Asia-Pacific Group Achieving Climate Results Through Partnership

By Andrzej Zwaniecki
USINFO Staff Writer

Washington – A group of U.S. and Asian businesses and governments is leading an effort that could have a profound impact on how major issues of climate change are addressed globally, U.S. officials say.

By involving the private sector, the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate (APP) can provide a realistic framework to a future global arrangement that not only addresses climate change but also supports growth and development, these officials say.

The APP launched in 2005 is designed to accelerate the development and deployment of clean energy technologies through a voluntary public-private partnership among Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and the United States. Together, partner countries account for about half of the world's population and more than half of the world's economy and energy use. The partnership’s policy committee is meeting July 19-20 in Tokyo.

The involvement of the private sector from all six countries makes the APP unique among international partnerships and fora, says Harlan Watson, a senior climate change policy negotiator at the U.S. State Department. It is important because the private sector, not governments, will be driving deployment and transfer of clean energy technologies to developing countries where the growth in energy use and emissions will be greatest, he said in an interview.

“The most governments can do is to provide a little bit of money and establish an enabling environment to stimulate investment,” Watson said.

The partnership is founded on a belief that a successful approach to the climate change problem must be broad based and led by technological solutions, and must address related issues of energy security, economic growth and development, and air pollution. Such an approach has been endorsed by the leaders of the Group of Eight industrialized countries, Watson said.  

The partnership also focuses on market transformation and on removing policy, regulatory and other barriers to development of - and trade in - clean energy technologies.

Karen Harbert, assistant secretary of energy, said that in the near future, the APP can complement other international efforts aimed at making growth and development less energy and carbon intensive. As the partnership develops, it can serve as a model for global discussions on a climate change accord and provide “strong building blocks” for such an accord, she suggested July 11 at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Watson said that promoting best practices and technologies to mitigate carbon emissions from the power-generation sector is going to be the key to the success of the partnership because most of the APP countries will continue to depend heavily on coal for power generation.

Power generation and transmission is one of the eight APP task forces established to achieve the greatest, measurable results in a relatively short time. Other task forces focus on aluminum, buildings and appliances, cement, cleaner fossil energy, coal mining, renewable energy and distributed generation, and steel.

Many of the almost 100 APP projects approved in October 2006 focus on gathering data and identifying market and nonmarket barriers to technology commercialization and transfer, according to Watson. Once basic facts are established, the APP expects to move to the deployment phase on a broader scale, he said. The partnership also is working with the Asia Development Bank on a financing mechanism for APP projects.

Such actions together with the diffusion of clean technologies to other regions could reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by about 23 percent in 2050 compared with what would otherwise have been the case, according to a 2006 study by the Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resources Economics (ABARE).

Some project already have produced results ranging from a voluntary energy efficiency labeling program for appliances to the world’s largest coal-mine-methane power plant, both in China.

As part of another project, U.S. company Solar Turbines has built seven of 20 planned five-megawatt combined heat-and-power plants fired by coke-oven gas in China. Those plants will utilize more than 1 million metric tons of carbon content, which otherwise would have been released to the atmosphere.

Without the APP, this construction might not happen that fast, said Richard Brent, director of government affairs at Solar Turbines.

Brent is a U.S. delegate to the renewable and distributed energy task force. He said the task force has identified problems with connecting renewable sources to the electric grid and related contractual issues as well as relatively high tariffs in China and India as the most important barriers to the spread of renewable technologies.

He said that the renewable energy industry has been working on those issues for some time. But the APP, for the first time, gave industry an opportunity to address Chinese and Indian officials directly. He and other private-sector delegates from all six countries “have made great strides in consensus building in a relatively short time,” Brent said.  

More information about the APP can be found on the partnership’s official site and on the  U.S. APP site. The full text of the ABARE report is available on the Australia’s APP Web site.

For more information, see Climate Change and Clean Energy.