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A LOW-CARBON & RESILIENT ASEAN COMMUNITY IS POSSIBLE
Orlando Mercado PhD
A LOW-CARBON & RESILIENT ASEAN COMMUNITY IS POSSIBLE
The 2015 Climate Challenge
Orlando Mercado PhD
Currently Secretary General, Eastern Regional Organisation for Public Administration (EROPA)
First Permanent Representative of the Philippines to ASEAN (2009-2010)
By 2015, two goals are set to be achieved by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). One is the
creation of a fully integrated regional common market. The other is for it and all parties to the United Nations
Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to clinch a new climate deal. Although these tasks seem to
be unrelated, they are inextricably linked.
On one hand, the outcome of the UNFCCC negotiations will chart the destiny not only of Southeast Asia but also
of the entire planet in this era of indubitable climate change. On the other hand, how ASEAN countries extract,
utilise and trade their natural resources and power their industries for economic development will bear upon any
UNFCCC effort to mitigate and cope with the impact of climate change.
For example, the expected expansion of energy supply infrastructure in the context of economic integration
would increase ASEAN’s share of global energy-related carbon-dioxide emissions. The latter is forecast to increase by 5% by 2030 up from 3.5% today. In terms of energy use, ASEAN’s final energy consumption will grow
at an annual average rate of 4.4%, from 375 million tonnes of oil equivalent (MTOE) to 1,018 MTOE. (Institute of
Energy Economics Japan)
Some climate finance was
put on the table by a few
European countries but no
agreement to scale up or
add new funding for vulnerable countries towards the
previously agreed target of
In Copenhagen, developed
countries committed to mobilize
USD 100 billion per year by
2020 to support climate action
in developing countries. However, various estimates place
the incremental financing needs
for climate mitigation and action in developing countries at
more than USD 100 from public
Oxfam estimates that at least
USD 150 billion per year is
needed in public finance alone
from 2013, rising to at least USD
200 billion per year by 2020. Of
this amount, USD 100 should
be allocated for adaptation and
USD 100 for mitigation.
A new mechanism was created to compensate countries worst hit by climate
change for loss and damage
In Qatar, countries agreed to
implement a workprogram on
loss and damage the opens the
possibility of an international
mechanism on the same.
Developing countries are calling
for the creation of an international mechanism on loss and
damage that will address issues
and concerns such as reconstruction, rehabilitation and compensation for lossess and damages
resulting from extreme and slow
on set weather events.
In the field of forestry, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation reports a total of 43.6 million hectares deforested in the main forest countries of the region between 1995 and 2005, corresponding to a release of about 3.45
million tonnes of carbon.
It is imperative for Southeast Asian governments to increase
their cooperation in the post-Doha climate negotiations leading to 2015. ASEAN must move towards helping its Members
follow a low carbon development path while building a climate
resilient regional community – commitments that they voluntarily assumed in the Bali Concorde of 2011.
Globally, without drastic reductions in CO2 emissions, the earth’s temperature could rise by as much as six degrees
Celsius by the end of the century [UN IPCC] that could lead to a potentially irreversible catastrophic scenario.
Southeast Asia is already suffering from extreme weather events
and other impacts of the climate crisis.
Despite this alarming future, the international climate change meeting last December, 2012, in Doha, Qatar,
brought no new agreement to limit greenhouse gases; and no new funds to help poor countries adapt. However,
there had been discussions on a number of issues that could matter to the 2015 deadline for a new climate deal.
The key outcomes of the Doha climate change conference are discussed in table 1.
The Philippines, the Mekong River Delta in Vietnam and almost
all regions of Cambodia, north and east Lao PDR, the metropolitan area of Bangkok, South and West Sumatra, West and East
Java of Indonesia are considered hot spots to climate change
impacts. Most endangered is Jakarta as this densely populated
city lies at the intersection of all but one of five climate-related
hazards—droughts, floods, landslides and sea level rise. [International Development Research Centre’s Economy and Environment Program for Southeast Asia]
Looking back, the annual negotiations by the parties to the UNFCCC have run on two tracks since 2007. One has
been devoted for the Kyoto Protocol, which limits the emissions of the rich countries that have ratified it. The other
deals with long-term mechanisms to combat climate change. The Durban platform has become the third track and
after Doha, the forum to craft and deliver a new climate agreement covering all Parties of the UNFCCC by 2015.
