Today, the problem of the climate change is the major challenge to the world community. However, the world community still fails to find the adequate solution of this problem. In spite of efforts of numerous non-governmental organizations operating at both national and international levels, the problem of irrevocable changes provoked by the environment pollution and climate change persists. In such a situation, the mutual efforts of the world community are the major condition of the successful solution of the problem of the climate change. In this respect, the Ad-Hoc Working Group, Kyoto Protocol, Major Economies Meeting on Energy Security and Climate Change (MEM) and Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate (APP) are all challenging the problem of the climate change. Basically, numerous international agreements aim at the minimization of the environment pollution, especially they focus on the minimization of the green-house gas emissions through the decrease of fossil fuels consumption and reduction of the consumption of coal. In addition, international agreements focus on the improvement of existing technologies and the wider introduction of environmentally friendly technologies. In such a way, the world community attempts to minimize the negative impact of human activities on the environment.
In this respect, the Asia-Pacific region is particularly important because this is the region where the major world economies, but the EU are concentrated and the pollution of environment is very significant here. This is why countries located in this region are concerned with the improvement of the environmental situation. They attempt to unite their efforts in their environment protection policies. Nevertheless, their efforts are still insufficient since the APEC, APP and MEM, being major environmental initiatives of Asia-Pacific countries have still brought little positive effect. At any rate, there is still no consistent improvement in the environmental trends in the Asia-Pacific region, mainly because some countries, such as the US or China, make little efforts to meet requirements defined in international agreements and they do not fully maintain international environmental policies which meet principles defined by the APEC, APP and MEM.
Green building APEC and APP
Emerging environmental problems and the climate change contribute to consistent and often irrevocable changes in the world socioeconomic life and natural conditions. In this respect, environmental problems and the climate change are particularly dangerous in regard to the deterioration of conditions of living of people worldwide and in the Asia-Pacific region in particular. In actuality, the climate change increases the risk of natural disasters such as hurricanes, droughts, inundation and others which affect the life of people consistently. Moreover, under the impact of the climate change people have to change their traditional lifestyle and change traditional socioeconomic activities in order to adopt their activities to environmental changes. For instance, agriculture of the Asia-Pacific region is vulnerable to dramatic changes since natural disasters often destroy crops and put millions of people on the edge of survival, to the extent that the threat of starvation becomes a serious threat in many countries of the region.
In this respect, the elimination of existing threats becomes one of the major challenges to political leaders of countries of the Asia-Pacific region. At any rate, the climate change is the major threat to economies and natural environment of countries located in the Asia-Pacific region as well as in other regions of the world. This threat became particularly significant in the late 20th century, when the climate change and its negative effects became evident. The consistent deterioration of the environment and climate change stimulated governments of Asia-Pacific countries and governments of other countries of the world to start international action to prevent the ongoing pollution of the environment and the climate change. In response to the climate change the APEC Energy Working Group (EWG) and APP were developed. In fact, APEC EWG and APP comprised an important part of environmental initiatives and programs which have emerged since the late 20th century. In this respect, it is worth mentioning MEM, which similarly to APEC EWG and APP, also aimed at the minimization of the environmental pollution and consolidated actions of Asia-Pacific countries to stop the climate change and minimize its negative effects.
The strategic goals of APEC EWG and APP were the development of international cooperation and programs to decrease the environmental pollution through the decrease of the consumption of fossil fuels and, therefore, the decrease of green-house gas emissions in the atmosphere. In this respect, it is worth mentioning the fact that green-house gas emissions, namely CO2 emissions, were one of the major contributors to the environmental pollution and one of the major causes of the climate change. To put it more precisely, the EWG focused on the energy efficiency in commercial building that could decrease the consumption of fossil fuels, including coal consumption. The EWG defines the development of energy efficient technologies, especially in commercial buildings, but the strategic goal of the EWG as well as APP is to focus on the wide introduction of energy efficient technologies in communities in the APEC region.
In such a way, through the introduction of energy efficient technologies, the APEC and APP attempt to improve the environmental situation, to stop the climate change and introduce environmentally friendly technologies en masse.
Countries of the Asia-Pacific region attempt to unite their efforts to meet the goals of the APEC EWG and APP.
