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

Oct 1, 2022, 3:18 AM | Updated: 3:26 pm
Women work in fields near the windmill farm in Anantapur district, Andhra Pradesh, India, Wednesday...

Women work in fields near the windmill farm in Anantapur district, Andhra Pradesh, India, Wednesday, Sept 14, 2022. India is investing heavily in renewable energy and has committed to producing 50% of its power from clean energy sources by 2030. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

(AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

              A windmill farm works as the sun sets in Anantapur district, Andhra Pradesh, India, Wednesday, Sept 14, 2022. India is investing heavily in renewable energy and has committed to producing 50% of its power from clean energy sources by 2030. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)
            
              A woman grazes her sheep near a solar power plant in Pavagada Tumkur district, in the southern Indian state of Karnataka, India, Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022. India is investing heavily in renewable energy and has committed to producing 50% of its power from clean energy sources by 2030. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)
            
              FILE - A labor activist holds up a smoke stick during a rally against fuel price hikes in Jakarta, Indonesia, Sept. 21, 2022. The war, and consequent rising gas prices, forced Indonesia to reduce ballooning subsidies aimed at keeping fuel prices and some power tariffs in check. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana, File)
            
              FILE - Motorists queue up to fill up their tanks after the government announced an increase in fuel prices, at a gasoline station in Jakarta, Indonesia, Sept. 3, 2022. The war, and consequent rising gas prices, forced Indonesia to reduce ballooning subsidies aimed at keeping fuel prices and some power tariffs in check. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana, File)
            
              A solar power plant in Pavagada Tumkur district, in the southern Indian state of Karnataka, India, Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022. India is investing heavily in renewable energy and has committed to producing 50% of its power from clean energy sources by 2030. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)
            
              FILE - Tourists ride horses near Wind turbines on the grassland in Zhangbei county, in north China's Hebei province on Aug. 15, 2022. China, currently the top emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, aims to reach net zero by 2060, requiring significant slashing of emissions. (AP Photo/Andy Wong, File)
            
              FILE - People wait in a queue with empty cylinders to buy domestic gas at a distribution center, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, July 12, 2022. Most Asian countries are prioritizing keeping the country running, no matter the energy source. Enormous debts prevent it from buying energy on credit, forcing it to ration fuel for key sectors with shortages anticipated for the next year. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool, File)
            
              FILE - People carry gas cylinders after they bought it at a distribution center, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, July 12, 2022. Most Asian countries are prioritizing keeping the country running, no matter the energy source. Enormous debts prevent it from buying energy on credit, forcing it to ration fuel for key sectors with shortages anticipated for the next year. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool, File)
            
              FILE - Smoke and steam rise from towers at the coal-fired Urumqi Thermal Power Plant in Urumqi in western China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, Wednesday, April 21, 2021. China, currently the top emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, aims to reach net zero by 2060, requiring significant slashing of emissions. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File)
            
              A solar plant sits in Pavagada Tumkur district, in the southern Indian state of Karnataka, India, Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022. India is investing heavily in renewable energy and has committed to producing 50% of its power from clean energy sources by 2030. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)
            
              Women work in fields near the windmill farm in Anantapur district, Andhra Pradesh, India, Wednesday, Sept 14, 2022. India is investing heavily in renewable energy and has committed to producing 50% of its power from clean energy sources by 2030. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

NEW DELHI, India (AP) — The queues outside petrol pumps in Sri Lanka have lessened, but not the anxiety.

Asanka Sampath, a 43-year-old factory clerk, is forever vigilant. He checks his phone for messages, walks past the pump, and browses social media to see if fuel has arrived. Delays could mean being left stranded for days.

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

His frustrations echo that of the 22-million inhabitants of the island nation, facing its worst ever economic crisis because of heavy debts, lost tourism revenue during the pandemic, and surging costs. The consequent political turmoil culminated with the formation of a new government, but recovery has been complicated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the consequent upending of global energy markets.

Europe’s need for gas means that they’re competing with Asian countries, driving up prices of fossil fuels and resulting in what Tim Buckley, the director of the thinktank Climate Energy Finance, refers to as “hyper-inflation … and I use that word as an understatement.”

Most Asian countries are prioritizing 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 it implies relying on dirty coal power in the short term. But for developing countries with already-strained finances, the war is having a disproportionate impact, said Kanika Chawla, of the United Nations’ sustainable energy unit.

How Asian countries choose to go ahead would have cascading consequences: They could either double down on clean energy or decide to not phase out fossil fuels immediately.

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

SRI LANKA: “SLOW GRIND”

Sri Lanka is an extreme example of the predicament facing poor nations. Enormous debts prevent it from buying energy on credit, forcing it to ration fuel for key sectors with shortages anticipated for the next year.

Sri Lanka set itself a target of getting 70% of all its energy from renewable energy by 2030 and aims to reach net zero — balancing the amount of greenhouse gas they emit with how much they take out of the atmosphere — by 2050.

Its twin needs of securing energy while reducing costs means it has “no other option” than 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 the think tank Advocata Institute say these targets are more “aspirational than realistic” because the current electrical grid can’t handle renewable energy.

