Southeast Asia is the most vulnerable region to the impacts of climate change with floods, biodiversity loss and rising sea level – the top three perceived effects – according to the Climate Outlook 2021 Survey Report by ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore.
This was stated by ASEAN Centre for Energy Manager at the ASEAN Secretariat Dr Beni Suryadi in his discussion on ‘Act Now for Resilient Future’ during the Climate Action Week of the Brunei Mid-Year Conference and Exhibtion 2022 (Brunei MYCE 2022) yesterday, adding that the impacts also threaten prosperity and welfare in the region.
He said that Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam are among the 10 countries that have suffered the most in human and material terms from climate-related weather events over the past 20 years.
In 2015, he said, the Asian Development Bank predicted that climate change could cut the region’s gross domestic product (GDP) by 11 per cent by the end of 21st Century.
“Looking ahead, Southeast Asian countries face the prospect of increasing severe flooding as more extreme weather events, and large-scale loss of fertile coastal land occurred. This will, in turn, impact our water supply and agriculture. Southeast Asia’s vulnerability to climate change is rooted in the region’s unique geography as most of its mainland population lives in low-lying plains or coastal river deltas,” he said.
Therefore, he explained that the rising sea level will have significant consequences for ASEAN, “intensifying domestic, intra-regional and interregional migration, exacerbating member states’ social, economic and political risks”.
He continued, “The rapid urbanisation in ASEAN member states magnifies the impact of climate-induced environmental hazards on major population centres. Major cities like Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Manila, and Yangon are highly vulnerable to even moderate sea-level rise.”
In Singapore, besides the threat posed by the rising sea level, the densely populated island state is also facing rapid increase in temperature twice as fast as in the rest of the world, creating health risks in the humid tropical environment.
According to findings in the Climate Outlook 2021 Survey, a vast majority of ASEAN respondents recognise the importance of climate change, but respondents from Vietnam and the Philippines show the greatest urgency, with 80 per cent and 77.9 per cent finding it a “serious and immediate threat” to their countries.
“We have a growing concern about the continuing rise in global greenhouse gas emissions given the findings of recent reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and about the remaining gap between the Nationally-Determined-Contributions pledges submitted at COP26 last year and the level of ambition required to achieve the objectives of the Paris Agreement,” Dr Beni Suryadi said.
“By the end of COP26 last year, almost all ASEAN member states pledged to net-zero emissions, with Vietnam and Thailand announcing their aspirations at the conference following announcements by Laos, Indonesia, and Malaysia on the road to COP26.”
Brunei Darussalam, Myanmar, and Singapore were among the first movers to announce net-zero targets early last year.
As stipulated in the ASEAN State of Climate Change Report, the ASEAN climate vision 2050 is in line with the long-term goals specified in the Paris Agreement, which calls for stabilising the climate to a two or 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Dr Beni continued, “Based on the modelling projection, the ASEAN’s mitigation goal must include realising net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as early as possible in the latter half of the 21st Century and realising peak GHG emissions as soon as possible after 2030 to ensure the net-zero GHG emission goal is met on schedule.”
With growing awareness of the global energy trends, Dr Beni called for the need to promote energy resilience by bringing in new technologies to support energy security, access, and affordability.
The ASEAN Plan of Action for the Energy Cooperation’s (APAEC) current regional blueprint for energy cooperation sets higher aspirational targets and new initiatives to enhance energy transition and resilience toward a sustainable energy future.
Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism Dato Seri Paduka Dr Haji Abdul Manaf bin Haji Metussin attended the third day of the Climate Action Week.