PresentationPDF Available

Opportunities for Regional Cooperation on Climate Change in Northeast Asia

  • Economic Research Institute For Northeast Asia


The thesis of joint presentation on Northeast Asia regional cooperation on climate change mitigation.
North East Asia Mayor’s Forum (NEAMF),
4–5 August 2016, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
Opportunities for Regional Cooperation on Climate Change in Northeast Asia
Dr. Sh. Enkhbayar, Senior Research Fellow, Economic Research Institute for Northeast Asia
(ERINA, Japan)
Dr. Georgy Safonov, Invited Overseas Researcher, ERINA/National Research University “Higher
School of Economics” (Russia)
Since the Industrial Revolution in the 1850s, fossil fuels (coal, oil, and gas) gradually became
the major source of energy supply for human society and, as scientists confirm, the cause of an
unprecedented growth in greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations in the atmosphere. The IPCC Fifth
Assessment Report (2014) warned that the planet is warming much faster than previously thought
and the anthropogenic impacts (carbon emissions, and deforestation, etc.) play a dominant role in that
It became evident that without an active policy of decarbonization of the global economy in the
21st century, the planet will continue warming by 4–6°C, meaning the climate will become extremely
different from our historical “normality”. In economic terms, the damage caused by climatic changes
may reach 5–20% of the world’s GDP, as Stern (2006) estimated.
With the temperature rise of 0.8°C during the last 150 years, we have already observed highly
dangerous impacts of the changing climate, such as cold waves (as in Mongolia in 2010, when
millions of livestock died from extreme cold), heat waves (as in Europe in 2002, with over 30,000
human deaths , or Russia in 2010, with many thousands suffering or dying), droughts and floods,
forest wildfires and storms everywhere, enhanced desertification, drinking water shortages,
expansion of insect-borne diseases (malaria, and encephalitis, etc.) and much more besides.
According to the IEA, the Northeast Asian region was responsible for emissions from fuel
combustion of 12.4 billion tCO2 per year (or 38% of the global total in 2013). China emits about 9
billion tCO2 per year, followed by Russia (1,543 million tCO2), Japan (1,235 million tCO2), the ROK
(572 million tCO2), the DPRK (48 million tCO2), and Mongolia (19 million tCO2).
Adopted at the UNFCCC COP21 (2015), the Paris Climate Agreement aims at limiting the
global mean temperature rise to 2°C from the pre-industrial level via the global efforts of: (1)
reaching a global peak of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible; (2) undertaking rapid
reductions thereafter, and; (3) achieving a balance between anthropogenic emissions and removal of
greenhouse gases by sinks in the second half of this century. This means that annual carbon emissions
should decline fairly quickly and fall to almost zero by around 2070–2080, partly offset by forest and
land-use sinks.
However, our modern economy is based on the dominance of fossils fuels in the energy mix
and many industries are providing services to this sector (extraction, transportation, and consumption,
etc.). Moreover, leading corporations and governments possess huge reserves of oil, gas and coal, and
unconventional fuels, such as shale oil and gas, and methane hydrates, etc. Overall, these reserves
contain an enormous amount of carbon, which would be emitted if consumed in the traditional
manner. Such reserves of fossil fuels in the Northeast Asian region alone are sufficient to warm the
planet by 2°C three times over.
The alternative to such a disastrous scenario is the use of carbon-free energy sources, which are
abundant in the Northeast Asian region. The region has huge resources of power in terms of wind,
solar, tidal, hydro, and biofuel, as well as potential energy efficiency improvements. As we estimated,
the overall potential capacity of renewables in Northeast Asia equals at least 18,500 GW (about 10
times more than the currently installed capacity).
There are numerous examples of change and of the start of a new era of a low-carbon economy
in Northeast Asia. A boom in renewables has been observed in China over the last decade, with an
aim of over 300 GW of installed capacity of wind power and solar photovoltaics by 2020. Japan set a
target of 44% for non-carbon sources in its energy mix by 2030. The ROK is among the leaders in
low-carbon technologies. Russia’s Siberia and Far East have enormous potential in terms of hydro,
tidal, geothermal, and biofuel power, etc. The solar and wind energy potential of Mongolia’s Gobi
desert could yield over 100 GW of power, and Japan, the ROK, and China have already launched the
first projects there. The DPRK aims at 5 GW of renewable energy projects under “climate” aid,
which is a non-sanctioned investment flow. The Northeast Asian regional initiative of creating a
super-efficient integrated electricity grid is considered feasible and highly desirable, while recently
China has proposed a US$50 trillion investment project to establish a global power network by 2050.
In non-energy sectors, technologies are available for the radical reduction of the carbon footprint of
the basic materials which are responsible for 28% of total GHG emissions (e.g. nano-tubes by the
Russian “Rosnano” corporation).
Currently, Northeast Asian countries are at a fork in the road with two paths: (1) “business-as-
usual”, and; (2) low-carbon. They are facing the dilemma of using fossil fuel reserves in the
traditional way (BAU) or to leave them underground for the sake of the climate and environment and
use renewables instead. The targets of the Paris Agreement and the challenge of decarbonizing the
world economy in the 21st century give the latter a higher priority, as does the process of
reformatting international markets (e.g. bans on new coal projects, divestments from carbon-intensive
assets, carbon pricing initiatives, GHG corporate reporting, and globally expanding emission trading
schemes, etc.).
Therefore, if the Northeast Asian region is to stay within the boundaries of its carbon budget in
compliance with the global 2°C target, most fossil fuels need to be replaced with renewable energy or
other zero-emission alternatives by 2050, as the renewable energy potential in Northeast Asia is
sufficient to meet all the energy needs of the region. Accordingly, Northeast Asian countries should
enhance cooperation in this area to realize the existing potential and implement joint investment
projects, including the mega-projects for establishing “green” energy infrastructure. NEAMF is an
important platform to exchange views and enhance green energy cooperation in the region. The next
step to enhance such cooperation could be a joint study on “The Strategy and Action Plan for the
Northeast Asian Low Carbon Pathway (LCP)”.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any references for this publication.