Asia Pacific’s post-pandemic energy transition . . .
Many economies throughout the Asia Pacific are aiming for a “green recovery” post-pandemic and have set ambitious carbon neutrality targets. China has committed to carbon neutrality by 2060 and Japan and Korea by 2050. India, another energy heavyweight, plans to reduce its emissions intensity by 33-to-35 per cent by 2030 against 2005 levels. Thailand, meanwhile, has pledged to up its renewable share of its energy output to 30 per cent by 2030. While the targets look promising for mitigating climate change, some human rights groups warn that Indigenous peoples could pay the price for the energy transition, especially if renewable energy projects are fast-tracked and public consultations skipped or glossed over.
Vulnerable groups bearing the brunt of the transition . . .
The U.K.-based human rights group Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) has recorded 197 allegations of land and Indigenous rights abuses, displacement, and violence connected to renewable energy projects in the last decade. It says that renewable energy projects typically receive government incentives and less scrutiny, which could exacerbate human rights abuses. In Nepal, for example, the Asian Development Bank-funded Tanahu hydropower project is expected to result in 60 per cent of Magar Indigenous residents in the area losing farmland. The community will also lose two temples and nine cremation sites.
Progressive trade and ESG in Canada . . .
Canada is also aiming for a green recovery, with the Industrial Strategy Council explicitly calling for a ‘Digital, Clean and Innovative’ recovery. According to APF Canada’s Investment Monitor, there has been C$26.6B of investment from Canada into Asia Pacific’s clean energy sectors since 2003, accounting for 11 per cent of Canada’s total investment in the region. At the same time, Canada’s inclusive and progressive approach to trade since 2017 prioritizes trade inclusivity for Indigenous groups and consideration for human rights abuses in trade and investment activities. In the Canadian private sector, Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) criteria screening for investments is gaining momentum. While the move towards cleaner energy in the Asia Pacific is encouraging, governments and investors should pay attention to how the transition is achieved.
- Business & Human Rights Resource Centre: Renewable Energy & Human Rights Benchmark
- International Accountability Project: Indigenous communities affected by the Tanahu Hydropower Project in Nepal file complaints with the Asian Development Bank and European Investment Bank
- Reuters: Indigenous people 'under threat' from Asia clean energy push