ASEAN Youth Climate Statement at COP 16
ASEAN Youth Climate Statement at COP 16
The ASEAN, with its population of over 600 million, has a huge stake in ensuring climate change is addressed effectively. Considering the different circumstances in each member country, ASEAN cannot tackle climate change on its own. However, ASEAN can no doubt enhance its efforts to ensure a robust low-carbon economic region and its climate resilience.
ASEAN has been gaining increasing political clout around the world. Its effectiveness and credibility as a regional bloc will therefore have to be more acknowledged from within and by other actors.
ASEAN contributes to approximately 12% of global greenhouse gas emissions and therefore has much potential for mitigation, while taking into account the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. ASEAN countries must have a clear vision of developing low-carbon economies, with appropriate strategies for short-term and middle-term and long-term goals in order to achieve sustainable development.
Southeast Asia is one of the regions most vulnerable to climate change, especially due to its rich biodiversity and extensive coastlines. Southeast Asia is situated right in the middle of the coral triangle and holds over 30% of the world's coral reefs. Furthermore, the occurrences of extreme weather within the region have increased, with the number of typhoons in 2004 increasing to 21, above the median of 17.5 for the years 1990 through 2003.
In addition, droughts in Vietnam, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and the Philippines have caused forest fires, crop failures and water shortages. From 2002 to 2007 alone, Southeast Asia produced 140 million tonnes of grain per year and the Asian Development Bank report on the Economics of Climate Change believes that there could be a 50% loss in the agricultural output of ASEAN in the future due to erratic weather and other climatic events. This could pose problems for economic development, trade, and food security within and between ASEAN and other countries. Many South East Asian countries also have significant coastal regions with physical and infrastructural capital at risk from rising sea levels.
These combined effects will only multiply in the near and long-term future. If no cohesive strategy is taken to adapt to and mitigate climate change, socio-economic and environmental stability of the region is much at risk. We have to politically recognize that climate change will affect ASEAN economically. For example, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam risk suffering a loss equivalent to almost 7% of their annual GDP by 2100 if insufficient action is taken.
The ASEAN, with its many vulnerabilities, should advocate limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius and bringing long term carbon dioxide concentration below 350 ppm. In addition, ASEAN countries should capitalize on the strengths of respective members in order to create an integrated, effective approach to tackle regional climate change, be it policy, sharing of best practices or direct action in local communities. A rights-based approach to tackling climate change issues should also be discussed about and integrated into decision-making.
With this said, much of ASEAN has an opportunity to avoid conventional modes of development and transition into an environmentally friendly and sustainable region while effectively adapting to the inevitable effects of climate change. This will allow the region to achieve effective and sustained economic integration, ensuring equal opportunities to self-determination and prosperity for all.
ASEAN Economic Strategy
Given the integrated economies of the ASEAN and its aim to establish a free trade zone, climate change policies must play a significant role in ensuring socially equitable and environmentally sustainable economic prosperity for all.
One positive development would be for decisions made by the ASEAN Meeting for the Environment (AMME) to be effectively amalgamated into the work of the ASEAN Economic Community. This will allow climate change to be at the forefront of being a political priority year after year, discussed closely in tandem with any discussion of economic growth and integration.
There should be systematic capacity building, and also emphasis on the interconnectedness and impact of climate change on other sectors, such as biodiversity, agriculture and fisheries. We need to mainstream climate change in all sectors of our economies, recognizing that it is an issue central to our economic future and our livelihoods.
Sustainable energy provision must be a central strategy of any economic plans ASEAN with energy demand projected to increase by 76% by 2030. We should have a vision of adopting an ASEAN Renewable Energy Grid that will bring many co-benefits and provide for many economic opportunities. We also call for governments to recall the Singapore Declaration on Climate Change, Energy and the Environment which encourages an integrated approach towards R&D and adaptation. Efficiency, energy security and reducing energy poverty can all result from this.
We call on all nations to develop effective Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs), differentiating between those that are unilateral actions and those that are supported by international finance and technology transfer.
Reducing deforestation and forest degradation is a cornerstone to any ASEAN strategy to tackle climate change. At the outset, the ASEAN Transboundary Haze Agreement has to be effectively implemented. Drivers of deforestation both on the supply and demand side must be addressed. Proper forest governance is required to ensure that corruption which entrenches illegal logging and forest clearance. Laws enacted must be effectively implemented on the ground at local and sub-national levels.
Any REDD+ mechanism to be implemented must ensure that its ultimate purpose of conserving intact, biodiverse, natural forests is maintained. We also emphasize that any programme must safeguard and enhance the lives of local and indigenous communities and observe the principle of free, prior and informed consent. Intact and degraded forests must also not be perversely converted into monoculture plantations. REDD+ programmes must be supported on a fund-based mechanism and not a market-based system where Annex 1 countries are allowed to offset their emissions.
Education and public awareness
Governments can play a significant role to raise greater public awareness on climate change and its effects. This would aid in increasing society's support for the successful implementation of environmentally sustainable policies and practices. Government intervention alone cannot successfully address climate change; the active participation of the households, schools, universities, the private sector and individuals is equally essential.
Climate change education must be integrated into the formal curriculum in nationally appropriate methods and targeted for different age groups. Financial support and educational Young people must be empowered to act locally to reduce their own impact but also be able to think globally and critically on such a complex issue. As such, the existing ASEAN Environment Education Programme is acknowledged and serves as a good foundation for further climate change education. Informal means of bringing up the issue of climate change is also essential. The implementation of Article 6 of the UNFCCC Convention must be enabled in all our countries.
We need to cultivate and empower a generation of capable leaders that will have different capacities and different roles to play in the transition into the new green economy, providing decent work, contributing to their communities and ensuring clean development for all.
Capacity building, regional cooperation and governance
Sufficient information on environmentally sustainable practices as well as their benefits for both private firms and the environment should be made available and accessible. This would clearly educate and incentivize citizens on why and how they can choose environmentally sustainable options.
The undertaking of more extensive research to provide accurate information on climate change, as well as mitigation and adaptation efforts, could also prove useful in policy making for all countries within ASEAN. With this, a collective goal can be established in tackling climate change and build even closer, deeper ties amongst countries and other stakeholders through cooperation and collaboration.
Regional mechanisms and centres of excellence can be established on varying issues. Adaptation and mitigation being of utmost priority, would take into account regional and local circumstances. Information technology and communication can also be seen as an effective tool in building online databases and become excellent platforms for sharing information and best practices.
ASEAN as an organization must go beyond mutual pressure and joint declarations on the commitment to tackle climate change. It must be seen as being more visible in dealing with climate change in the eyes of the public. We applaud the Vientiane Plan of Action as a step in recognizing significant areas wherein environmental cooperation can be enhanced. ASEAN can and should actively participate and lead in international forums in particular in the lead up to the United Nations Conference of Sustainable Development in 2012 (Rio+20).
Involvement of civil society
The involvement of non-governmental actors is key to effective action on climate change in ASEAN. These stakeholders must be allowed to do their work without restriction, be it being a watchdog on environmental policies and their implementation or empowering local communities to adapt to climate change.
Because climate change is an issue of a shared historical and intergenerational responsibility, the ASEAN youth is also key in resolving this issue. ASEAN member states must cultivate an environment wherein young people can be empowered to act locally, nationally, regionally and even internationally on all aspects of climate change.
We hope that the ASEAN+3 Youth Environment Forum can be strengthened and have a more effective say in developing national and regional policies. In addition, NGOs and CSOs should be allowed as stakeholders in the newly formed ASEAN Working Group on Climate Change. Governments should also allow youth delegates to be part of official delegations to international conferences such as at the UNFCCC.
We call for an enhanced platform for all stakeholders to be part of decision-making processes by holding regular forums, conferences and consultations within and between countries to discuss the whole range of issues that climate change encompasses. The involvement of academia is also essential to provide much needed information provision and research required to deal effectively with this complex issue.
We therefore call the ASEAN governments individually and collectively to ramp up its resolve with a shared vision to contribute effectively to global efforts to tackle climate change at the UNFCCC platform and beyond. ASEAN as a region can certainly be a model of success for others in the international community.