Industry, transport and buildings are the three domains that have the most impact on global climate change as combined players, according to former Secretary of State for the Environment of Portugal, José Eduardo Rego Mendes Martins.
As Macau is a service-based economy, authorities and entrepreneurs should strive to tackle the latter two in regards to energy saving initiatives, Martins told Business Daily.
The lawyer, and also former Secretary of State of Regional Development, came to Macau on his fifth visit to speak at a seminar on climate change and the environment within the framework of the Paris Agreement.
“Coming from abroad and looking at Macau, my first thought [would be that] there is a lot to be done in the context of energy efficiency,” he stated.
Yet Martins conceded that the reason there is room for improvement owes much to the fact that there was also “a lot of room for growth in the past.”
“All I bring here is the knowledge of our mistakes. We have made so many mistakes in our development process that [we hope] Macau can avoid some by overlapping some of the stages,” he commented.
Martins argued that buildings “are the essence of energy saving.”
While explaining to Business Daily that the rules on energy efficiency in regards to buildings would be the “first thing to tackle” in the city, the specialist advocated that it is possible to spend much less energy without losing quality of life.
“One of the things we are discussing here is that a mandatory target for energy efficiency needs to be acquired via green buildings as well. We can save a lot of energy by not spending it and having the same kind of comfort. I think it would be a great improvement at little cost [in Macau],” he suggested.
The former Secretary of State assented that raising environmental awareness and changing patterns in politics are rather slow-moving processes, but added that he perceives there is a “will to evolve” in Macau, whereas other places, namely the U.S., show a “will to regress.”
On the other hand, because “renewables require conditions and mature technologies,” he asserted that a starting point is to foster knowledge production in the field.
“You need to develop research, you need to promote new technologies, but before new technologies become mature and usable at the scale that we need, it takes time,” he said.
Volvo, Tesla, and the future
Because political responses are usually “slow,” Martins claimed private initiatives have a role to play by putting “pressure on politicians,” while the government acts as a regulator.
“There is a pressure for profit, but there is also a pressure for long-term sustainability and the maintenance of business,” he suggested.
The specialist cited the example of Volvo, a Swedish carmaker, which announced last week that it was going to transition away from selling internal combustion vehicles to producing only electric and hybrid cars starting in 2019, according to MIT Technology Review.
“Why does Volvo evolve to the electric car? Because they want to sell cars in the future. An option to go adamantly back to fossil fuels is an option condemned by time,” Martins said.
While such types of corporate public commitments make room for the likes of Tesla Inc. to gain market ground, Martins opined that for such companies to “grow into monopolies,” is to be avoided.
“Tesla is still very much for the rich. If expanding production coming over to [China], will mean cheaper Teslas all over the world, splendid,” he said.
At this stage, he claimed further, it is necessary to have more companies in the sector, for “the future is not a brand, the future is a technology.”
China leading the way
“China has a huge opportunity to lead the way, and it can lead the way with a commercial intent,” Martins explained.
According to MIT Technology Review, Volvo’s decision to concentrate auto production on electric vehicles is linked to its acquisition in 2010 by Geely, a Chinese automaker.
Geely already produces electric cars such as Emgrand.
Bloomberg also reported in late June that Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk is said to currently be in negotiations with the Shanghai government to set up manufacturing in that city.
“If China wants to be at the leadership of industrial activity, the electric car will have to be massively produced in China. In ten year’s time, you could have half the cars of Macau running on electricity instead of gas,” Martins commented.
China is currently the world’s largest electric vehicle market with 352,000 new electric vehicles in 2016, compared with only 159,000 in the U.S. over the same period, MIT Technology Review reported.