15 December 2021
After two weeks of negotiations, nearly 200 nations adopted the much-debated Glasgow Climate Pact on Nov 13, 2021, to secure the commitment to keeping the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal alive.
The pact urged the world leaders and policymakers to frame better their efforts to collectively reduce global CO2 emissions by 45 percent from the 2010 level and deep reductions in other GHGs by the end of this decade since the current ones are insufficient.
Until 2021, human activities have already resulted in around 1.1 degrees Celsius of global warming. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the principal greenhouse gas (GHG) contributing to global warming, followed by methane.
Both are emitted mainly from fossil fuel operations and combustions to produce energy. Hence the decarbonisation in the energy sector is essential in tackling global warming.
Commitment to More Ambitious Targets
Being a region with high economic growth and low contribution to global emissions, ASEAN faces difficulties setting up more ambitious actions to mitigate the climate threat.
Emphasising fairness and common but differentiated responsibilities, all 10 ASEAN Member States (AMS) had updated their climate plans, known as nationally determined contributions (NDC), reaffirming the region’s commitment ahead of the UN climate summit this year to climate action.
In the updated NDCs, all AMS covered CO2 emissions, and only Myanmar did not include methane. Malaysia removed the conditional element, while Myanmar and the Philippines upgraded their NDC by adding unconditional targets.
However, the climate targets were considered critically insufficient for Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Their current climate policies reflect minimal action and will meet the target without effort.
Meanwhile, the Climate Action Tracker rated Indonesia as highly insufficient, slightly below critically flawed, because its NDC targets remained unchanged even though it improved its long-term planning towards the net-zero in 2060.
Key Takeaways from COP26
Though possessing limited capacity, many significant announcements were made by several AMS during and outside the UN climate summit. Brunei Darussalam, whose economy has been dominated by the oil and gas industry, declared its net-zero target by 2050.
Our country only contributes about 0.025 percent of the global greenhouse emissions. Still, we believe we will make a substantial positive difference with our small actions, said Brunei’s Minister of Development while speaking at the conference.
On the other hand, Thailand set a net-zero target by 2065 but was determined to have 15 million electric vehicles on the roads by 2035 as part of the country’s strategies to lower greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, the Philippines presented its newly launched Sustainable Finance Roadmap, a blueprint to raise green investments.
Despite the above national strategies in clean transport and finance, none of AMS endorsed the declaration on accelerating the transition to 100 percent zero-emission cars and vans and the statement on international public support for the clean energy transition. The Southeast Asia nations were also missing from the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance, the first global coalition of countries committed to ending oil and gas extraction.
Other energy-related climate change mitigation pledges, including reducing methane emission and unabated coal power, were backed by several Asean governments. That was the first time in COP history that phasing-down coal and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies were being discussed.
The other initiatives that gained support from one or more AMS were Super-efficient Equipment and Appliance Deployment and One Sun Declaration. The former promotes energy-efficient appliances, lighting, and equipment worldwide, while the latter plans to build interconnection capacity across 140 countries through solar, wind, storage, and other renewable energy generation.
Although the global cross-border declaration only received endorsements from Cambodia and Malaysia, Asean has already operated a multilateral power trade project between Lao PDR, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore.
Implications for Asean Energy Targets
Under the ASEAN Plan of Action for Energy Cooperation (APAEC) 2016-2025 Phase II: 2021-2025, which was endorsed last year, the region set an additional target of 35 percent renewable energy share in installed capacity 2025. This aspirational target will be soon achieved since the figure has reached 33.5 percent in 2020, only a 1.5 percent gap for the next five years.
Even though ASEAN renewable energy development is currently promising, the COP26 momentum might give minor implications to the regional energy strategies in the next blueprint cycle in 2025.
The recent increase in renewable energy power capacity was mainly contributed by the vast deployment of variable renewable energy in Vietnam and large hydro in Lao PDR.
Considering this viable expansion of clean energy, it is very likely that AMS will enhance its national policies and NDC to more aggressive targets shortly, answering the urgent calls from COP26.
Despite the massive untapped potential of renewable energy, energy security remains the biggest concern in the region.
Financial, technology transfer, and capacity building from developed nations matter more than ever to help Asean developing countries shift to a low carbon economy, thus enabling the region to frame more tremendous efforts in holding the global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius.