Asia is Green recently attended the International Conference on Achieving Sustainability to Empower Future Generations, held from 13 to 15 Mar 2014 in Taipei. The conference was organised by the Asian Productivity Organization (APO), Taiwan Green Trade Project Office, and China Productivity Center in conjunction with the Eco-Products International Fair 2014, and involved more than 20 international speakers and more than 200 participants, including 30 international delegates representing 15 different countries from the Asia-Pacific region.
Three key topics were covered at the conference: “How will Green Energy Shape Our Future?”; “Green Consumption/Green Procurement: Is Behaviour Change the Heart of Sustainability?”; and “How Smart/Green Can a City Be?” Here’s a summary of the key learning points that we gained from the conference:
1) The introduction of clean energy and energy efficiency technologies and initiatives require clear government policies and strong assistance (funding, technical and administrative assistance).
- Taiwan imports 99% of its energy, but is planning to increase its share of low carbon electricity generation to 55% by 2025, mainly through off-shore wind power and solar energy. Taiwan introduced the Million Solar Rooftop Programme with feed-in-tariffs and a dedicated program office to assist in the implementation.
- Taiwan also aims to achieve 2% annual energy efficiency improvement through 2015, and further improvement of 50% by 2025. Policies have been introduced, such as the Minimum Energy Performance Standard and Mandatory Energy Labelling. In addition, the Energy Conservation Labelling is a voluntary scheme for top energy-efficient products to set them apart from normal energy-efficient products.
2) Companies should start looking at product life-cycle assessment to reduce environmental impacts.
- Life-cycle assessment (LCA) looks at various environmental impacts of products, including water, energy, waste, biodiversity, health and social aspects.
- Companies such as Canon conduct LCA for the design of their products and managed to reduce 3% of each product’s lifecycle carbon emissions by 3% per year.
3) Public sector should take the lead in green purchasing and procurement, and promoting green products.
- Taiwan has introduced green procurement policies over the years, and has a government green purchasing goal of 90% from 2011-2013. The government green purchasing list includes 187 green product criteria under the Green Mark, Energy Saving, Water Conservation, or Green Building Material labels.
- The government promotes green products through: establishing a green product online shopping website; helping retail stores, wholesalers and supermarkets become green stores; and holding “Green Product Fairs” on national holidays.
- There are plans to promote green purchasing for more companies, to increase more green labels for the service industries, and to develop a pricing system where people get points for purchasing green products and exchange the points for money.
4) There are lessons learnt from current green consumption behavior.
- It is easier to change the environmental performance of products rather than to change consumers.
- The green procurement power of governments is greater than consumers.
- It is beneficial to include health aspects when promoting green products.
- The misconception of ‘green products are more expensive’ has to be broken.
- There is a gap between awareness and action on green behavior. More outreach through the media and taking as many actions as possible, are necessary to close the awareness-action gap.
5) Setting a mandatory law on green procurement is more effective.
- Taiwan, Korea and Japan have set laws on green procurement.
- The effective steps to green procurement are to implement a mandatory law, followed by introducing policies and action plans. Next, the system is monitored with reporting on the performance.
6) Cities should go beyond green and also be sustainable, smart, resilient and liveable.
- Cities have to look at all aspects of urban planning, transport, energy, water, food and natural systems to give people a good living environment.
- There are examples of green and liveable cities, which can act as role models for other cities in developing countries.