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Asia Pacific’s solarized digitization agenda

The virtual 7th Asia-Pacific Climate Change Adaptation Forum was hosted in March by Japan’s Ministry of the Environment, together with the Asia Pacific Adaptation Network (APAN) Secretariat. The theme was “Enabling Resilience for All: The Critical Decade to Scale-up Action” with the goal of formulating National Adaptation Planning for science and technology, and energy and fiscal policies that consider the interlinkages between climate change, health, and biodiversity. These nature- and ecosystem-based policies will serve as the basis for the Asia-Pacific region’s contributions to the “Leaders’ Summit on Climate” in the United States; the United Nations Biodiversity Conference (COP 15) in Kunming, China; and the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 26) in Glasgow, United Kingdom.

Asia-Pacific accounts for 60% of the global population (4.4 billion people). It also comprises some of the world’s fastest rising economies supported by technological/cryptocurrency innovation that is highly energy intensive. This has resulted in a high growth of electricity generation, fueled predominantly (85%) by fossil fuels and, in particular, coal.

Three of the six largest carbon dioxide-emitting countries – China, India, and Japan – are located in Asia-Pacific; they produce around half of the world’s carbon dioxide with the highest emission intensity. As a result, the region is also increasingly exposed to extreme weather events.

Country  CO2 emission rank  

CBCD

Crypto currency mining Solar energy rank Space solar Carbon subsidies Carbon tax
China 1 Yes Yes 1 Yes Yes Yes
India 4 Yes Yes 2 Yes Yes Yes
Japan 6 Yes Yes 2 Yes Yes Yes

With 2020 witnessing the Covid-19 pandemic and being the warmest year on record, there is an urgent need to decouple economic growth from greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to transition the Asia-Pacific region towards carbon neutrality.

A few countries in the region, including Japan, the Republic of Korea, Bhutan, Fiji, the Maldives, the Marshall Islands, and Nepal have set 2050 carbon neutrality targets. China also has net zero goals set for 2060. These commitments are incorporated in their Nationally Determined Contributions.

World’s top solar energy adoption is in Asia-Pacific

The energy sector is the world’s number one pollutant, accounting for over 30% of global GHG emissions, according to the Centre for Climate and Energy Solutions. With energy demands continually increasing, pushing CO2 emissions to their highest levels in history, methods of generating large quantities of clean energy have become a survival concern for the Asia-Pacific region.

As a result, the region has shifted its focus to decarbonization of the grid and production of electricity from renewable energy with 65 new renewable power plant contracts announced in the region during March 2021 alone. Fifty-one percent of these plants are solar.

China leads the world as the top producer of solar energy to transform industrial structure, economy, and society with disruptive innovation in the next generation of photovoltaic module technology for both earth and space applications. Japan ranks second, India third, and South Korea fourth in the region in this regard. These four countries are also conducting research on space-based solar power and power beaming as a solution to the region’s transition towards carbon neutrality, with Japan and China emerging as international leaders in this area.

Recently, the US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) conducted a Photovoltaic Radio-frequency Antenna Module Flight Experiment (PRAM-FX) to transform solar power into radio frequency microwave energy aboard the U.S. Space Force’s X-37B robotic space plane. According to Dr. Paul Jaffe of NRL,  PRAM-FX is a 12-inch (30.5 centimeters) square tile that collects solar energy and converts it to microwave power but is not beaming it anywhere.  Rather, the experiment is gauging the performance of sunlight-to-microwave conversion.

Turning digital technology innovation into climate action

With the Covid-19 pandemic, industrial digitization has entered a new phase of explosive development. “Today, we are faced with not one but two deep transformations. The first one, driven by emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, the Internet of Things, 5G and many others, is changing how governments, businesses, and individuals will act in this new century,” said Houlin Zhao, Secretary-General, International Telecommunication Union, which organizes events and publishes reports to raise awareness of the role of frontier technologies with regards to the environment, climate change, and the circular economy.

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He continued, “As for the second transformation, climate change, it disrupts ecosystems, jeopardizing biodiversity, food, and water security and the future of life on our planet. The question for us is whether humanity can turn this digital revolution into climate action and, most importantly, whether we can do it before it is too late…… [Because] with more and more people coming online, more data being generated and more devices connecting to the network, the digital ecosystem’s carbon footprint is growing.”

The Asia-Pacific region boasts tremendous potential, owing to growing prominence in mobile payments, and the implementation of central bank issued currencies (CBDC) in various countries. For example, China’s Blockchain-based Service Network (BSN) is developing a global network that will support future CBDCs from multiple countries. The adoption of 5G technology is also a catalyst for blockchain implementation to improve scalability and interoperability.

The role of digitization has become central to continued economic and societal activity and to the lessening of the Covid pandemic impact. According to recent reports, the Asia-Pacific region is expected to contribute about 19.3% of the overall global spending on blockchain technology fueled by increased investments by the Fintech sector. Integration of biometrics in smartphones amid the Covid-19 pandemic is expected to grow blockchain based digital identity solutions by 21%.

The ever-increasing demand for connectivity and bandwidth by billions of devices in the region has made it important for wireless networks, blockchain platforms, and computing devices to limit the total communications energy consumption and associated carbon footprint.With 5G being commercially deployed worldwide, LG Electronics and Huawei have already began working towards launching 6G networks which will be 50 times faster than the 5G network in spectrum efficiency, positioning capabilities, and mobility. Studies show that 6G could provide energy self-sustainability (ESS) to massive IoE devices with blockchain technology central to addressing significant challenges.

Conclusion

Climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing Asia-Pacific. A newly released IMF staff paper makes fiscal policy recommendations for the region focused in three areas:

  • Increase in the use of Carbon Taxes;
  • Increase in public spending towards greener activities;
  • Increase pandemic spending for greener activities.

About the author

Selva Ozelli, Esq., CPA is an international tax attorney and CPA who frequently writes about tax, legal and accounting issues for Tax Notes, Bloomberg BNA, other publications and the OECD.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own, and do not necessarily reflect those held by pv magazine.

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Source: pv magazine