The United States’ host year for APEC meetings has prioritized a number of regional and global issues, but none as prominent as discussions on climate and energy.
As the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings for 2023 near their conclusion in November, the United States will also close its term as the host country for this year. Despite the range of topics discussed throughout the group’s meetings in Honolulu, Palm Springs, Detroit, and Seattle thus-far—including trade, health systems, corruption, food systems, and natural disasters—a key theme has emerged. Climate, and more specifically reliable and clean energy solutions, has been at the center of APEC’s discussions.
For the United States, its position as a host country has been a crucial part to maintaining its coordination with APEC. Indeed, the grouping represents nearly 50 percent of global trade, and the United States alone imports USD $1.9 trillion in goods and services from its members. APEC thus serves as the “premier platform” for the United States to engage with the Indo-Pacific. It is not surprising, then, that the United States has used this opportunity to discuss energy resilience with key stakeholders in the region.
US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg led discussions on the link between economic concerns and climate, bringing forward issues of supply chain resiliency, job growth in the energy sector, and innovation in zero-emissions transportation. During his remarks at the 11th APEC Transportation Ministerial Meeting in Detroit, Buttigieg highlighted the universal nature of climate challenges: “Pandemic driven supply disruptions, increasingly frequent extreme weather events, and economic inequality, these challenges don't just affect one economy while sparing the others, they affect us all.”
As part of these efforts, APEC also launched the “Green Maritime Initiative” during the meeting in Detroit to address decarbonization of the maritime sector—an industry which produces approximately 3 percent of global emissions. Given the Asia-Pacific region’s reliance on water connectivity and transportation for its economies, APEC stands in a unique position to address such challenges. As Secretary Buttigieg argued during his launch remarks, decarbonization of the maritime sector has several advantages: “In addition to the climate benefits, it would create jobs, protect communities from pollution and make the entire industry more reliable and more resilient.” The initiative is set to kick off a series of capacity-building workshops in August.
Alongside the Transportation Ministerial Meeting, the APEC Energy Working Group (EWG) also convened in Detroit to discuss the region’s energy mix, energy security, innovation in renewables, and the role of small and medium enterprises in energy transitions. Parallel with these efforts, US Co-Chair of the EWG Elizabeth Urbanas urged the group to consider the role of different communities in transitioning to clean technologies, arguing that populations most impacted by climate change must be safeguarded. The group is also set to convene in Seattle for the August Energy Ministerial Meeting.
Given the adverse impacts of the war in Ukraine on the global economy, energy resilience and supply chain security remain clear concerns for many APEC member states. The role of climate in these discussions can thus not be overstated, as the United States and its fellow member states will continue to play a central role in addressing these challenges and bringing forth solutions.
Zoe Weaver-Lee is a Programs Coordinator at the East West Center in Washington. She previously served as a program associate at the Global Taiwan Institute, where she researched and executed programs related to geoeconomics and foreign assistance. She graduated from Stetson University in 2019 and was a recipient of the Huayu Enrichment Scholarship for Mandarin study in Taiwan.