Five ways Asia is tackling climate change

The latest major climate change report can make for grim reading – the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its report earlier this month, saying greenhouse gas emissions will need to start declining within two years to hit key targets. Despite this, there’s still a place for optimism as green solutions develop around the world. Here we look at some unique and effective innovations being used across Asia to tackle climate change.

Cooling big cities in a warmer world 

Heat waves will be an increasingly common part of climate change and Singapore is one of many places across Asia that will bear the brunt of it. For Singapore, factors like urban heat – from high-density building materials like concrete and steel absorbing heat – and the island’s high humidity mean it’s heating up twice as fast as the rest of the world.

A lot of energy goes towards keeping offices and apartments cool, so it’s here that Singaporeans are looking to make a greener difference. Innovations have been made to air conditioning, including retrofitting an entire district cooling system involving chilled water.

New buildings in Singapore are increasingly being built with more efficient air conditioning systems, while older buildings can now be retrofitted with them. Photo by Andrew Kow on Unsplash  

Existing cooling systems will be connected to produce chilled water. The water will circulate to buildings through insulated pipes, cooling down the district, rather than individual buildings. This will make it more efficient, reduce energy use, and free up chiller space as the existing system is condensed. New builds often have these kinds of systems incorporated from the get-go, but being able to retrofit them to existing buildings and districts could make a big difference in the long run.

Shipping moves towards zero-emission

The shipping industry is a surprisingly large source of emissions – in fact, Time reports that if the industry were a country, it would be the sixth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, roughly on par with Germany.

Shipping companies are well aware of this too. In Japan, shipping company NYK is one of several looking into lowering emissions from its ships. In 2018, the company released plans for a zero-emission car and truck carrier, which would use 70 percent of the power a conventional ship needs – the power itself would come from solar and renewable energy sources.

In 2022, NYK partnered with tanker operator Uyeno Group to lead projects developing zero-emission ships.

Empowering rural women to drive change 

The very definition of a grassroots campaign, Indian NGO Swayam Shikshan Prayog (SSP) has been working with rural women since 2009. Women come on as entrepreneurs to champion clean energy on a village level – anything from selling clean cook stoves, to promoting solar lanterns or organic farming – and SSP provides support and funding along the way.

During Covid, SSP worked with female farmers to adapt in a pandemic age. With lockdowns and travel restrictions, markets often became hyperlocal. Conventionally, farmers may travel a long way to sell their produce – a practice women weren’t often allowed to do. However, these hyperlocal markets enabled women to sell their own produce and SSP worked with women to build sustainable businesses closer to home.

Tech companies dealing with food waste 

Food waste can be a surprisingly large factor in climate change. Food that is thrown away can end up buried in a landfill and without oxygen, the organic material starts decomposing, releasing methane. On top of that, all the resources put into growing and shipping food are essentially wasted. In this way, food waste accounts for roughly 6 percent of global greenhouse emissions.

In 2019, the Thailand Development Research Institute said 64 percent of the country’s rubbish is food waste and only a small part of that is recycled. Bangkok in particular faces a massive crisis in food waste. But tech companies are coming up with ways to cut down where it counts. For example, there’s an app to help restaurants track food waste, in turn helping chefs be more efficient with their produce.

Throwing away fresh produce can be a surprisingly large contributor to climate change. Photo by nrd on Unsplash  

Then there’s Eden Agritech, a company that developed an invisible, chemical-free coating for fresh produce, which helps produce stay fresher for longer. On top of that, others are looking at ways to compost or grow vegetables in the centre of a city.

Alongside a renewed push from officials to sort and recycle waste small but important steps are being taken on a more sustainable path.

China’s renewable resources 

It's no secret that China has been the world's biggest contributor to fossil fuel emissions over the last few years, particularly as it primarily uses coal as the country's main source of energy. By itself, China emits roughly 25 percent of the world's greenhouse gases.

But with increasing climate pressure, China is fast becoming a global leader in renewable energy - it's now the world's largest producer of wind and solar energy. China's National Energy Administration announced in late 2021 that it planned to double its generating capacity in the next five years. There's still a long way for the country as it weans itself from coal but the country is planning for an ambitious move.

- Asia Media Centre