April 14, 2023

Report Identifies Six Decarbonizing Technologies That Will Help Asia's Path to a Greener Future

"Asia, home to vast engines of economic growth, is at the center of the climate debate," says a report written by Economist Impact and sponsored by Eastspring Investment, which is a Singapore-based asset management business of Prudential plc. The report adds that "In the past two decades, global carbon emissions from fossil fuel combustion have risen by 45%, primarily driven by Asia, for which this figure stood at 135%. The region's ongoing dependence on coal has driven its per-head carbon emissions to equal that of the global average. Asia's carbon emissions are likely to rise by 16% over the next decade.

"Meanwhile, the effects of climate change are becoming more pronounced in parts of the region. In the past year, unprecedented floods in Pakistan wiped out a significant share of its crops; India recorded its highest-ever temperatures, with meteorologists sounding the alarm for more to come this year; and a severe heatwave in China exacerbated a drought that impacted food production and the power supply."

The report importantly points out that Asia "is facing significant human and economic costs arising from intense greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Under pressure to set ambitious net zero targets and reduce emissions, technologies that enhance efficiencies and help industries decarbonize will be crucial pieces of the climate puzzle in Asia."

The findings presented in Asia's path to a greener future: Six technologies with decarbonizing potential are based on an extensive literature review, an interview program, and analysis conducted between October 2022 and March 2023. The report's findings, which are listed below, are intended to act as a springboard for discussions to support the development of technologies that have decarbonizing potential and identify the roadblocks to their progress.
  • Technologies that are driving significant gains in Europe or the Americas need to be adapted to the Asian market. For example, the majority of alternative protein products are tailored to suit Western preferences and are prohibitively costly for the more price-sensitive Asian market. Alternative proteins would likely see broader adoption and create more impact if adapted to specific market preferences and price conditions.
  • Decarbonization efforts should aim to address emissions and waste across the entire lifecycle of production and use. Most of the hydrogen currently consumed is grey, which is produced from natural gas. The decarbonization potential of hydrogen-powered vehicles will significantly increase with the use of renewable energy to produce hydrogen fuel. Likewise, using food waste for manufacturing textiles moves away from the current highly polluting linear model of production to a circular economy.
  • Developing supporting infrastructure can enhance technology development. The growth of technologies such as hydrogen vehicles and battery recycling is currently limited due to insufficient supporting infrastructure. Spurring hydrogen vehicle uptake depends on installing a network of refueling stations and green hydrogen production plants. To diminish end-of-life impacts of batteries, well-designed and managed disposable and collection mechanisms are necessary. Implementing policies that support the development of necessary infrastructure will ensure a conducive environment for the growth and expansion of these technologies.
  • Addressing poor consumer sentiment will be key in scaling up technologies. Negative perceptions impede new technology adoption. In the case of alternative proteins, consumers can be deterred by concerns about taste and nutritional value. With hydrogen vehicles, safety is a key issue, while recycled batteries can be perceived as lower quality. Investigations into safety incidents can help curb concerns. In other cases, public awareness and better communication by businesses and governments can go a long way to address common misperceptions.
  • Recycling and reuse can present opportunities to overcome supply chain disruptions owing to changing global dynamics. The prices of critical minerals are on the rise because of growth in demand and fluctuations in supply. Recycling products, such as electric vehicle (EV) batteries, could ease the dependence on expensive raw materials, improve affordability and facilitate the transition away from a linear take-make-waste economy.
  • Policy support in the form of subsidies and financial incentives can reduce technology costs. At present, many new technologies are expensive, which is hindering their adoption and development. Government support through subsidies, grants and other financial incentives can help reduce production costs and enable economies of scale. Lower production costs could translate into lower purchase prices for end consumers and foster greater adoption.
  • Greater public and private investments are needed. While climate technology is attracting investment, more financial support is needed to scale-up the next wave of innovation. Funding is also needed to help install essential infrastructure to support the uptake of climate technologies such as hydrogen production plants and EV charging stations.

The six technologies with decarbonizing potential include are segmented into three verticals: agriculture (alternative proteins and precision farming), transport (EV batteries and hydrogen vehicles), and waste (alternative fabrics and battery recycling). These technologies "show considerable potential for reducing Asia's carbon footprint, as well as improving sustainability and security in the region." However, "each technology has its own set of unique challenges."

I support the report's assertion "Technology is a critical enabler of decarbonization efforts and, as it continues to advance, it brings greater scope to address emissions in hard-to-abate sectors." The report adds that "innovation plays a crucial role in improving energy efficiency and reducing waste, but challenges remain to the broader uptake of each technology. Investment in research, development and deployment of nascent technologies will be essential to achieving our climate goals."

What technologies do you think will have the biggest impact on Asia's path to a greener future?

Aaron Rose is a board member, corporate advisor, and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of GT Perspectives, an online forum focused on turning perspective into opportunity.

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