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Climate fund targets clean energy investments in South-East Asia

A new climate fund backed by philanthropic donors is aiming to trigger US$2.5bil (RM10.6bil) of clean energy investment in South-East Asia and aid the region’s green recovery after the Covid-19 pandemic.

The South-East Asia Clean Energy Facility (Seacef) is managed by Singapore-based Clime Capital, with an initial investment of US$10mil (RM42.6mil) and a focus on getting new projects underway in Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

File photo of coal barges queuing to be pulled along Mahakam River in Samarinda, East Kalimantan province, Indonesia. South-East Asian countries need to end their reliance on dirty coal energy now to meet their climate change pledges. — Reuters

“We need to mobilise billions to make a meaningful impact on climate change, ” says Mason Wallick, Clime Capital’s managing director, who sits on the Seacef investment committee.

Money is most needed to fill a gap in funding to help early-stage projects get off the ground, he adds.

Asia-Pacific, home to two-thirds of the world’s people, is experiencing rising urbanisation, population and economic growth, leaving nations scrambling to provide enough electric power while keeping promises to cut heat-trapping emissions.

Last year, researchers said South-East Asian countries must end their reliance on coal power and switch to clean energy if they are to meet pledges to curb climate change and tackle air pollution. But the region is struggling to wean itself off abundant, locally-produced cheap coal in favour of clean alternatives to burning fossil fuels, the main contributor to climate change.

“Here in South-East Asia, we have the equivalent of a China in terms of potential emissions, ” says Wallick. (China is today the world’s biggest emitter of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming.)

“It’s a big market that should be coming up the curve in a more meaningful way to promote renewables now that (they are) economic and can fit within the (power) supply plans for these countries,” he says.

Seacef describes itself as a “first-of-its-kind” philanthropic initiative to tackle climate change, focused on the high-risk funding needed to get new clean energy projects up and running.

It will look to invest broadly in projects and businesses that include wind and solar power, mains grid infrastructure, energy efficiency in buildings, and electronic mobility and storage, Wallick says.

Early-stage capital is “in very short supply”, a situation exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic pushing investors to reduce their exposure and limit development budgets, he adds.

The fund, which hopes to attract an additional US$40mil (RM170mil) in capital from foundations and development banks, aims to mobilise more than US$2.5bil (RM10.6bil) in clean energy investment from the private sector.

So far it is backed by Sea Change Foundation International, the Wellspring Climate Initiative, High Tide Foundation, Grantham Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Packard Foundation and Children’s Investment Fund Foundation. – By MICHAEL TAYLOR/Thomson Reuters Foundation


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