MANILA, Philippines, June 22 (UPI) -- Asian nations must take "radical steps" to invest in renewable energy and increase energy efficiency amid a looming crisis, an Asian Development Bank official said.
Addressing Wednesday's opening of the Sixth Asia Clean Energy Forum in the Philippines, ADB President Haruhiko Kuroda said: "An important key to lowering energy intensity is the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies and transition to renewable energy. Asia must also take radical steps to increase energy efficiency."
More than 550 government, business, policy and non-governmental organization leaders from 40 countries are attending the two-day forum organized by ADB, the World Resources Institute and the U.S. Agency for International Development.
The theme of the gathering is "New Business Models and Policy Drivers: Building the Low-Carbon Future."
Kuroda said that Asians have more to lose from climate change than any other region and "the climate fight will be won or lost by decisions made in this region."
To meet the rising demand for energy and improve the lives of 800 million people in Asia with no access to electricity, ADB said, Asian governments need to implement policies on renewable energy development and fast-track new business models. ADB projects the region's energy needs will double by 2030.
A recent ADB report suggests that at its current rate of growth, the region could account for half of global output, trade, and investment by 2050.
"If left unchecked, the lack of energy security may reverse the region's hard-won gains in poverty reduction. Continued reliance on fossil fuels will also increase the threat of climate change, thus affecting millions of Asia's poor and vulnerable through increased natural disasters and shortages in food and water," ADB said in a statement.
Solar power in Asia now totals about 500 megawatts, accounting for less than 0.25 percent of Asia's energy portfolio. ADB has said it hopes the percentage will increase to 3 percent-5 percent in the coming years.
While a number of Asian countries have an edge in the development of solar energy, they face financial and regulatory constraints, ADB says.
"Asia is poised to be a world leader in clean energy that can propel the regional economy, while increasing its energy security," Manish Bapna, executive vice president and managing director of the World Resources Institute said in a statement.
"To achieve its clean energy potential, leaders in Asia need to make the right policy decisions and increase their investment in clean energy."