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Middle Powers in a Troubled Region

  1. East Asia – Travel guide at Wikivoyage
  2. East Asia’s decoupling
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East Asia – Travel guide at Wikivoyage

Increasingly self-reliant Japan will take on more international engagement—potentially increasing its involvement in regional and global security affairs and becoming a stronger partner of the United States—initially by building on its robust economic relations, especially in Southeast Asia. India is likely to insert itself further into East and Southeast Asian economic and security matters, especially if its relationship with Japan continues to strengthen.

Burning in Indonesian forests contributes to global carbon emissions as well as air pollution and rising death rates from bronchial disease across Southeast Asia. Malaysia and Indonesia, like other Muslim states, face the influence of increasingly intolerant Salafist Islam on traditional Sufi Islamic practices, fueling tension in their multiethnic and multireligious societies.

Thailand and the Philippines are struggling with governance issues resulting in emerging preferences for strongman rule. Major economic shifts, demographic changes , and urban stresses —driven by ongoing migration to cities—are likely to become more significant in Asian countries in the next five years and will demand political responses.

Economic inequality could boost public dissatisfaction in China and elsewhere in the region, particularly as firms face greater pressure from low-cost competitors in the region and elsewhere. Beijing will face pressure to meet the aspirations and demands of its growing middle and affluent classes or to manage their disappointment. Climate change —through severe weather, storm surges, sea level rise, and flooding—disproportionately affects East and Southeast Asian countries, whose populations cluster in coastal zones. Ongoing stress will reduce resilience to even modest weather events.

According to Pew polling, publics in China, Malaysia, and the Philippines consider climate change their top existential threat, and publics in Indonesia, Japan, and South Korea include climate change in their top three threats. Cooperation on water issues will be crucial in a heavily populated region, with disputes over water flows among Burma, Cambodia, China, and Laos, adding to the list of regional disputes. In public health , several countries in the region are considered hotspots for the emergence of influenza virus of pandemic potential. The highly pathogenic avian virus H5N1 is endemic in poultry in China, Indonesia, and Vietnam, and has a high mortality rate in humans.

The highly pathogenic virus H7N9 is also circulating in Chinese poultry, and an increased number of human cases have been seen since Tibet, where population growth is the fastest in China, could be the scene of unrest similar to that of the past. Public health issues will come to bear during the next few years. Environmental problems will worsen. In many regions, Beijing faces challenges in providing water of sufficient quantity and quality to its citizens. Degradation of agriculturally significant resources and major industrial contamination have worsened air quality in many cities; environmental protests have occurred when these conditions have become locally intolerable.

Cancer and other environmentally-induced illnesses are severe enough in some regions that no advanced methods are necessary to diagnose the situation. Beijing will also gain international influence and respect if its new multilateral investment initiatives succeed in boosting employment and livelihoods at home and abroad. Similarly, Beijing could benefit by playing a leadership role in helping the region manage greenhouse gas emissions and build resilience to sea level rise, pollution, extreme weather, and biodiversity loss. As the ethnic Russian population in the Far East plummets and eastern Russian cities stand largely empty, it would be natural for Chinese interest and appetites to turn northward, potentially increasing friction in the area.

Large numbers of Chinese have already been filtering into the region on a variety of pretexts, visas, and business interests. In Northeast Asia , Beijing, Tokyo, and Seoul will remain economically interdependent, even while they improve their individual security capabilities.

East Asia: 1.0 Intro to East Asia

They will need to manage security risks resolutely and avoid security-dilemma dynamics and the reciprocal escalation that can occur when defensive measures are interpreted offensively. Political posturing and longstanding historical issues are likely to hinder a deepening of Japan-South Korea security relations in the next five years despite some progress. Meanwhile, Japan will continue to pursue active diplomatic and security engagement in the region and beyond. Improving the effectiveness and cooperation between organizations in setting priorities and developing capacity that is less donor-driven and more demand responsive is needed.

The knowledge gap is real. Education on planning for climate change is urgently required. Very few are undertaking research on sustainable urban development. Much of the existing climate research is oriented around technologies, for example, air quality, water and energy, such as fuel cells, bio-energy and bio-fuels. A focus on technology though common is too narrow for Southeast Asia.

There are signs of change. In the face of rapid urbanization and global warming, the case for sustainable city research is strong and fast emerging as an important agenda. More funding is being put into research on the environment, climate change and city including at the national level.

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Knowledge has become urgent as more and more Southeast Asian cities seek the development of a sustainable city for future urban living. For example, Siemens Singapore in April has set up a Siemens city of the future exhibition and solutions center to profile innovative solutions and technologies for city management of future smart, safe and mobile cities. New holistic and interdisciplinary research results on Southeast Asian sustainable urban development can be expected in the years ahead as actors get into doing the interdisciplinarity and disseminate their findings.

Singapore has started to promote climate change-related research and development after signing the Kyoto Accord in late It is master planning and developing an eco-city in China in partnership with the Chinese government. E2PO has developed a national plan to promote energy efficiency, comprising actions in several areas:.