However, some countries, such as Australia, has joined these initiatives relatively recently, namely in 2005 (Grubb and Neuhoff, 2006). In actuality, this means that some countries of the Asia-Pacific region are or, at least, used to be unwilling to join the initiatives of the EWG, APP, MEM as well as other international organizations and agreements aiming at the minimization of environmental pollution, introduction of energy efficient technologies and consistent technological changes in national economies. The major cause, which prevented countries of the Asia-Pacific region from joining the environmental initiatives of the APEC and APP, was and still is the impact of such initiatives on national economies. As the matter of fact, the introduction of environmentally friendly and energy efficient technologies requires substantial financial resources and many countries of the Asia-Pacific region, especially developing countries cannot afford funding programs which imply consistent technological changes. Even such countries as China, whose economy was rapidly growing and it keeps growing even in the time of the global economic crisis, could confront numerous economic challenges while introducing energy efficient and environmentally friendly technologies in commercial building and other industries. In other words, the practical implementation of the APEC and APP initiatives would slow down the economic development of countries of the Asia-Pacific region and they viewed such initiatives as a threat to their national interests. As a result, some countries, including the most significant from economic and environmental point of view, such as China and the US, did not fully implement initiatives of the APEC and APP, preferring to conduct their own environmental policies. On the other hand, it is obvious that the implementation of the environmental initiatives of the APEC and APP could have a positive impact on the environment and slow down the negative effects of the climate change or, what is more, they could potentially prevent the further climate change.
Clean coal technology
One of the main initiatives of the EWG is the development of environmental projects related to the clean coal technology. For this purpose, the EWG has created the Expert Group on Clean Fossil Energy (EGCFE), which holds conferences and workshop as well as develops and maintains projects on the introduction of clean coal technology.
In actuality, the EGCFE is quite productive in regard to the development of environmental projects. Normally, the EGCFE approves two to five projects annually which are supported by the countries of the APEC region, except Russia. These projects aim at the introduction of energy efficient, environmentally friendly technologies that facilitate the prevention of the climate change and negative impact of human activities on the environment. In fact, these projects tend to substitute technologies which are dangerous for the environment. In this regard, the substitution of fossil fuels by alternative sources of energy and the introduction of new technologies which use alternative sources of energy instead of fossil fuels are main priorities of the EGCFE. In this regard, the EGCFE is a good example of the successful international cooperation in the field of the environment protection and the struggle of the international community with the climate change.
At the same time, the APP also maintains environmental projects and the introduction of energy efficient, environmentally friendly technologies, but the scope of projects maintained by the APP is consistently larger compared to the EGCFE. To put it more precisely, the APP via its Clean Fossil Energy Task Force and Coal Mining Task Force, runs over 28 projects (Kimble, 2002). It is worth mentioning the fact that the US and Australia along with China and India play the leading part in these projects. Being largest countries and leading economies of the region, the US and Australia are interested in the development of clean coal technologies and, what is more, they attempt to enter the market of such countries as China as well as India and the environmental projects run by the APP force tasks contribute not only to environmental but also economic cooperation between countries, although well-developed countries, such as the US, often turn out to be in an advantageous position due to their technological advancements, while developing countries either are doomed to use old technologies, or license technologies abroad in developed countries. Nevertheless, the cooperation between countries of the Asia-Pacific region in the field of energy efficient technology and environmental protection has proved its efficiency under the APP task forces.
Asia-Pacific countries: Building and coal policies
The development of environmental initiatives of the APEC countries is accompanied by the introduction of energy efficient technologies policies. In this regard, commercial building and coal policies as well as the reduction of the consumption of fossil fuels are strategic directions in the development of environmental policies in the Asia-Pacific region. The commercial building is strategically important because the use of modern technologies allows saving costs on the energy consumption since buildings where energy efficient technologies are applied need to consume less fossil fuels for heating and other technical needs than buildings constructed on the basis of traditional technologies. In such a way, when energy efficient technologies are applied on the mass scale, the overall energy efficiency turns to be at a very high level.
As for coal policies, it has been already mentioned above that the clean coal technology is one of the major goals of the APP and APEC EWG and projects funded by countries of the Asia-Pacific region. The use of fossil fuels represents a serious to the environment because fossil fuels are major sources of the green-house gas emissions which, in their turn, are the major cause of the climate change. In such a way, through the minimization of the fossil fuel consumption and the introduction of new technologies, countries of the Asia-Pacific region attempt to prevent the climate change. Remarkably, the international cooperation is of the utmost importance in this regard because green-house gas emissions affect the entire region and cannot be limited by national borders. Therefore, mutual efforts of the international community are needed to overcome the problem of green-house gas emissions and climate change and the clean coal technology is particularly important in tackling these problems.
As it has been already mentioned above, the successful implementation of environmental projects and technologies in the Asia-Pacific region implies a close cooperation between countries. However, some countries often tend to stay aside of the introduction of energy efficient technologies, when it can affect their economic development. In this regard, the US is probably one of the most controversial countries. On the one hand, the US attempts to take an active part in international cooperation in environmental policies. The US maintains international projects aiming at the prevention of the climate change and it is actively involved in the APP force tasks, but the US views such participation rather as a tool to penetrate new markets and expand its economic influence in the Asia-Pacific region than to improve the environmental situation in the region indeed. On the other hand, the US is reluctant to introduce energy efficient and environmentally friendly technologies in the domestic market. As the matter of fact, the US was not inclined to reduce consistently its green-house emissions. At any rate, during the presidency of G. Bush the US has never got actively involved in the practical implementation of environmental projects at the domestic level. The US refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol, while its participation in the APP and APEC environmental initiatives was limited by international level solely (Antes, 2006).