Table 1 Key outcomes of the Doha climate change negotiations
Kyoto Protocol extended to
8 years with emissions cut
commitments of developed
countries under KP aggregating to 18% below 1990
Recommended by science,
technical subsidiary body or
previous COP decision
Collective emissions cut by
developed countries that range
Short even of the bottom of the
range recommended by science.
In the last couple of decades, Southeast Asia
has experienced delays in rainy season in some
parts, and extended monsoon in others that
disrupted the planting season and production
in a region largely dependent on agriculture
[documented observations by Dr. Tun Lwin,
climate expert from Myanmar]. Such climate
change impacts have proven severely threatening for the life and livelihood of most Southeast
Asians who are considered poor and have very
limited adaptive capacity.
The region, however, has the potential to address these climate-related challenges.
It is endowed with vast carbon storing natural forests; abundant sources of renewable and low-carbon energy
such as the wind, solar, tidal and hydro; and about 600 million people with different expressions of indigenous
creativity and adaptive skills and wisdom. These vast natural and human resources must be sustainably and
promptly tapped to save the climate.
Graph 2. Renewable energy potential in SEA1
Tidal & wave energy
Solar thermal electricity
Renewable Municipal Waste
The international climate change negotiations
in the UNFCCC and the ASEAN economic
community building are timely platforms and
relevant avenues where ASEAN can translate
its pronouncement on climate change into real,
concrete commitments and action that have
the power to impact positively on peoples and
communities in the region.
Source: International Energy Agency (2010)
• ASEAN leaders must ensure that its economic community building is low carbon and sustainable by
considering on one hand policy support for renewable energy and on the other hand policy reform to desubsidize coal and oil.
• ASEAN leaders must fast track initiatives to build climate resilience among Member States by encouraging its members to allocate sufficient budgetary resources to support appropriate and community
driven climate adaptation initiatives. ASEAN must also work with community groups and civil society
organizations in building and sharing knowledge and learning on best climate adaptation practices.
• ASEAN leaders must undertake initiatives to adopt trans-boundary initiative aimed at addressing crossborder climate change issues. One of these could be the development of a tool for a trans-boundary environmental impact assessment system in the region.
• In the UNFCCC, ASEAN countries must contribute their collective voice in pushing for a fair, ambitious,
and legally binding global climate deal---and nothing less than this.
In conclusion, in overcoming the 2015 climate challenge, we can find inspiration in the following words of international human rights icon and fellow Southeast Asian, Lady Aung San Suu Kyi. In calling for the appropriate
energy policy for her country, she said: “We wish to create a political, social and economic environment that
will bring ethical, new and innovative investments to our country. We would like to draw up our blue print for
a new model of sustainable economy with a view to the future needs of our globe, social and environmental
concerns, woven into food, water and energy needs. “[World Economic Forum, 2012]
I wish for the same. The new model of sustainable economy under the regime of climate change must be lowcarbon and resilient. With the above recommendations, it can become a reality.
The total potential for renewable electricity in 2030 is about 1.8 times the total 2007 electricity consumption in the region. The additional realizable potential in the 6 countries mentioned could be as much as 12 times the current deployment of
renewable electricity, especially for non-hydro power sources. Significant contributors would be solar PV, wind, geothermal and biomass. The realizable potential for renewables is also significantly larger than the penetration projected in the 450
scenario in the World Energy Outlook in 2009. This demonstrates that the main factor hindering the growth of renewables in the region is not resource availability but rather the competition from “less costly” technology options, the prices of which
do not adequately account for the external costs of fossil fuels nor fully consider the inherent benefits of renewables. Another key point here is that the renewable energy technologies for electricity with the potential to make major contributions in the
medium term up to 2030 are primarily those which have already reached, or are close to market competitiveness. Important socio-economic benefits of large-scale penetration of renewables include improvements in energy security and noteworthy
reductions of air pollution and carbon dioxide emissions which would contribute to climate change mitigation.
Published by the ASEAN for a Fair, Ambitious and Binding global climate deal (AFAB)
Partnership of Oxfam, Greenpeace & EROPA in Southeast Asia