The role of digitalization has now become integral to achieving sustainability and mitigating climate change amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The Asia Pacific Adaptation Network and the Ministry of the Environment of Japan jointly hosted the virtual 7th Asia-Pacific Climate Change Adaptation Forum with the theme “Enabling Resilience for All: The Critical Decade to Scale-up Action.”
This forum happened in March and was held to formulate national adaptation planning for science and technology. It was also mean to formulate energy and fiscal policies designed to consider the interlinkages between climate change, biodiversity, and health.
These ecosystems- and nature-based policies are meant to serve as the basis for the Asia-Pacific region’s contributions to the Leaders Summit on Climate in the US; the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 26) in Glasgow, Scotland, and the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP 15) in Kunming, China.
The Asia-Pacific area accounts for around 60% of the global population which translates to 4.3 billion people. The region also has the fastest-rising economies globally, which are supported by innovations in technology and crypto that are energy-intensive. That results in the highest growth in electricity generation, which is fueled predominantly (85%) by fossil fuels.
Three of the six biggest carbon dioxide-emitting countries in the world, India, China, and Japan – are in the Asia-Pacific region. This area produces nearly half of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. In that context, the region is also increasingly impacted by extremely severe weather events.
With 2021 massively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and turning out to be the warmest year on record, there is an urgent need to decouple economic growth from greenhouse gas emissions to transition the Asia-Pacific to achieve carbon neutrality.
Several countries in the Asia-Pacific region, including Bhutan, Fiji, the Maldives, Nepal, Japan, South Korea, and the Marshall Islands, have declared their target to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. On its part, China has set its target as 2060. All these commitments are incorporated in their nationally determined contributions.
Based on a newly released International Monetary Fund (IMF) departmental paper, the fiscal policy recommendations for the region is focused on three critical areas:
- Increase in the ability to adapt to climate change
- Increase in the use of carbon taxes
- Increase pandemic spending to achieve greener results
These three recommendations target addressing climate change in the entire region.
Curbing Climate Change In The Asia-Pacific Region Using Digital Technology
Industrial digitalization has entered a new phase of massive and explosive development amid the pandemic. The secretary-general of the International Telecommunication Union, Houlin Zhao, had something to say. The International Telecommunication Union organizes events and publishes reports that help in raising awareness around the role of frontier technologies concerning climate change, the environment, and the circular economy. Zhao explained:
“Today, we are faced with not one but two deep transformations. The first one, driven by emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, the Internet of Things, 5G, and many others, is changing how governments, businesses, and individuals will act in this new century. As for the second transformation, climate change, it disrupts ecosystems, jeopardizing biodiversity, food and water security, and the future of life on our planet. The question for us is whether humanity can turn this digital revolution into climate action and, most importantly, whether we can do it before it is too late.”
“With more and more people coming online, more data being generated and more devices connecting to the network, the digital ecosystem’s carbon footprint is growing.”
The Asia-Pacific area has massive potential, due to the growing prominence of mobile payments and the development of central bank digital currencies (CBDCs), in countries like Singapore, South Korea, Australia, China, Japan, India, and others.
Notably, China’s Blockchain-based Service Network is now creating a global network that is meant to support the future CBDCs from many countries. The aggressive adoption of 5G technology is a catalyst for the development and implementation of blockchain to enhance interoperability and scalability.
South Korea’s Samsung and LG Electronics, China’s Huawei and ZTE, together with Japan’s Sony and NEC are leading the way in 5G technology. Huawei was the first company in the world to offer 5G technology and it ranks number one as a worldwide telecommunications equipment maker.
Nevertheless, the US is restricting the firm’s access to American technology that is critical in producing modern 5G handsets and new 5G-capable mobile telecommunications network. In that context, the firm has seen its market share has declined outside China.
That has also had a major spillover effect on blockchain technology adoption, which supports telecommunications infrastructure to meet unexpected service-level needs by enhancing operations, data sharing, and customer identity validation, and detecting telecom fraud.
Based on the deputy chief engineer of the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology, Denian Shi, the development of the global blockchain sector experienced reduced financing/investment and cooled down in 2019 and 2021.
The main role of digitalization has become integral to continued economic and societal activity and to lessening the COVID-19’s impact. Based on the recent reports, the Asia-Pacific area is expected to contribute nearly 19.3% of the general global spending on blockchain technology, powered by lots of investments by the fintech industry.
The integration of biometrics in smartphones amid the coronavirus pandemic is anticipated to grow blockchain-based digital identity solutions by around 21% annually. The ever-growing demand for connectivity and bandwidth by billions of devices in the area has made it critical for wireless networks, computing devices, and blockchain platforms to limit the total communications energy consumption and the associated carbon footprint.
With 5G being commercially deployed globally, Huawei and LG Electronics have already started working toward the launch of 6G networks, which will be “50 times faster than 5G” in spectrum efficiency, mobility, and positioning capabilities.
Top Solar Energy Adoption Globally Is In The Asia-Pacific Region
The energy industry is the world’s leading pollutant, accounting for about 72% of global greenhouse gas emissions, based on the data from the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.
Energy demands are continuously increasing which is pushing CO2 emissions to the highest levels in history. That has made the strategies of generating huge quantities of clean clean energy to become a survival issue for the Asia-Pacific region.
As a result of this development, the region is shifting its focus to the decarbonization of the grid and, in turn, turned to the production of electricity from renewable energy sources. In March 2021, 65 new renewable power plant contracts were unveiled in the area, and almost 80% of these plants are solar.
Currently, China leads the world as the biggest producer of solar energy, aiming to transform its industrial structure, economy, and society with various disruptive innovations in the next-generation photovoltaic module for space and earth applications. India comes in second, Japan third, and Vietnam fourth in the region.
Three out of the four countries are also researching space-based solar power and power beaming. They want to use it as a solution for the region’s transition toward carbon neutrality. Notably, Japan and China are emerging as international leaders in this area.
Recently, the United States Naval Research Laboratory conducted its Photovoltaic Radiofrequency Antenna Module Flight Experiment (PRAM-FX). The experiment was meant to change solar power into radio frequency microwave energy aboard the United States Space Force’s X-37B robotic space aeroplane.
According to a statement by the innovation power beaming and space solar portfolio lead at NRL, Paul Jaffe, PRAM-FX is a 12-inch (30.5 centimeters) square tile. This tile collects solar energy and then changes it to microwave power. However, it does not beam it anywhere. Instead, this experiment gauges the performance of sunlight-to-microwave conversion.