[JAKARTA] Countries in the Asia-Pacific region need a new 'industrial revolution' based on green technologies to provide food, water, energy and housing while cutting down their resource consumption and emissions by up to 80 per cent, according to a report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
The report says that countries in the region have moved rapidly from agrarian to industrial economies and consume natural resources at a growing rate; overall, they are the highest consumers of natural resources globally.
Meanwhile, technology and innovation have not kept up with population growth and rising wealth, which increase resource use, according to the report, 'Resource Efficiency: Economy and Outlook for the Asia and Pacific', released last month (19 September).
UNEP's report says consumption per capita is likely to grow, as it is still low, and that "a considerable proportion of greenhouse gas emissions are related to the Asia-Pacific region producing goods for consumers in the rest of the world".
But UNEP warns that economic growth has come at a high cost: pollution (including greenhouse gas emissions); biodiversity loss and deforestation; deteriorating ecosystems; and rapid resource depletion — including clean water. It recommends that countries in transition to becoming green economies adopt less polluting, resource-efficient technologies to maintain their prosperity.
Efficient use of resources needs to be accompanied by systems innovation which means designing new, more efficient ways to provide food, housing, energy, transport, and water to growing urban centres and rural areas.
"Because the changes required are fundamental and large, policies that change the functioning of the whole economy, e.g. ecological taxes and budget reform, may be well suited to guide resources efficiency and systems innovation," the report says.
The report's lead researcher, Heinz Schandl of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia's national science agency, pointed to readily-available resource-efficient technologies such as improved cooking stoves and pots, cleaner fuels, LED lighting, solar energy and green buildings, which can be used immediately.
But Schandl also emphasised the need to transfer more advanced technologies from other parts of the world.
"Technology transfer will play an important role and many businesses have started to contribute. Sometimes, large multinational companies are delivering much better outcomes than national policy would require because they are applying global standards to their production line," said Schandl.
Stewart Lockie, researcher in environmental sociology at Australian National University, said: "We need transformative technologies that dramatically reduce natural resource inputs and the generation of pollutants".
However, environmental policy expert Ben Malayang III, president of Silliman University in the Philippines, said technology alone would not cut resource consumption by 80 per cent.
For example, solar energy was prohibitively costly for many consumers in Asia, he said, adding that there should be more action to reduce demand for resources and to cut waste.
Link to full report [3.31MB]