SIIA Chairman Simon Tay was part of an international telepresence panel on global energy demands, organised by The Economist this week.
The Global Energy Conversation: Transitions from West to East involved 15 experts meeting simultaneously in London, Shanghai, and Singapore through virtual conferencing technology.
Over a thousand virtual audience members also logged in to ask questions and comment on the live programme.
Panelists were asked if it is fair to expect the development of countries like China and India to be cleaner than the West's. Most agreed it is not fair, though several suggested that China and India will still pursue clean energy and sustainable policies due to their own self-interest.
Most of the panel were pessimistic on the likelihood of countries reaching a binding international agreement on climate change in the foreseeable future, echoing the sentiments of the virtual audience via an online poll. However, several panelists suggested individual countries would adopt their own environmental measures.
But at the close of the debate, Simon Tay warned that climate change is fairly low on the agenda for most Asian governments he has spoken to. While Asian governments are looking at green sources of energy, their primary concern remains meeting immediate energy needs. This is likely to come through coal and other fossil fuels. He cautioned against Western optimism on clean energy, as these views are not necessarily held by governments in Asia.
The panelists speaking from Singapore were Simon Tay, Centennial Asia Advisors CEO Manu Bhaskaran, Australia's Energy Efficiency Council CEO Rob Murray-Leach, and Singapore Environment Council Executive Director Howard Shaw.
The experts from London included The Economist's Editorial Director Robin Bew, UK Foreign Minister of State Lord David Howell, Shell Chief Financial Officer Simon Henry, and Greenpeace Executive Director John Sauven.
The Shanghai panel included Xiamen University's Dr. Lin Boqiang, an advisor to China's National Energy Commission, and Professor Ji You, China Country Director for the World Resources Institute and a Deputy Dean at Renmin University.
Video of the programme is available on-demand at the Global Energy Conversation website.