“It will be a slow grind,” said Jafferjee.

Grids that run on renewable energy need to be nimbler because, unlike fossil fuels, energy from wind or the sun fluctuates, potentially stressing transmission grids.

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

CHINA, INDIA: HOME-GROWN ENERGY

How these two nations meet this demand will have global ramifications.

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

China, currently the top emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, aims to reach net zero by 2060, requiring significant slashing of emissions.

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

India aims to reach net zero a decade later than China and is third on the list of current global emitters, although their historical emissions are very low. No other country will see a bigger increase in energy demand than India in the coming years, and it is estimated that the nation will need $223 billion to meet its 2030 clean energy targets. Like China, India’s looking to ramp up coal production to reduce dependence on expensive imports and is still in the market for Russian oil despite calls for sanctions.

But the size of future demand also means that neither country has a choice but to also boost their clean energy.

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

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

India is also investing heavily in renewable energy and has committed to producing 50% of its power from clean energy sources by 2030.

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

More domestic production doesn’t mean that the two countries are burning more coal, but instead substituting expensive imported coal with cheap homegrown energy, said Christoph Bertram at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. What was “crucial” for global climate goals was where future investments were directed.

“The flipside of investing into coal means you invest less into renewables,” he said.

JAPAN, SOUTH KOREA: THE NUCLEAR OPTION

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

Sanctions against Russian coal and gas imports resulted in Japan looking for alternative energy sources despite anti-nuclear sentiments dating back to the 2011 Fukushima disaster. An earlier-than-expected summer resulted in power shortages, and the government announced plans to speed up regulatory safety checks to get more reactors running.

Japan aims to limit nuclear energy to less than a quarter of its energy mix, a goal seen as overly optimistic, but the recent push indicates that nuclear may play a larger role in the country.

Neighboring South Korea hasn’t seen short-term impacts on energy supplies since it gets gas from countries like Qatar and Australia and its oil from the Middle East. But there may be an indirect hit from European efforts to secure energy from those same sources, driving up prices.

Like Japan, South Korea’s new government has promoted nuclear-generated electricity and has indicated reluctance to sharply reduce the country’s coal and gas dependence since it wants to boost the economy.

“If this war continues … we will obviously face a question on what should be done about the rising costs,” said Ahn Jaehun, from the Korean Federation for Environmental Movement.

INDONESIA: DAMAGE CONTROL

The war, and consequent rising gas prices, forced Indonesia to reduce ballooning subsidies aimed at keeping fuel prices and some power tariffs in check.

But this was a very “hurried reform” and doesn’t address the challenge of weaning the world’s largest coal exporter off fossil fuels and reaching its 2060 net zero goal, said Anissa. R. Suharsono, of the International Institute for Sustainable Development.

“We’re sliding back, into just firefighting,” she said.

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

The country needs to nearly triple its clean energy investment by 2030 to achieve net zero by 2060, according to the International Energy Agency, but Suharsono said it wasn’t clear how it was going to meet those targets.

“There are currently no overarching regulations or a 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.

___

Associated Press climate and environmental coverage receives support from several private foundations. See more about AP’s climate initiative here. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - A flyer seeking information about the killings of four University of Idaho students who were...
Associated Press

Idaho police seek car seen near site where 4 students killed

Police are asking for help finding the occupant of a car that was seen near where four University of Idaho students were stabbed to death last month, saying that person could have "critical information" about the case.
20 hours ago
murders...
Associated Press

Appeals court upholds most Eyman campaign finance violations

A Washington state Court of Appeals on Tuesday upheld most of the campaign finance violations that longtime anti-tax initiative promoter Tim Eyman was found liable for last year.
20 hours ago
A Washington State Department of Agriculture worker displays an Asian giant hornet taken from a nes...
Associated Press

No northern giant hornets found in 2022 in Washington state

Citizen trapping of northern giant hornets in northwest Washington ended Nov. 30 without any confirmed sightings of the hornets this year, state officials said Tuesday.
20 hours ago
Peter Møller, center, attorney and co-founder of the Danish Korean Rights Group, submits the docum...
Associated Press

South Korea’s truth commission to probe foreign adoptions

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission will investigate the cases of dozens of South Korean adoptees in Europe and the United States who suspect their origins were falsified or obscured during a child export frenzy in the mid- to late-1900s. The decision Thursday opens what could be South Korea’s most […]
20 hours ago
FILE - Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper watches during warm ups before an NFL football game bet...
Associated Press

Panthers owner settles tax fight over failed practice space

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The South Carolina county where Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper started building and then abandoned a new practice facility has reached a settlement over $21 million in sales tax money given to the NFL team. Tepper will pay back the money, and York County agreed its dispute was totally resolved with […]
20 hours ago
Associated Press

Deep, 5.8 magnitude quake shakes Indonesia’s capital

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — A strong and deep earthquake shook Indonesia’s capital and other parts of the main island Java on Thursday but there were no immediate reports of serious damage or casualties. High-rises in Jakarta, the capital, swayed for several seconds and some ordered evacuations. The U.S. Geological Survey said the 5.8 magnitude earthquake […]
20 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
What the war in Ukraine means for Asia’s climate goals