As a result, the US did not take active steps toward the introduction of energy efficient technologies in commercial building, while its involvement in the implementation of clean coal technology was mainly oriented on international projects in which American companies could participate. The unwillingness of the US to reduce green-house gas emissions and introduce new, energy efficient technologies was and still justified by the unwillingness of the US to slow down its economic development because the reduction of green-house gas emissions would force American companies to invest abundantly into the reconstruction of its production and, what is more, to modernize its car manufacturing industry, which was traditionally oriented on the production of cars paying little attention to the fuel-efficiency. Hence, the reduction of green-house gas emissions was not beneficial for the US economy.
However, in recent years, namely since the beginning of the economic recession in the US, its environmental policies at the domestic level have started to change because energy efficiency became one of the major priorities in the economic development of the country. Some American car manufacturers, such as GM, run bankrupt, while others, Ford and Chrysler, proved to be next to bankruptcy and survived mainly due to the state support. Moreover, the economic recession encouraged them to change priorities and focus on the development of fuel-efficient cars (Millard-Ball, 2008). Thus, the US economy has started to introduce energy efficient technologies in order to save costs in the time of exorbitant oil prices.
In such a context, the recent initiatives of Obama’s administration, which aim at the active participation of the US in international environmental projects and the wider introduction of international norms and agreements in the US to reduce green-house gas emissions. In this respect, it is worth mentioning the fact that the US has started to implement environmental policies at the domestic level that is a very important advancement in the environmental protection and solution of the problem of the climate change in the Asia-Pacific region and the entire world because the US is one of the major countries provoking the climate change for it has one of the largest rate of green-house gas emissions in the world (Lohmann , 2006). Therefore, the change in the American domestic policies is very important for the entire Asia-Pacific region.
Canada is another country, which influences consistently the problem of the climate change and international policies in the Asia-Pacific region. In fact, Canada similarly to the US, Australia and some other developed countries of the region is one of the major sources of green-house gas emissions. No wonder, Canadian environmental policies were similar to that of the US and since the 1990, green-house gas emissions grew steadily by 1.7% annually (Millard-Ball, 2008). Nevertheless, in 2008, the Canadian government has adopted the plan of the consistent, about 20%, reduction of green-house gas emissions by 2020 (Millard-Ball, 2008). Obviously, this plan aims at the minimization of the negative impact of Canadian economy on the environment through the introduction of energy efficient technologies.
China is a particularly dangerous in terms of environmental pollution and climate change because Chinese economy keeps growing rapidly regardless of economic crises. At the same time, the economic growth of China is grounded on the accelerated industrialization, which is accompanied by the extensive exploitation of natural resources and dramatic pollution of the environment. Therefore, the progress of Chinese economy is based on the aggravation of the environmental situation in China and gradually this country becomes one of the major sources of green-house gas emissions in the region. In such a situation, China is unwilling to limit consistently its green-house gas emissions because such a decision can slow down its economic development.
Japan and Republic of Korea
Japan and Republic of Korea are technologically advanced countries and, in spite of the fact that they have consistently smaller territory compared to China or the US, their contribution to the environmental pollution and green-house gas emissions is significant. At the same time, these countries are leaders in the development of environmental initiatives in the Asia-Pacific region. They have adopted plans of the reduction of green-house gas emissions and steadily implement these plans. In such a way, they attempt to involve the international community in the prevention of the climate change and minimization of the negative impact of human activities on the environment.
Russia is another country, whose environmental policies influence the environmental situation in the Asia-Pacific region consistently. However, Russian economy is energy driven, while fossil fuels are strategically important for Russian economy because they comprise the major part of Russian export. At the same time, Russian government plans to increase coal production by 2020 by 75%. Obviously, such substantial increase in coal production has to be accompanied by the introduction of modern technologies, including clean coal technology, which will minimize the negative impact of the use of coal on the environment and green-house gas emissions. To back up the introduction of energy efficient technologies, Russian government supports projects focusing on energy efficient building and development of environmentally friendly technologies.
In conclusion, it should be said that the Asia-Pacific region is very concerned with environmental problems and climate change. The major way to tackle these problems is the introduction of energy efficient building and technologies, such as clean coal technology. At the same time, countries are more inclined to develop international projects but not many countries are ready to reduce green-house gas emissions at the domestic level. Therefore, countries of the Asia-Pacific region should participate in APEC EWG and APP initiatives need to focus not only on international but also domestic environmental policies and projects.