THE United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s (UNFCCC) 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) has become a critical turning point for the global community. To date (February 2018), the Paris Agreement has been ratified by 174 parties, representing around 88 per cent of global emissions. This has surpassed the requirement of participation from 55 parties, representing at least 55 per cent of global emissions, in order for the agreement to enter into force.

At an event organised by United Nations Climate Change in October last year in Singapore, Asean member states (AMS) expressed commitment to heighten climate actions by taking a harmonised approach to measuring, reporting and verifying greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as a first step towards further regional collaboration in carbon markets.

In 2000, Southeast Asia was responsible for 12 per cent of the world’s GHG emissions, including carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4). The region’s share of global CO2 emission also doubled from 1990 to 2010 due to rapid economic and population growth. With this concern, the AMS took part in the historic Paris Agreement and submitting their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) to the UNFCCC in 2015.

The INDCs outline the AMS’s post-2020 strategies that will be undertaken to improve climate resilience in different sectors, such as transport, industry and buildings. After INDCs conversion to Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), UNFCCC records show that all 10 AMS have finalised and formally submitted their first NDCs.

In 2015, UNFCCC showed that the energy sector dominated the portion of global GHG emission (almost 75 per cent). To address this issue, the AMS collectively expressed their main NDCs’ concern in the aspiring energy-related targets. This commitment was set with the consideration of resource endowments, consumption patterns, technical capacities and challenges existing in each country.

However, the national mitigation targets to reduce emission still fall short of UNFCCC’s 21st Conference of Parties (COP21)’s climate target. There is still a gap that needs to be narrowed in order to pursue the goal of limiting the rise of mean surface temperature.

Assuming that the pledges are met and retained in the post-2030 period, the global mean surface temperature is projected to rise by 3.1°C to 5.2°C above pre-industrial levels by 2100, which is still higher than the 2°C threshold (MIT Centre for Global Change Science, 2016). Asean, as a region with the third largest population and the seventh largest economy in the world, needs to step up its game in the global efforts.

There are many options for countries to go beyond their NDCs. Asean has agreed to enhance mitigation efforts by strengthening its non-GHG target in renewable energy (RE) and energy efficiency (EE).

The strong coupling of economic growth and GHG emissions has been a major contributor to human-induced climate change, including in Asean. However, the region has the potential to substantially reduce overall CO2 emissions by improving EE and deploying more RE.

The region commits to the aspirational target of the Asean Plan of Action for Energy Cooperation (APAEC): increasing the component of RE to 23 per cent by 2025 in the Asean energy mix and reducing energy intensity (EI) by 20 per cent in 2020 based on the 2005 level.

According to the 5th Asean Energy Outlook, launched last September during the 35th Asean Ministers on Energy Meeting, by meeting the APAEC targets of 2016–2025, and continuing the success up to 2040, Asean would be able to reduce its emission by 37 per cent. Further study needs to be conducted to see the impact of this result to the global surface temperature.

Malaysia is ranked the second in the region in terms of emissions per capita (2013, World Resources Institute). Its firm commitment to reduce emissions is essential in Asean. For the NDCs, the country is committed to reduce emission intensity by 35 per cent in 2030, based on the 2005 gross domestic product. A further 10 per cent reduction is also expected with international support. As reported in the NDC, in 2011, Malaysia has successfully reduced the emission intensity up to 23 per cent.

Malaysia has also stepped outside its solar PV (photovoltaics) “comfort zone” by exploring the potential of onshore wind energy to be included in its energy mix, as part of efforts to go beyond its NDCs and deploying more renewable energy. It also issued the world’s first green Islamic bond to finance sustainable, climate-resilient growth projects.

The implementation of several new initiatives on solar PV, such as auction and net metering, has shown significant progress, and Malaysia is considering the possibility of including wind energy in its feed-in-tariff scheme. It is still in the initial stage of development, but this effort needs to be recognised and, perhaps, is worth being adopted by other Asean member states, as it shows a country’s determination to go beyond the expected to fulfil its responsibility in climate change mitigation.

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