The Asia-Pacific region is beginning to emerge as one of the world’s largest energy markets. Energy uptake in the Asia-Pacific region has seen annual compounding growth rates of over 4.9%, more than double the global rate. However, this growth is not without it's negatives: huge strain forced upon already delicate ecosystems.

A recent report by the United Nation’s found that between 1975 and 2005 domestic material consumption in the region grew at an annual rate of 4.9%, whilst the rest of the world was growing at only 0.5%.  “Emissions in this region have grown at a faster speed than in any other region, and many Asia-Pacific countries have reached the limits of domestically available resources”, the report states

Growth in energy use in the Asia-Pacific region increased rapidly in every single country except for Japan. In Australia alone, demand for energy more than doubled between 1975 and 2005. According to the report "The Asia-Pacific region has shown increasing energy intensity per unit of economic output - this is the opposite of what is required to maintain GDP growth while lowering environmental impacts".

This growth in energy demand has serious repercussions for the environment in the region, with problems including pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity loss and rapidly reducing resources.  With the region furthering its influence in the world economy, further growth in emissions in the region will exact a high price when carbon pricing mechanisms are introduced.

The region has so far been able to meet it’s growing energy needs by introducing higher levels of coal in the energy mix, but this growth cannot continue to last forever. Major environmental problems are starting to emerge throughout the region, especially in China where entire ecosystems are beginning to collapse.

In order to curb pending environmental doom, the Asia-Pacific region requires a new ‘industrial revolution’ focused on meeting the food, energy and water needs of the region with only approximately 20 per cent of the current per-capita use and emissions found in the current system. According to the study, in order to transition to a new, more sustainable industrial system ‘green economy’, the region will require:

  • A rapid increase in the efficiency of resource use and movement systems.
  • Innovation in policies that support resource efficiency and systems innovation.
  • New forms of governance and institutions and markets.

There are signs of good news however, examples such as Tonga and Tuvalu which have set adventurous renewable energy goals of over 50% in the next decade. Japan is beginning to enacted some of the highest feed-in tariffs around the world. And even China’s growth in renewable energy has far outstripped that of most developed or developing nations, but is it all too little too late for the region?

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