Asia Clean Energy Forum 2021 - Masatsugu Asakawa

Speech | 15 June 2021

Opening remarks by Masatsugu Asakawa, President, Asian Development Bank, at the Asia Clean Energy Forum 2021, 15 June 2021

Introduction

Ladies and gentlemen, greetings.

On behalf of the Asian Development Bank, welcome to the Asia Clean Energy Forum 2021. We are happy to see that over 3,000 participants have joined this online gathering, our 16th Forum since 2006.

Our theme this year is Accelerating the Low Carbon Transition in Asia and the Pacific. Twelve years since ADB’s clean energy program started, it is even more relevant today.

I. The urgent need for climate action

My friends, as our region confronts and recovers from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, we must not lose sight of the continued need to promote sustainable development while also taking action on global climate change, which remains the existential challenge of our time.

Asia and the Pacific must take its place at the front lines of this effort. The region, which now accounts for 36% of global GDP, has made great progress in economic development and poverty reduction. But it is also responsible for around 80% of the world’s coal consumption, and up to 60% of CO2 emissions. Many countries have also experienced the devastating consequences of climate change: floods, droughts, heat waves, and storms.

Now is the time for bold action. We must commit wholeheartedly to fighting climate change, including meeting the emission-reduction goals under the Paris Agreement—all while promoting economic growth and putting the region’s development on a green path.

In the energy sector, we need to make major changes. These include:

  • Avoiding the use of fossil fuels and switching to low-carbon fuels;
  • Deploying more renewable energy;
  • Improving energy efficiency;
  • Reducing final energy demand; and
  • Incentivizing investment in low-carbon technologies.

Making these changes will prove challenging. The pace and scale of the energy transition for countries in Asia and the Pacific will vary significantly.

Broad commitment across the region, along with tailored, country-level support from development partners, will be needed to meet the goal of limiting global warming to no more than 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels. Moreover, the pandemic has impeded the progress on sustainable and equitable growth.

We need to get back on the path to low-carbon sustainable development. In addition, we have to balance climate mitigation and adaptation efforts. And we must ensure universal energy access, as more than 200 million people in the region still have no electricity.

This effort must include addressing the special challenges of disadvantaged communities and the need of women for modern, clean, and affordable energy, and for sustainable livelihood.

II. ADB’s support for global commitments to bold climate actions

In spite of the current situation, there is a path to addressing these challenges successfully. Let me describe this path and how ADB stands in full support of efforts to make it a reality.

Global action to achieve net zero emissions by around mid-century has gained momentum over the past year. Among the countries that have pledged carbon-neutrality are the People’s Republic of China, Fiji, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Maldives, the Marshall Islands, Singapore, and Timor-Leste.

This November, the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) will convene in Glasgow. More countries are expected to submit more ambitious nationally determined contributions or NDCs, and to signify their commitment to carbon-neutrality.

ADB is ready to take on a leadership role in Asia and the Pacific in meeting these commitments.

We aim at stepping up our climate finance and capacity-building efforts to help our developing member countries (DMCs) achieve their NDCs.

Under our Strategy 2030, our target is to focus 75% of ADB’s operations on climate adaptation and mitigation. We will also provide at least $80 billion in climate financing from 2019 to 2030, which means on average about $6.6 billion annually.

Due to the need to address the impact of the pandemic, our climate financing last year was about $4.3 billion. This year, we are confident that we will be able to provide over $6 billion for climate mitigation and adaptation through measures including investing in clean energy, as we did in 2019 when ADB provided in total $6.5 billion for climate finance.

ADB will contribute to the global effort envisioned by COP26 on multiple fronts. This includes promoting greater collaboration and cooperation; balanced climate mitigation and adaptation efforts; and a holistic approach that integrates the ecological, social, and financial aspects of resilience across our operations. And we are aligning our operations to support the targets of the Paris Agreement.

We will also continue to utilize our private sector operations, which will be pivotal to filling investment gaps and spearheading technological and business innovation in the pursuit of sustainable solutions.

III. Innovative technologies to support clean energy development

I want to emphasize here that the energy transition requires comprehensive long-term planning combined with effective innovations. ADB is committed to helping our DMCs as they formulate and implement technology roadmaps to achieve their NDCs.

ADB’s support is taking full advantage of major technology advances that have slashed the costs of producing renewable energy—by up to 80% in the case of solar photovoltaics. Emerging technologies like smart grids, energy storage, and hydrogen are making it easier to integrate renewable energy into power networks and distributed energy systems. Smart technologies have enhanced the flexibility and resilience of power networks. Digitalization has also boosted energy efficiencies on the demand side.

Let me offer some examples of innovative energy projects we are supporting that reflect synergy between the public and private sector and have cross-sectoral impact:

  • We approved $8 million grant for our first energy sector project in Kiribati, the South Tarawa Renewable Energy Project involving the installation of climate-resilient solar power capacity on a water reserve. The project design includes rainwater collection as an adaptation measure to deal with extreme weather, and a tree planting program for protection of the water reserve.
  • We provided long-term financing in Thailand for a 10-megawatt (MW) wind power project with an integrated 1.88 megawatt-hour (MWh) pilot battery energy storage system. This is the first private sector project in the country to integrate utility-scale wind power generation with battery energy storage.
  • Our $100 million loan for the First Utility-Scale Energy Storage Project in Mongolia will increase renewable energy use by providing a large energy reserve, load shifting capacity, and emergency back-up. This will help with Mongolia’s decarbonization of its heavily coal-dependent energy system.

IV. A new ADB Energy Policy for a changing energy landscape

Last, let me note that we are reviewing ADB’s Energy Policy in light of the profound changes the region faces in the energy landscape since the current policy was formulated in 2009. We have been consulting stakeholders since last year and plan to update our Energy Policy by the end of 2021.

We envision an Energy Policy that is aligned with our Strategy 2030 as well as global commitments under the Paris Agreement. ADB's new policy will be responsive to the needs of our DMCs as they build sustainable and resilient energy systems.  While the final decision will have to be made by our Board, we are also aiming for a formal withdrawal from financing new coal-fired power generation.

V. Closing

Let me close by thanking our co-organizers, the United States Agency for International Development and the Korea Energy Agency, for their continuing support of this Forum.

I would also like to thank Mr. Alok Sharma, the President-Designate of COP26, for his contribution to ACEF 2021 following his participation in ADB’s briefing to the board and Annual Meeting. He comes with an urgent message, which he has been articulating in various fora: that we must all act now to get the world on track to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Allow me as well to acknowledge the leading role that the United Kingdom is taking in promoting global action on climate change at this critical time.

Finally, I wish to thank all of you for participating in this year’s Forum. You are the communities of collaboration that our region needs to make our energy cleaner to ensure green, sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific.

I wish you a productive ACEF 2021.