is temporary — both energy demand and carbon emissions will bounce back once the global economy starts to recover. Read more…

Redefining the global ‘new normal’ after COVID-19

US President Donald Trump stands during a news briefing on the administration's response to COVID-19 in Washington DC, United States, 21 March 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Joshua Roberts).

Author: Ooi Kee Beng, Penang Institute

Pundits are comparing the COVID-19 pandemic to the ‘Spanish Flu’ of 1918 to tease out lessons for how to combat future pandemics. Read more…

Re-energising Indonesia’s electricity policy during COVID-19

State Electricity Company officials stand between solar cell panels at the largest solar power plant in Indonesia, at Oelpuah village in Kupang, 20 July 2017 (Photo: Reuters/Anatara Foto).

Author: Abidah B Setyowati, ANU

Major disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic show how modern societies depend on access to electricity. With millions of people confined to their homes, distant modes of learning and working — as well as online streaming for entertainment — are now an everyday reality around the globe. Electricity is also critical to operating medical equipment to treat those badly infected with COVID-19. But the comfort of being able to work, learn and play from home should not be taken for granted.

Read more…

The renewable energy transition is coming to Asia

Workers clean photovoltaic panels inside a solar power plant in Gujarat, India, 2 July, 2015 (Photo: Reuters/Amit Dave).

Author: Tim Buckley, Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world. It is a truly global threat, ignoring national borders and domestic politics. But this pandemic highlights the need for a global response to a second key global threat: climate change. It is now more important than ever to listen to the advice of experts before it’s too late. Read more…

How green is China’s post-COVID-19 ‘new infrastructure’ stimulus spending?

Workers labor on rows of solar panels that line in the field, Haikou city, south China's Hainan province, 28 February 2020 (Photo: Reuters).

Author: Jorrit Gosens and Frank Jotzo, ANU

Governments around the world are considering how to revitalise their economies post-COVID-19. China’s plans for ‘new infrastructure’ construction projects could help deliver low-carbon economic stimulus. But spending plans at this point are small, and money continues to be poured into high-emissions ‘old’ infrastructure projects. Read more…

From pandemics to the climate crisis

Firefighters try to extinguish forest fires at Sebangau National Park area in Palangka Raya, Central Kalimantan province, Indonesia, 14 September 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Willy Kurniawan.

Author: Darshan Joshi, REFSA

There is a growing need for governments to balance economic needs and environmental concerns. An important lesson of COVID-19 is the need to coordinate mitigation and response frameworks to tackle issues that ultimately transcend national interests. Read more…

Palm oil politics still threaten EU–Malaysia ties

A truck carrying oil palm fruits passes through Felda Sahabat plantation in Lahad Datu in Malaysia's state of Sabah on Borneo island, 20 February 2013 (Photo: REUTERS/Bazuki Muhammad).

Author: Helena Varkkey, University of Malaya

Malaysia and the European Union share a long history and strong trade ties. The European Union is Malaysia’s third-largest trading partner and is its largest source of foreign direct investment, and Malaysia is a major exporter of raw materials to the European Union. But politics over palm oil threaten their relationship.

Read more…

Don’t waste fiscal stimulus, invest it in mitigating climate change

Terell Odom, of Compass Solar Energy, moves a solar panel into place on a house in Milton, 11 Dec 2019 (Photo: Reuters).

Author: Editorial Board, ANU

The coronavirus is a huge health shock; it’s also a triple whammy economic demand, supply and financial shock. Its sizeable demand component warrants large-scale fiscal stimulus. Governments around the world are scrambling to do exactly that: injecting trillions of dollars into their ailing economies through spending increases and tax cuts.

Read more…

Debunking Australia’s excuse for climate inaction

A kangaroo stands in front of the remains of a burnt down house, destroyed during the bushfire season, in the community of Wytaliba, New South Wales, Australia, 29 January 2020 (Photo: Reuters/Jorge Silva).

Author: Matthew Agarwala, University of Cambridge

It is rare for heads of government to portray their countries as irrelevant. But this is how Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison described his country’s role in global climate action amid its worst fire season on record. His argument is that because Australia accounts for just 1.3 per cent of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, any action it takes is too small to influence global outcomes.

Read more…

Japan’s growing dependence on coal

A tractor makes its way over a pile of coal at a coal port in Gladstone, Queensland (Photo: REUTERS/Daniel Munoz).

Authors: Florentine Koppenborg, Technical University Munich and Ulv Hanssen, Soka University

Japan’s decision to build 22 new coal-fired power plants makes it an outlier among G7 nations who are moving away from coal. Japan’s coal power plants will exacerbate climate change, which is already predicted to severely impact Japan.

Read more…

Japan’s energy policy nine years after Fukushima

Solar panels are seen at a solar power facility as snow covered Mount Fuji is background in Nakai town, Kanagawa prefecture, Japan, 1 March, 2016 (Reuters/Kato).

Author: Masahiro Sugiyama, University of Tokyo

On 11 March 2020, Japan marks the ninth anniversary of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, which caused a nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The meltdown of the plant owned by the Tokyo Electric Power Company forced Japanese authorities to introduce many changes to Japan’s energy policy.

Read more…

Plastic bans in Asia: weak tea for complex problems

A worker sorts used plastic bottles to be recycled at a plastic recycling centre in Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia, 21 June, 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Christo).

Author: Kris Hartley, Education University of Hong Kong

The turn of the decade is seeing substantial efforts to reduce plastic pollution across Southeast Asia. Around the world, trillions of plastic bags are used each year with troublesome impacts on living conditions and waste infrastructure. In Thailand, a ban on plastic bags for major retailers took effect this year. The Thai government also recently banned imports of electronic and plastic waste. These initiatives reflect an admirably coordinated policy mix, but the effort deserves thoughtful broadening.

Read more…

Australian climate policy after the bushfire crisis

A firefighter from a local brigade works to extinguish flames after a bushfire burnt through the area in Bredbo, New South Wales, Australia, 2 February 2020 (Photo: REUTERS/Loren Elliott).

Author: Andrew Walter, University of Melbourne

The bushfires now ravaging Australia’s flora, fauna and rural communities on an unprecedented scale underline the country’s exceptional vulnerability to global heating and its strong interest in global climate change mitigation and adaptation. Decarbonisation should be taken as an economic opportunity and it could elevate Australia’s leading role in Asia for years to come.

Read more…

Thailand’s plastic bag ban is an overdue step towards pragmatism

A woman uses a shopping bag after the government's ban of single-use plastic, at a shopping center in Bangkok, Thailand, 2 January 2020 (Photo: REUTERS/ Soe Zeya Tun).

Author: Tim Forsyth, LSE

Thailand recently took an important step towards environmental protection when 75 leading retailers stopped issuing plastic bags to shoppers. This step continues a campaign started by environmentalists and local governments in Thailand to reduce urban waste and pollution. The long-term plan is to ban all single-use plastics by 2021. Read more…