Archive for December, 2009


Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

I had a nice long visit in Bangkok, spending a month (mid-November through mid-December) in UN ESCAP’s Energy Security Section working on a variety of Asia/Pacific projects related to energy access, efficiency and security. While there, I also attended a three day ‘Experts Working Group Meeting on Enhancing Regional Cooperation for Energy Security in Asia and the Pacific,’ and was invited to chair one of their sessions (addressing the concerns of energy importing countries). The meeting was quite lively, with lots of divergent viewpoints from country experts.

Bangkok view, with strings attached

My stay in Thailand was during ‘high season’ – I didn’t see a drop of rain the whole month, and we had beautiful sunny weather. I had an apartment off Petchburi Road, up on the 26th floor, and you can check out my balcony view in the picture. Note that I had to tie down my running gear; I learned the hard way that Bangkok that high up is a pretty windy place. My shorts ended up on another balcony downstairs, but luckily I was able to retrieve them…. (and yes, of course I used the inside stairs to do so!)

Roger on the River Kwai

I took advantage of my time in Thailand to stay at some really nice resorts in both the mountains (Khao Yai) and the beach (Hua Hin)…. but one of the more interesting trips was to Kanchanaburi to see the Bridge on the River Kwai. The one remaining today is made of steel (not wood, like in the movie or in Pierre Boulle’s memorable novel), but the bridge was just part of an incredible story of the 250 mile long ‘Death Railway’ from Thailand to Burma, built by POWs and forcibly conscripted Asian labor during World War II. Many of the POWs came from Changi (see last year’s Singapore posting), and it has been estimated that more than a hundred thousand persons died building the railway. I took the train for several miles over wooden trestles & cut-away sections overlooking the river, and then a boat trip on the river itself. On the tour I met an Australian fellow whose father had been captured at Singapore, and spent 18 months as a POW working in the brutal conditions. He survived the war, and passed away just two years ago. I asked about his war stories, but was told that there weren’t any: his father refused to ever talk about the experience.


Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

Blue Sky Awards

A Shenzhen visit in mid-November came at the invitation of Professor Yu Yuanqi, who runs the Shenzhen International Technology Promotion Center for Sustainable Development (in conjunction with UNIDO). Prof. Yu coordinates the international Blue Sky Awards for renewable energy, and I was part of the nine-member panel of experts who reviewed this year’s technologies. We received info about the nominated technologies beforehand, and each company had a opportunity to make a demonstration/presentation, followed by a Q&A period. We then had an electronic vote, so the audience could follow our tallies. I got to present one of the awards to Mariwasa Siam Ceramics, Inc. of the Philippines, whose ‘Zero Waste Renewable Energy and Raw Materials from Rice Husk for the Ceramics Industry’ was a winner.

Prof. Yu also arranged a technical meeting, coordinated with the China Hi-Tech Fair meeting occurring at the same time, and I was invited to make a presentation about the ‘leapfrog’ emissions trading approach. Shenzhen has an interest in establishing an emissions exchange (much like other cities in China, including Beijing, Shanghai, & Tianjin), and the session included a signing ceremony for an MOU exploring such an entity with representatives from Australia and Hong Kong.

Hong Kong

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

I was sitting in a Starbucks on a late Saturday afternoon in mid-November, next to one of my regular HK haunts — the Page One bookstore in Times Square at Causeway Bay — catching up on HK local news & reading the South China Morning Post….. when one of their reporters approached me. And that’s how I ended up in a front page story in the next day’s edition of the SCMP about Hong Kong’s “potential net migration index” (i.e., the number of people who would like to leave the city compared with those who want to move there). I told the reporter that I worked on environmental issues, and he concluded his article as follows:

SCMP, 15 Nov. ’09

That’s right, they should. I agree with that guy Robert.

My visit to HK was really part of a Shenzhen/Bangkok trip, but it allowed me to catch up on things with a number of colleagues & friends – including Simon Powell and Charles Yonts of CLSA. They went far beyond the call of duty, coming out to join me for coffee on a Sunday morning – an especially notable courtesy, since there had been a big party the night before welcoming Simon back to HK (after an extended stint in Taiwan). Charles was putting together a new CLSA ‘Clean & Green’ research report on climate change, and invited me to add a few words – so please check out the note on page 29 about ‘Copenhagen and emissions markets in Asia.’ And so you can see that it was really nice to be back in HK once again — despite any of that air pollution!