Region advances with clean energy, innovation, infrastructure

By Yang Wanli in Bangkok | China Daily | Updated: 2023-05-03 07:24
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Liu Xueliang, general manager of BYD Asia-Pacific's auto sales division, speaks at a signing ceremony in Bangkok, Thailand, in September, at which Chinese automaker BYD signed the land purchase agreement to build its new electric vehicle factory in Rayong Province. LIN HAO/XINHUA

But report urges Asia-Pacific to step up action on UN sustainable development goals

The Asia-Pacific region has made good progress on affordable and clean energy, innovation and infrastructure, demonstrating an ongoing commitment to sustainable development despite many challenges, according to a regional intergovernmental platform.

However, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, or ESCAP, said in its 2023 Asia-Pacific SDG Progress Report that overall progress in the region has been slow regarding the 17 sustainable development goals, or SDGs, and 169 targets.

Based on current trends, the commission said it will still take another 42 years for the region to reach its goals.

The 17 SDGs are social, economic and environmental goals adopted by the UN in 2015 as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Of the goals being investigated, the Asia-Pacific region has made the most progress in affordable and clean energy (Goal 7) and industry, innovation and infrastructure (Goal 9).

Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, ESCAP's undersecretary-general and executive secretary, said that while progress toward climate action (Goal 13) was far below expectations, that made toward achieving Goal 7 was largely driven by achievements in access to electricity and international support for clean and renewable energy.

She added that progress toward achieving Goal 9 was driven by successes in mobile network coverage and infrastructure development in the least-developed countries.

Regarding Goal 7, a new trend to boost clean energy, green development and innovation has swept the region in recent years. For example, in Thailand, the government has drawn up a 20-year strategy to achieve high-income status by 2036.

This strategy, known as Thai 4.0, includes a wide range of top-down initiatives, especially in infrastructure and public development. It aims to transform the country into an innovative and value-based industrial base, with an emphasis on 12 fields, including digital, automation and robotics, aviation and logistics, and biofuel and biochemicals.

The Eastern Economic Corridor, or EEC, lies at the heart of Thailand 4.0. The EEC plan is being implemented in three eastern Thai provinces — Chonburi, Rayong and Chachoengsao.

Djitt Laowattana, special adviser to the EEC Office, said the aim of constructing the EEC in Thailand is to promote the nation's innovations on the world stage and transform its economy to adopt technology and innovations with an environmentally friendly policy.

China plays a supportive role on Thailand's road to green development.

A Chinese official said at the United Nations Economic and Social Council's Financing for Development Forum 2023 held at the UN headquarters in New York last month that China considers that humankind lives in the global village.

Luo Zhaohui, chairman of the China International Development Cooperation Agency, stressed at the forum that the development of all countries is the only real development.

"China is committed to narrowing the North-South gap and supporting and assisting other developing countries to accelerate development. We will continue our actions, make more contributions to achieving SDGs, and leave no country and people behind," Luo said.

China has shared its innovations and technological progress with the world to boost development for SDGs, especially among developing countries such as Thailand.

In March, BYD, a leading Chinese electric vehicle manufacturer, held a groundbreaking ceremony for its first car plant in Thailand, marking the latest move by Chinese automakers to expand their footprint in Southeast Asia. BYD is among the Chinese electric vehicle brands building factories in Rayong Province.

With China announcing in March that it would work closely with Thailand by giving it language and vocational support, Laowattana said this move will accelerate Thailand 4.0, especially in fields such as digital, automation and robotics, and aviation and logistics.

For years, Thailand has been the leader in solar and wind energy production in Southeast Asia. Now, it is planning to transition to a national energy mix that relies on renewable power to meet about 30 percent of the country's total electricity demand by 2037.

In December, the renewable power generation arm of Thai energy company Bangchak Corp announced plans to build a wind farm in Laos in cooperation with PowerChina International Group.

Comprising 133 wind turbines, the project, which has been named Monsoon, will be the largest wind power plant in Southeast Asia and the first in Laos, with the capacity to generate 600 megawatts of electricity.

In March, the project received an Asian Development Bank grant of about $700 million. Suzanne Gaboury, director-general of the ADB's Private Sector Operations Department, said the financing from the bank and its partners will help unlock Laos' untapped wind resources, providing a basis for the transition to clean energy.

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