A healthy and sustainable future for the Asia Pacific relies on innovative thinking and collaboration to address the challenges we face today. On November 12, CAPRI hosted an invite-only roundtable discussion on “How Can Asia-Pacific Countries Address Global Health and Climate Change?” Prof. John D. Spengler, Akira Yamaguchi Professor of Environmental Health and Human Habitation at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, was joined by Prof. Syaru Shirley Lin of CAPRI, Dr. Candice Lung of Academia Sinica, and Prof. Chang-Chuan Chan, Prof. Hsien-Ho Lin, and Dr. Sally Chen of National Taiwan University to discuss the joint efforts of Asia-Pacific countries in achieving healthy and resilient growth.
“If we don’t give directionality and opportunities to the Gen Zs who are so seriously impacted by climate change, we’ve lost the game.”
Prof. Spengler’s call to action reflected the urgency with which we must change perceptions of securing a sustainable future, as our window to act is rapidly closing. The talented young generation will be tasked with accelerating the global response to climate change. Rather than being bystanders or victims of inaction by the older generations, today’s young leaders need the tools and innovative mindset to drive change.
Prof. Spengler’s remarks were echoed by CAPRI’s founder Syaru Shirley Lin. She reflected on the interconnected challenges of public health, environmental sustainability, and the economy that have become salient during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Asia-Pacific region experiences these challenges of governance—particularly the environmental and health consequences of climate change—acutely. Solutions that pull from the expertise of academics, business, political leaders, and civil society are needed to ensure the health of populations, economies, and the environment. Moreover, the Asia Pacific could lead the development of innovative approaches to these challenges—innovative not only in the application of new technologies but also in our thinking about these interconnected issues.
Key stakeholders in Taiwan are contributing to collaborate on sustainability and resilience in Asia and beyond. Citing the example of Future Earth, an International Council for Science program for transdisciplinary research in sustainability, Dr. Lung shared how Taiwan is generating the knowledge required for societies to face global environmental change. Prof. Hsien-Ho Lin and Dr. Chen also introduced how the Global Health Program at National Taiwan University is cultivating international talent and spearheading cross-border initiatives that achieve healthy development by addressing the needs of local communities.
Guests from leading academic institutions and industries as well as students of public health, sustainable development, and public policy joined the discussion. Participants raised issues such as how we can incentivize the private sector to engage in sustainable development, establish a legal framework for global climate justice, and empower Generation Z to make policy impact in their communities. Reflecting on the discussion, Professor Spengler concluded that traditional “ivory tower” academic research and education is too slow to respond to the urgent challenges of today. Platforms for multisector discussions and thought leadership will be crucial for finding innovative solutions that can build resilience.