ASEAN energy security pact focuses on alternative fuels

Asian and Pacific leaders signed an agreement on 15 January 2007, committing to a reduction in the use of fossil fuels and the promotion of alternative energy sources, echoing steps taken in the EU’s energy package the previous week.

The Cebu Declaration on East Asian Energy Security was signed by leaders from ten southeast Asian nations, Australia, New Zealand, India, Japan, China and South Korea. The group accounts for half the world’s population.

In the light of rising fuel prices, a list of targets was agreed for “reliable, adequate and affordable” energy supplies. These included reducing greenhouse-gas emissions and increasing efforts to reduce dependence on oil imports, in particular the development of biofuels, hydropower and nuclear energy, for those that are interested.

ASEAN data estimates that greenhouse-gas emissions will possibly triple in southeast Asia by 2030, with demand for energy doubling in the same period.

However, the agreement contrasts significantly with the EU’s ‘energy package’ of 10 January 2007 (EURACTIV 11/01/07),  which proposed a 20% cut in greenhouse-gas emissions by 2020, as it offers no solid targets.

New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark told Reuters in an interview that comparisons with the EU were premature “This is very early days in the East Asia context, to be talking about targets,” she said. Unlike the EU, many of Asian countries have yet to even sign up to the Kyoto protocol.

A heavy emphasis was placed on biofuels using crops such as sugar or palm oil as feed stock, which are currently huge export commodities in southeast Asia. This was also mentioned as a priority for the EU (EURACTIV 10/01/07).

Other moves included a declaration to strengthen political solidarity, fight terrorism and work towards creating a free-trade area.

Alternative energy is “needed to sustain the momentum of the region’s economic expansion”, Asian leaders said, while also paying attention to “the worsening problems of environment and health, and the urgent need to address global warming and climate change”. 

China, with whom the EU is about to begin talks on a new Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (EURACTIV 15/01/07), said that it places “great importance on energy security and energy cooperation” but that the country “will continue to rely on itself to meet its energy needs and priority will be given to raising energy efficiency.”

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