Looking back to Copenhagen what is really significant about its outcomes was that so much was contributed by key Asian countries when there are so few domestic political drivers for their governments to offer anything. The challenge for the region in fact is to move beyond the high level infrastructure strategies and business investment drivers and install the governance systems on the ground to educate, regulate and hold accountable municipalities, industries and businesses. For this to happen there needs to be a more open discussion of what’s at stake so that communities across the region can be empowered and involved in resolving the many outstanding issues of unsustainable development.
Given the magnitude of cultural change involved in that proposition it seems likely that an emerging ‘cleantech revolution’ will co-exist with continuing environmental-economic trade-offs in the Asia-Pacific over the coming decade. As well as mitigating the causes of climate change, increasing energy and resource security, and progressively building the manufactured technology, human capital and governance systems for sustainable development will stand as the focus of this agenda for the better part of the next generation. New businesses and markets will appear in decarbonising the economy, better educated consumers will demand greener products, and the distorting impacts of perverse subsidies rewarding inefficiency will be progressively lessened. That is the great transition of the future. It remains the unrealised proposition of the original report of the 1987 UN Commission on Environment and Development, “Our Common Future”.