Australia is not the only country in the Asia-Pacific Region dealing with the controversies of climate change regulation, a recent review by Allens Arthur Robinson has shown.
In fact, far from being on its own in implementing legislative initiatives to tackle climate change, a number of Asian countries - including China - have made significant regulatory inroads in a number of key areas.
Allens Arthur Robinson partner Grant Anderson told Lawyers Weekly today that Asian countries have tended to adopt measures that are compatible with their economic development goals.
"I think what our survey has demonstrated is that there is a wide range of policy measures available to countries, and countries are going to adopt those policy measures which are most consistent with their economic growth aspirations and their desire for energy security - and they're going to adopt policies that are going to play to their own particular strengths and comparative advantages," he said.
For example, the review - One Hat Does Not Fit All - explained, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea's efforts have focused on avoided deforestation, as a result of their significant forest cover, while Vietnam - which boats significant hydro capacity - and the Philippines - which has substantial geothermal resources - have concentrated on renewable energy resources. Countries such as Malaysia and Thailand are using biofuels to overcome their reliance on fossil fuels, while South Korea, Japan and Singapore - which have less scope for these types of initiatives - have introduced measures to encourage and mandate energy efficiency.
China, which is often at the forefront of climate change discussions as the world's largest emitter, has introduced ambitious targets to improve its energy efficiency (reducing energy intensity by 20 per cent by 2010) and to promote renewable energy (mandating that 10 per cent of energy comes from renewable sources by 2010).
"China is, of course, a huge generator of greenhouse gas emissions, but it is also aware of that fact and I think they're taking a lot of action to try and counteract it too," Anderson said. "Any suggestion that Australia is somehow racing ahead with climate change legislation while other nations in the region dither or ignore the issue borders on arrogant."
Anderson said he believed the survey demonstrated that in international negotiations there is an overemphasis on signing countries up to binding emissions targets. An alternative, he said, would involve detailing the specific measures that different countries agree to undertake to reduce their emissions. "Developing counties are very concerned not to adopt binding targets because, of course, they've got aspirations for economic growth," he said. "So I think we've got to look further afield, and look at what countries are doing and make sure countries do what they say they're going to do - and that can be a whole range of policies, not just targets."
- Zoe Lyon