Here at the Asia Clean Energy Forum in the Philippines, President Obama’s speech on climate change has been greeted with enthusiasm. In particular, his decision to redirect U.S. financing of coal fired power plants to expanding the use of clean energy in developing countries is seen as a signal that the U.S. understands that coal is risky and expensive—at a time when the costs of biomass, geothermal, solar, and wind power are declining rapidly.
The positive reaction to Obama’s initiative is hardly surprising: many Asian countries share the U.S. President’s concern about climate change: recent fires, droughts, and typhoons have devastated large areas, stirred public concern, and spurred governments to act.
The growing Asian commitment to new energy technologies reflects the fact that renewable resources are indigenous, while for many countries, coal must be imported. For most Asian countries, investment in renewable energy is an investment in their economic future, and will provide the energy needed to increase prosperity and eradicate poverty.
President Obama’s new approach to coal and clean energy is fully consistent both with his commitment to job creation and his “pivot to Asia” in foreign policy. U.S. leadership on new energy technology is a signal that the country is committed to the future of energy rather than its past—and to providing energy for people rather than subsidies for fossil fuels.