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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs     21-22 November  2011

Chinese support for a Green Asean

At the 2011 China-Asean Forum on Environmental Protection Cooperation under the theme "Innovation and Green development" in Nanning late last month, Chinese support for a green asean was discussed.

While Asean countries are endowed with rich natural resources, a lot of damage has been done to the environment over the past few decades of industrial development, noted Asean deputy secretary-general Misran Carmer.

Now that they have realised the risk, green development will inject new vigour into bilateral cooperation, he added.

"We need to make a change to sustainable industrial development. Asean highly appreciates the cooperation with China, and hopes to strengthen cooperation in terms of policies and technology," said Mr Misran.

Li Ganjie, China's vice-minister for Environmental Protection, said that China and Asean fell face an array of common challenges.

A key theme of bilateral cooperation has always been achieving sustainable development and promoting balanced social and economic environments in the region.

Since the two sides first signed a framework agreement on comprehensive economic cooperation in November 2002, environmental protection has become an essential part, with regular dialogues on biodiversity, climate change and cooperation in the Greater Mekong Sub-region.

"China-Asean environmental protection cooperation will create a new model for South-South cooperation," said Tang Dingding, director of the China-Asean Environmental Protection Cooperation Center, which was formally opened in mid-2011.

Mr Tang said that environmental protection in rural areas was important for both sides and has been integrated into an action plan to take effect next year.

"Apart from this, we are now working to advance the mutual recognition of environmental marks of both sides, which is of great significance for environmental protection in the region. ... We will work hard to achieve green development in the region," he said.

Nong Rong, deputy secretary-general of the Secretariat of the China-Asean Expo (CAEXPO) said that strengthening environmental protection was not only an integral part of public policy, but also brought with it tremendous business opportunities.

Solar energy is one area in which China and Asean are promoting heavily. Asean has abundant sunshine as well as solar energy demand, while China now leads the world in light-voltage technology, said Prof Xia Chaofeng of Yunnan Normal University.

Guangxi Jikuan Solar Energy Equipment Co Ltd entered Asean in 2004 and now exports 60% of its products to the region. In August 2011 it established a subsidiary in Ho Chi Minh City where localised production is in operation. Company chairman Ma Zaojian said that environment-friendly products would find a ready market in Asean.

"When the company first developed markets in Vietnam, I was mistakenly thought to be a cheat because local people did not understand how hot water could become available out of something that was placed in the sun," said Mr Ma.

"Fossil fuels and oil are exhaustible, but solar energy is clean and environmentally friendly, which works in our favour. A few years ago, in the rural areas of Vietnam, people got hot water by cutting trees and making fire. Even in cities only some people use electric or gas water heaters, so I think there will be huge opportunity in Vietnam."

With a passion and expertise for environmental protection, Mr Ma now has not only his own company for research and development and production, he also brings his ideas to Asean countries such as Vietnam, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. He has a production line for solar-powered water heaters in Vietnam. "With the China-Asean Free Trade Area (Cafta) in force, a number of Asean firms have sought cooperation with us," he added.

Xia Guang, director of the Economic Policy Research Centre at the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection, said that energy-efficient and environment-friendly industries would be an important driving force for economic growth, which is borne out by the 12th Five-year Plan approved this year by the Chinese government.

"We are ready to push forward with plans for the environmental industries of China to serve the development of Asean," he said.

All participants at the event expressed optimism about the future cooperation in green energy sectors. According to Malaysian participants, solar energy in Malaysia today accounts for only seven megawatts, but by 2050 the figure could be as high as 8,874 MW, showing the huge potential for cooperation.

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It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

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