Climate Change: Impact on ASEAN Region

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“Climate change is the greatest threat to the existence of Earth”

With the advent of the 21st century, the term ‘Climate Change’ has been in news more often than not. Unfortunately, despite tangible evidence, it is shrugged off nonchalantly as a parable. All over the world, climate patterns and weather conditions are changing at an ever-increasing pace.

The sea levels are rising, wildlife is threatened to the point of extinction, glaciers are melting and the cloud forests are dying. With a continual effort of the scientists, it’s becoming evident that humans are the reason for this global warming by causing the release of greenhouse gases known as heat-trapping gases. The levels of these gases are greater now; as compared to the last 650,000 years.

This change has caused the climate of Earth to fluctuate. The Earth revolves every day and this new heat whirls with it. As a result, the heat picks up the moisture over rivers, seas, and oceans, changing the rhythm of climate that is conducive for all living beings.

Climate Change: A Bi-product of Global Warming

Climate Change indisputably is a consequence of global warming. Most climate scientists agree that the climate change effect is the bi-product of global warming. This effect is caused by some of the greenhouse gases e.g. water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and chloro-fluoro carbons.

Climate Change
Graph by NASA shows a continuous rise in global temperatures

During the 20th century, because of rapid urbanization and industrialization, the burning of fossil fuels like oil and coal has been greater than before; hence increasing the concentration of CO2 (atmospheric carbon dioxide). This is because the process of burning coal or oil combines carbon with oxygen to create CO2. Aside from that, to a lower degree, the elimination of plants and clearing of land for industrial, agricultural, and other human activities has amplified the impact of greenhouse gases.

Impact of Climate Change on ASEAN Region
This graph shows the level of carbon emissions by ASEAN states

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is a regional alliance that promotes economic, political, and security cooperation amongst its members; Brunei, Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Singapore, Myanmar, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Thailand.

The ASEAN region is extremely susceptible to climate change because a large number of the population and economic activity is based along coastlines. The ASEAN region is dependent on agriculture, natural resources, and forestry for livelihood.

According to a study carried out by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the mean temperature increased by 0.1 to 0.3 degrees Celsius per decade between 1951 and 2000. Rainfall has decreased from 1960-2000 whereas the sea levels have raised 1-3 millimeters per annum.

Increase in heat in the ASEAN states because of Climate Change

Consequently, the region is facing an onslaught of droughts, heatwaves, floods, and tropical cyclones. A 4.8 degrees Celsius rise in mean annual temperature and a 70 centimeters rise in mean sea level by 2100 in the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, and Viet Nam; have been observed.

Rising sea level is a major problem for many coastal cities of ASEAN’s like Jakarta, Manila, and Bangkok. Such a monumental change may cause the displacement of millions of people which would cause economic losses. For instance, as per a study, this will cause a decline of up to 50 percent of rice yield potential in the ASEAN countries, by 2100.

Aside from the economic impact of climate change, greenhouse gas emissions will increase in the atmosphere. This will be partly because of the low carbon sequestration potential of forests. Resultantly, it will cause water stress and an adverse impact on human health.

Measures Adopted by the ASEAN Member States 

The ASEAN Member States have taken measures to stop climate change through different economic, environmental, and social activities. Some states have announced voluntary mitigation targets, like Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. Moreover, the ASEAN states have started reinforcing policies at the national level for climate change adaptation in development planning.

ASEAN has played an active role in tackling climate change, globally as well as regionally. The leaders of ASEAN states have issued declarations to work for a global solution towards climate change. They aim to collaborate to achieve a resilient ASEAN community against climate change.

Collectively the ASEAN states have been adhering to the Doha Amendments to the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, Nationally Determined Contributions, and the Paris Agreement.

Joint Statement by the ASEAN States to fight Climate Change

In a joint statement, the ASEAN states pledged to implement measures to address climate change as per ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) Blueprint 2025. The states will collaborate to promote the sustainable management of forests.

This entails the application of COP decisions on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation; under the guidance of the Warsaw Framework. Joint ventures will be launched to enhance biodiversity protection conservation, and restoration of various terrestrial, marine, and coastal ecosystems.

In addition to that, the ASEAN nations strive to achieve a 21.9% reduction in energy intensity as per the ASEAN Plan of Action for Energy Cooperation (APAEC) 2016 – 2025. ASEAN Regional Strategy on Sustainable Land Transport the ASEAN Fuel Economy Roadmap for the Transport will be launched to curb Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

The member states endeavor to manage climate-related disasters through existing mechanisms under the ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response (AADMER).

Also, the collaboration will be promoted through ASEAN dialogue, sectoral dialogue, development cohorts as well as other external parties to boost climate action in the region.

Recently, in the COP26, which is being held in Glasgow, UK; the ASEAN countries have urged developed countries to commit in terms of assistance to developing and least developed countries.

*The writer is a Research Fellow at the Institute of Peace and Diplomatic Studies and The Diplomatic Insight. 

*Views expressed in this article are writers’ own and do not necessarily reflect the position of the institutions. 

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