The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO Summit recently brought together both global leaders of the world’s largest economies and business leaders. It was held virtually and over 1,000 delegates were welcomed from around the world. The themes of the summit included the state of the world, the future of energy, opportunities for clean technology and the energy transition, as well as this question: How can we achieve sustainable growth, deal with climate change, and assure our food sustainability and provenance?
According to APEC CEO Summit Chair Barbara Chapman, these themes were chosen to reflect the most important and urgent topics of our time. One of the keynote speakers was Tesla’s Chair, Robyn Denholm.
Denholm, who spoke about the renewable energy transformation challenge at the summit, didn’t hold back. She expressed herself on the urgency of the climate crisis and pointed out that we are past the tipping point of the renewable energy transformation.
“The world is already past the tipping point of renewable energy transformation and we already have technology needed to succeed, but we must now accelerate the deployment of them at an incredible pace.”
She also touched upon Tesla’s goals of producing 20 million electric vehicles every year by 2030 and how it wants to expand into more new markets. Denholm also pointed out that Tesla’s focus is on two sectors that are responsible for half of global carbon emissions. These are electricity generation and transport. She added that Tesla has a goal of producing 20 million electric vehicles annually by 2030. She emphasized the importance of lithium-ion batteries as a critical platform for energy transformation. Batteries help lower the costs of electricity and make solving both grid stability and reliability problems affordable.
“These batteries simply cannot be made without the contribution from almost every country in APEC. This is a group of innovative forward-leaning countries committed to working together, despite our many differences, to open barriers through collaboration and through trade. Both are critical to this race to zero emissions. Because the new energy era is very international and we will succeed or fail as one.
“To fully decarbonize transport by 2050 we have to stop selling combustion engine vehicles by around 2030 in most places.
“The number one thing I urge all countries in the APEC region to do is to strengthen emission standards. This fundamentally changes the economics of CO2 pollution in vehicles and also gives the industry throughout the supply chain confidence to invest knowing that the market is heading towards EVs.”
She also noted that New Zealand has shown leadership. The nation has a clean car discount scheme and standards that are currently before parliament would enable New Zealand to have one of the cleanest and safest vehicle fleets in the world. (We recently covered the small country’s EV leadership.) She pointed out that we can only reduce vehicle pollution as fast as we can build EVs, and that this was the race.
“Globally, we can only transition to reliable, cost-effective renewables as fast as we can build energy storage. We can only reduce vehicle pollution as fast we can build electric vehicles. That is the race.
“The supply chains for batteries and vehicles are immense. The required growth for minerals and materials is exponential. This is the time for countries to back their sustainable mining, refining, and manufacturing capability.”
She added that by setting clear and ambitious timelines for technology transition, APEC economies could give the markets both certainty and direction. This includes strong vehicle emissions standards for the next 5–10 years, not just 2050. Leaders could invest and underwrite supply chains for the new energy era by ensuring they meet environmental and social standards. They can prepare energy grids for the transition while also preserving free trade, she pointed out.
“Every nation has a critical role to play, from the smallest to the largest.”
Other speakers at the APEC CEO Summit included New Zealand Prime Minister Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Jerome Foster (who is the youngest ever White House Advisor in the history of the United States), Amal Clooney, and several world leaders such as President Moon Jae-in of South Korea and Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison.