How are ASEAN countries faring with their climate action pledges in preparation for the December Paris climate talks?

MANILA, Philippines — With only 5 months before the Paris climate talks, ASEAN countries are stepping up their game.

Over 190 countries will come together in December for the 21st international climate conference known as COP21 or Conference of Parties. The two-week affair hopes to achieve a new climate agreement aiming to keep global warming below 2°C.

To reach this goal, each country must prepare its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC), a list of climate actions governments would take post-2020. The INDCs must cite how countries would reduce carbon emissions and address climate change.

Ideally, the INDCs could lead to a “low-carbon, climate-resilient future,” according to the United Nations. Deadline of INDC submissions is on October 2015, but as of July, only 17 have submitted to the UN.

Singapore is the first and only ASEAN country to comply so far. (READ: Can the climate change challenge unify the ASEAN?)

While Singapore is heavily dependent on fossil fuels, it plans to reduce its emissions intensity by 36% from its 2005 levels by 2030. To reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint, Singapore switched from fuel oil to natural gas — the cleanest form of fossil fuel — for over 90% of its electricity generation. Such shift comes at a higher cost.

The island city-state also commits to “invest significantly in research and development” on low carbon technologies.

China and South Korea are the only other Asian countries that have submitted their INDCs as of July. Meanwhile, the Philippines has yet to comply.

ASEAN efforts

With the Paris talks nearing, how are ASEAN countries faring with their INDCs? Five countries presented their progress during the Regional Climate Change Forum in Bangkok in July.

Indonesia

Indonesia’s major emission sources are coal and oil. Its mitigation goals by 2050, however, include a massive deployment of renewable sources like wind and solar energy.

It also wants to reduce its use of coal.

The country also aims to have more Indonesians use electrical stoves than LPGs or natural gas. The goal is to increase electrification, while also reducing emissions. To do so, Indonesia also plans to make its public transportation more environment-friendly.

In 2009, Indonesia already pledged to lower its emissions. But its INDCs are still currently being processed, with September at its submission target.

Thailand

Thailand’s GHG emissions mostly come from the energy sector, its Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment said. To address this issue, Thailand has energy policies in place, including a plan to increase renewable energy use from 2012-2021, and a plan to reduce energy intensity to 25% by 2030.

The government also aims to create a more “environmentally-sustainable” transportation system, and to decrease its CO2 emission by 7-20%.

“Now it’s 7%, we can reach 20% if we get international support,” said Thawatchai Somnam of the Thailand Greenhouse Gas Management Organization.

Like Indonesia, Thailand is still developing its INDCs, with a focus on the energy sector. The government has a National Committee on Climate Change Policy, comprised of different ministries and chaired by the Prime Minister. The government is also workingwith the academe on climate issues.

Thailand aims to submit its INDCs by September or October.

Vietnam

Vietnam’s INDCs are currently being developed by its Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, in collaboration with other agencies.

It began with INDC workshops in August 2014, with a focus on mitigation and adaptation measures. Vietnam aims to contribute 10-20% in emission reduction with or without international support.

Vietnam’s CO2 emissions, like other ASEAN countries, have increased over the years.

Cambodia

“Its emission is very low,” said Hak Mao of Cambodia’s Ministry of Environment. “Cambodia is not a major contributor to climate change, but is the most vulnerable country,” he added.

Nevertheless, since both developing and developed countries are accountable to climate change, the Cambodian government aims to reduce its GHG emissions, especially those coming from the land use, land-use change and forestry sector. (INFOGRAPHIC: How climate change affects ASEAN food basket)

To combat climate change, Cambodia established its National Climate Change Committee in 2006, alongside policies like a green growth roadmap, adaptation and mitigation plans.

Like Indonesia, Cambodia plans to increase its electricity accessibility. It aims to provide electricity to 70% of all households by 2030. In the same year, the government plans to have already transitioned into an upper middle income country. By 2050, it aims to reached a “developed level.

Malaysia

Although Malaysia is among the fastest growing ASEAN economies, its climate efforts do not fall short.

Malaysia sees itself as a developing low-carbon society. By 2020, it aims to transform into a fully developed nation.

As part of its green growth for sustainability plan, Malaysia has focused on practical projects such as household recycling, which has increased from 5% in 2010 to 15% in 2015. The government implemented a Renewable Energy Act in 2011, developed flood hazard maps, and increased Malaysia’s forest cover by around 5% in 4 years.

Its GHG emission intensity of GDP also reduced by 33% from 2005 to 2013. It targets to reduce emissions to 40% through a more “intensive implementation” of policies, especially in the energy sector.

The government developed its “climate resilient policy strategy” while keeping in mind the need to balance such measures with Malaysia’s others needs — eradicating poverty and pollution, raising living standards, income and productivity.

Brunei, Laos, and Myanmar did not report their progress during the RCFF, but are also expected to submit their INDCs ahead of the Paris climate talks. – Rappler.com