Promoting the adoption of energy efficient technology and measures by addressing the market barriers to energy efficiency;. Raising awareness to reach out to the public and businesses so as to stimulate energy efficient behavior and practices;. Building capability to drive and sustain energy efficiency efforts and to develop the local knowledge base and expertise in energy management;.

Several other countries have also started to converge on renewable energy. Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand have all established renewable energy strategies and targets. Malaysia, for example, has a Five Fuel Diversification Policy since , a small renewable energy power program, Biogen program with a target of 5 per cent or mw of power capacity. Solar, wind, biomass, biogas, hydro, bio-fuels, geothermal and fuel cells are included in the Strategic Plan as well as energy efficiency Australian Business Council for Sustainable Energy, Cagayan de Oro is greening its energy supply and making demand-side improvements with the target to reduce GHG emissions by 10 per cent against forecasted emissions growth.

Although bio-fuel is often pitched as a sustainable energy source, there is concern that the rush to develop it may result in more destruction of old forests to clear the way for oil-palm plantations, contributing to the problem of slash and burn as well as resultant haze pollution in adjoining urban areas. There is also a regional shift towards more natural gas, which is desirable in terms of its lower carbon-dioxide emissions.

But, natural gas has its obstacles, including delays in constructing pipelines and issue with upstream production, which often releases carbon dioxide unless engineering measures are taken to re-inject the gas. But, again there are environmental concerns as to the impact of the river damming on downstream river life and communities vulnerable to drought. Vietnam, in particular, is finding this a major problem, with its exceptionally dry seasons during the past two to three years, leading to low water levels in the reservoirs behind hydro-dams and competition in supply for farmers down river for rice irrigation and for power generation.

East Asia’s decoupling

Nuclear power has also emerged as a serious possibility in several countries, including Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand and Myanmar. Again, there are many issues here, ranging from economic feasibility to safety and weapons-proliferation concerns that require research and policy development to address. Policies and mechanisms conducive to knowledge dissemination and technology transfer among countries including between advanced developed countries and Southeast Asia are clearly required.

Many countries have begun to address climate change issues in different ministries. Some have formulated national climate change policy with measures for adaptation and mitigation see Table 3. Increasingly, environmental sustainability is mentioned in development plans. By and large, climate change is not mainstreamed in development plans. The document still demands revision by related sectors, academics and experts.

Science, Technology and Environment Agency has a key role to coordinate across all ministries and local authorities to manage the overall environment throughout Lao PDR. Pragmatic integratedtransport plans for the main urban centre and the formulation of an overall urban transport policy including the possibility of mass public transport are high priority of Lao PDR government facing rapidly increasing volumes of motorized traffic in urbancenters. Brunei has national programs include improvements of transportation infrastructure to reduce traffic congestion, cogeneration power station to reduce emissions of pollutant gases, and full use of unleaded gasoline to reduce air pollution.

Energy efficiency programs in the Philippines are directed by the Department of Energy and guided by an Energy Plan that currently covers the period from to Renewable Electricity Action Plan — A World Bank-assisted project in has demonstrated renewable energy technologies as off-grid electrification options to reduce inefficient use of fossil fuels in diesel generators in rural areas. Solar energy desalination project in North Jakarta district. Source: Country, city council, renewable energy and green buildings movement websites. UN-HABITAT b has reiterated that urban planning is important in managing climate change because well-planned cities provide a better foundation for sustainable development than unplanned cities.

Both adaptation and mitigation actions of environmental change require urban planning. Among others, urban planning and development control could help to mitigate the urban heat island effect by creating open spaces and parks as heat sinks in urban areas, reduce the urban ecological footprint by planning for more efficient, compact and mixed use city forms and a shift to public transport-based movement. In the urban and planning literature, there is a gradual shift of focus on mitigation actions to a concern with longer term adaptation measures of, for example, preventing flooding and landslides, protecting or relocating vulnerable settlements, improving drainage and preventing new developments in areas likely to be affected by sea level rise or floods, among others.

The integrative planning of a future climate regime has significant implications for Southeast Asian urbanization, especially in mega-cities and vulnerable areas. Raising the policy profile of climate change within the context of sustainable development is crucial in realizing the vision of a sustainable Southeast Asia. Practices that detract from environmental sustainability cannot be promoted. At its simplest, the common planning typology of land use zoning determines land cover types.

Land cover types affect energy and water consumption as well as waste and traffic production and GHG emissions Pauleit and Duhme, In many developing countries, local authorities lack the mandate and human capacity to handle urban planning and its enforcement mechanisms. As the Asian Development Bank concluded in its review of managing Asian cities, capacities are deficient in key areas of urban management, economic and social planning and environmental management in many Asian cities, Southeast Asian cities included.

The comparative newness and unprecedented scale of urbanization has accentuated the problem. Improved technical competence in urban planning is required at all levels of government. Visions are lacking.

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Planning is generally short-term, physically oriented and unable to respond effectively to change. Newer and more innovative planning approaches are in order. There is also the issue of plan implementation. Plans that reflect sustainable development principles carry no meaning if they are not implemented.

