What the war in Ukraine means for Asia’s climate goals

NEW DELHI – Queues at the petrol pumps in Sri Lanka have decreased, but not the fear.

Asanka Sampath, a 43-year-old factory clerk, is always on the alert. He checks his phone for messages, walks past the gas pump and scours social media to see if fuel has arrived. Delays can mean you’re stuck for days.

“I’m really fed up with this,” he said.

His frustrations echo those of the island nation’s 22 million residents, faces the worst economic crisis of all time because of high debt, lost tourism revenue during the pandemic and rising costs. The consequence Political rumors culminated with the formation of a new governmentbut the recovery has been complicated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the resulting upheaval in global energy markets.

Europe need gas means they compete with Asian countries, driving up fossil fuel prices and leading to what Tim Buckley, the director of the think tank Climate Energy Finance, calls “hyperinflation… and I use that word as an understatement.”

Most Asian countries prioritize energy security, sometimes over their climate goals. For rich countries like South Korea or Japan, this means forays into nuclear energy. For the enormous energy needs of China and India, this means relying on dirty coal power in the short term. But for developing countries with already tight finances, the war is having a disproportionate impact, said Kanika Chawla of the United Nations Sustainable Energy Division.

How Asian countries proceed would have cascading consequences: they could either double down on clean energy use or choose not to phase out fossil fuels immediately.

“We’re at a really important crossroads,” Chawla said.


Sri Lanka is an extreme example of the plight of poor nations. Huge debts prevent it from buying energy on credit and force it to ration fuel for key sectors as shortages are expected over the next year.

Sri Lanka has set a target of sourcing 70% of all its energy from renewable sources by 2030 and is aiming to reach net-zero by 2050 – aligning the amount of greenhouse gases they emit with the amount they emit Remove atmosphere, is balanced.

Its dual need to secure energy while cutting costs means it has “no choice” but to wean itself off fossil fuels, said Aruna Kulatunga, who authored a government report for Sri Lanka’s clean energy goals. But others, like Murtaza Jafferjee, director of think tank Advocata Institute, say those targets are “more ambitious than realistic” because the current power grid cannot handle renewable energy.

“It’s going to be a slow grind,” Jafferjee said.

Grids powered by renewable energy need to be more flexible because, unlike fossil fuels, energy from wind or solar fluctuates and can potentially strain transmission grids.

The economic crisis has reduced the demand for energy in Sri Lanka. So while there are still power outages, the country’s existing sources — coal and oil-fired power plants, hydroelectric power, and some solar panels — are coping.


How these two nations meet that demand will have global implications.

And the answer, at least in the short term, appears to be a reliance on coal power – a major source of heat-trapping carbon emissions.

China, currently the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, is aiming to reach net-zero by 2060, which will require significant reductions in emissions.

But since the war, China has not only imported more fossil fuels from Russia, it has also increased its own coal production. The war combined with a severe drought and a domestic energy crisis means the country is prioritizing stopping the lights over cutting off dirty fuel sources.

India is aiming to reach net zero a decade later than China and ranks third on the list of current global emitters, although its historical emissions are very low. No other country is set to see more energy demand growth in the coming years than India, and it is estimated that the nation will need $223 billion to meet its 2030 clean energy goals. Like China, India is trying to increase coal production to reduce reliance on expensive imports and is still in the market for Russian oil despite calls for sanctions.

But the magnitude of future demand also means that neither country has any choice but to increase its clean energy as well.

China is leading the way in renewable energy and moving away from dependence on fossil fuels, said Buckley, who follows the country’s energy policy.

“It could be because they’re paranoid about climate change or because they absolutely want to dominate the industries of the future,” Buckley said. “At the end of the day, the reason doesn’t matter.”

India is also investing heavily in renewable energy and has pledged to generate 50% of its electricity from clean energy sources by 2030.

“The invasion has prompted India to reconsider its energy security concerns,” said Swati D’Souza of the Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.

More domestic production does not mean that both countries burn more coal, but instead replace expensive imported coal with cheap domestic energy, said Christoph Bertram from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. “Crucial” for the global climate goals is where future investments are directed.

“The downside of investing in coal is that you invest less in renewable energy,” he said.


Both Japan and South Korea, two of Asia’s most developed countries, are pushing for nuclear power after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Sanctions on Russian coal and gas imports caused Japan to seek alternative energy sources despite anti-nuclear sentiment dating back to the 2011 Fukushima disaster. A The earlier than expected summer led to power outagesand the government announced plans to speed up regulatory safety reviews to get more reactors up and running.

Japan aims to limit nuclear power to less than a quarter of its energy mix, a target seen as overly optimistic the latest push points out that nuclear power could play a bigger role in the country.

Neighboring South Korea hasn’t seen any near-term impact on energy supplies, sourcing gas from countries like Qatar and Australia and its oil from the Middle East. But European efforts to get energy from the same sources could have indirect effects and drive up prices.

Like Japan, South Korea’s new government has encouraged nuclear-powered electricity and has refused to drastically reduce the country’s coal and gas dependency in a bid to boost the economy.

“Obviously, if this war goes on… we will be faced with the question of what to do with the rising costs,” said Ahn Jaehun of the Korean Federation for Environmental Movement.


The war and the resulting rising gas prices forced Indonesia to do so Reduce ballooning subsidies aim to keep fuel prices and some electricity tariffs in check.

But this was a very “hasty reform” and does not address the challenge of weaning the world’s largest coal exporter off fossil fuels and reaching its net-zero target for 2060, Anissa said. R. Suharsono from the International Institute for Sustainable Development.

“We’re slipping back into just fighting fires,” she said.

Coal exports increased nearly 1.5-fold between April and June compared to 2021 in response to European demand, and Indonesia has already produced over 80% of all the coal it produced last year, according to government data.

The country needs to nearly triple its clean energy investment by 2030 to reach net-zero by 2060, according to the International Energy Agency, but Suharsono said it’s not clear how it will reach those targets.

“There is currently no overarching regulation or clear roadmap,” she said.


Bharatha Mallawarachi in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Edna Tarigan in Jakarta, Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo, Japan, Tong-hyung Kim and Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul, South Korea contributed to this report.


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https://www.local10.com/news/world/2022/10/01/what-the-war-in-ukraine-means-for-asias-climate-goals/ What the war in Ukraine means for Asia’s climate goals

Sarah Y. Kim

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