Climate change main threat facing Southeast Asia

But ASEAN response sluggish, says Greenpeace

Press release - May 9, 2011
At the conclusion of the 18th ASEAN Summit in Jakarta today, Greenpeace called on ASEAN Heads of State to act with greater urgency and show political unity in addressing climate change. The call came as the environment group criticized ASEAN’s failure to once again tackle climate change as a priority agenda, saying that while climate change is the main threat facing the region, ASEAN response has been slow and lackluster.

“The latest Summit, overshadowed by political bickering and posturing which has pushed out climate change in the agenda, shows that ASEAN is still not serious about squarely facing what is by far the greatest threat to the region.  The future of Southeast Asia will not be secure without strong, unified ASEAN action on climate change.  Concerns on food security, access to clean water and energy, poverty alleviation, and disaster mitigation, etc, are all hinged on how SEA countries together are able to deal with global warming,” said Zelda Soriano, Political Advisor, Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

Climate change is the greatest threat to the region, but ASEAN response has been sluggish.  Extreme weather is the most graphic indication that Southeast Asia’s economies and communities will buckle under the continuing manifestations of climate change.  Even as the ASEAN Summit was happening, host Indonesia as well as the Philippines, suffered floods and deaths due to typhoons and heavy rains.  Thailand is just recovering from weeks of flooding which last month devastated its southern provinces which killed at least 17 people.

Greenpeace believes that ASEAN’s positions on climate change need to be strengthened beyond declarations which the body has been issuing since 2007.  While the political body has also formed the ASEAN Working Group on Climate Change (AWGCC) as well as the ASEAN Climate Change Initiative (ACCI), the two bodies lack the mandate that will provide relevance to ASEAN’s various climate change statements and declarations.

Greenpeace is asking ASEAN Heads of State set the precedence of ASEAN political unity in addressing climate change by agreeing to:

  1.  add strength to the mandate of AWGCC and their national delegations to the UNFCCC;
  2. negotiate stronger common ASEAN positions in the next round of climate talks in Bonn, leading to the Durban Conference of Parties; and
  3. add an important voice in the negotiations for a binding deal to up the targets of developed countries’ emissions cuts, address the gap between current pledges and demands of science, funding window in the green fund for reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation with adequate environmental and social safeguards, balanced mitigation and adaptation.

“ASEAN must heed to President Susilo Bambang Yudyohono’s earlier call for countries to prepare for more climate change-induced disasters. To effectively do so, ASEAN must act as a bloc, emphasise the vulnerability of our region to climate change, and add its voice in the negotiations for a fair, ambitious and binding global climate deal,” said Nur Hidayati, Country Representative for Indonesia, Greenpeace Southeast Asia.