There is an urgent need to strengthen the institutional capabilities that are prerequisite to effective plan implementation. More attention has to be given to the functioning of the planning system and as such, to legislation, regulations and processes that are out of date or are insufficiently reformed to be able to deal with the major challenges of the 21 st century.

Strong government leadership is indispensable, particularly where there is a need to create inclusive policy conditions and a multi-stakeholder process for plan implementation. Proper modalities should also be developed to monitor plan implementation and ensure its continued relevance to changing conditions and dynamics. Take Singapore.

Its comprehensive, strategic, integrated urban development planning has led to the efficient use of space, clustering many people in a relatively smaller land area, often through high-rise high-density settlements. Research has indicated that denser urban areas emit less radiant heat energy per parcel than do more expansive developed areas Stone and Rodgers, The co-location of high-rise, high-density urban form, services and employment is purposefully designed to configure a hierarchy and location of community facilities that reduce or minimize travel by private car and enhance walking and usage of public transportation while enhancing quality of life.

Its deliberate greening policy at the building, neighborhood and city levels gives careful consideration to the relationship between the built and natural environments, creating a garden city and increasing the cooling potential of its built-up areas. Additionally, since , green buildings have been encouraged. These buildings adopt various energy efficiency ways and designs to minimize impact on climate change, including the use of recycled or recyclable materials for construction. There will be more greenery provision, which is expected to lower the surrounding temperature by as much as 4 deg C.

Solar panels on the roof of buildings will power the common corridors, improving energy resource utilization and saving 80 percent of the energy used. On the industrial front, it has built an industrial park on Jurong Island planned on the principle of industrial symbiosis where the waste or by-product of one enterprise becomes the resource or input of another.

While Singapore may have its unique characteristics, its strong commitment to planning bears testimony to planning in action. In the era of climate change, cities must be planned to develop sustainably from the start. However, planning is not static. The environmental dimension of urban planning is increasingly also about enabling and adapting cities to meet the dynamics of climate change. Energy efficient buildings and built form, renewable energy sources, climate responsive design and standards together with open space and green areas are important to ensure a sustainable neighborhood.

Cities can take proactive measures to reduce emissions from vehicles. Motor vehicles - a major source of carbon dioxide emissions - are set to increase in Southeast Asian cities. In per capita terms, car ownership is still low. But, in large urban areas, growing car ownership continues to congest cities, pollute the atmosphere and endanger community health through vehicle exhaust.

Alternative urban form aside, better public-transport systems from buses to rail and sustainable transport options are clearly critical. Bangkok, Thailand, long notorious for traffic jams and air pollution, is now benefiting from its light rail and underground rail system as well as stricter standards and controls on gasoline quality.

In a similar vein, there are plans for mass-transit systems for the large and fast-growing cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam, the fastest-growing economy in the region. Population, economic development, technology advancement and government policies on energy and environment are key drivers of GHG emissions and interlinked in a complex web of interactions. Energy production and use, for example, are sensitive to changes in the climate. The climate change effects on energy supply and demand will depend not only on climatic factors but also on the patterns of economic growth, land use, population growth and distribution, technological change and social and cultural trends that shape individual and institutional actions.

Understanding these major driving forces will enable the setting of corresponding adaptation strategies and policies to overcome entrenched lifestyle preferences that significantly contribute to climate change. To succeed, climate proofing requires concerted action across all sectors. As demonstrated by the Singapore experience, the government plays a critical role in the coordination approach and creating policies, incentives and disincentives and plans that encourage sustainable urban development, in environmental education and training, and enforcement of policies and regulations.

To improve the resilience of Southeast Asian cities to climate change, it is imperative to also implement institutional strengthening and capacity building to ensure that the institutions and human capital have the knowledge on climate change and are able to make effective decision, allocate resources and manage risk and implementation. Climate change is likely to amplify some of the existing urban and environmental stresses and vulnerabilities of its urban communities, many of which are living in coastal and low-lying areas and rapidly expanding mega-cities. A business-as-usual scenario is unlikely to support a sustainable Southeast Asia.

Measured against this situation, Southeast Asian responses to date have been largely inadequate even though several important steps have been taken and a number of essential foundations, both at country and regional levels, have been established for further action. For example, ASEAN leaders have recently signed the Declaration on Environmental Sustainability and the ASEAN cooperation in environment has established a common agenda and forged consensus on some policy goals for sustainable development as well as action to address trans-boundary haze pollution, nature conservation and biodiversity, marine and coastal environment problems.

Another milestone is the establishment of the ASEAN sub-regional climate review meeting in to closely monitor the weather condition especially during the dry seasons to prevent and mitigate the damages from recurrent fires and haze.

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Yet, its urban land, forests and rivers remain environmentally vulnerable. The mainstreaming of climate issues into national strategies and development planning is crucial. In all cases, urban planning offers an important entry point, shaping urban form in very particular ways with implications on climate change. The proactive development of newer and innovative planning is essential for better environmental management and sustainable development in this vein.

Arnell N. Australian Business Council for Sustainable Energy Blakely E. Darwin R. Hadley Centre Hoegh-Guldberg O. ICLEI International Energy Agency IPCC Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. McCarthy J. Cambridge University Press. Jones G. Jones C.

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