Chris Dent is a Professor of East Asia’s International Political Economy at the University. In this blog he speaks about how his work relates to climate change.
I am an international political economist whose prime interest centres on the impact of East Asia’s economic development on the global system. In recent years, I have become increasingly interested on the region’s energy issues and challenges in this regard. Last year my book on renewable energy development in East Asia was published, which explained how the region had become the world’s largest producer and consumer of renewables, and what the implications of this development are for the rest of the world. For example, China now makes around 60 to 65 percent of the world’s solar panels, and has made solar PV more affordable for us all.
East Asia consumes more energy than any other region as well as being the world’s largest carbon emitter by far. It is also very susceptible to climate change risk. For example, much of the Chinese economy is concentrated in its coastal and river delta cites, such as Shanghai. Rising sea levels would have a catastrophic effect on those cities, and thereby China’s economy. As energy is core to negotiated solutions and agreements on climate change at the Paris COP21 talks, the commitments made by East Asian states at the meeting on decarbonising their energy systems are of global significance. Earlier this year, the Chinese government announced a ‘war on pollution’. A recent report published by the World Health Organisation estimated that 1.3 million people were dying prematurely as a result of air pollution in China’s cities. Extreme weather events have caused thousands of deaths in Taiwan, the Philippines and other countries. The human and environmental costs of East Asia’s carbon-intensive economic development continue to rise, and its governments have been compelled to take these matters more seriously. It is not only other nations that are closely looking at what East Asian governments to commit to at Paris but also the peoples back home who they represent.