Credit: Thai Government House

Climate action momentum boosted at the Climate Action Summit: UN

ASEAN expressed its readiness for active participation in tackling climate change

Climate action momentum has been boosted up following major announcements by government and private sector leaders at the UN Climate Action Summit, demonstrating growing recognition that the pace of climate action must be rapidly accelerated, the UN body has claimed.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres, in the closing of the Summit on Monday said; “You have delivered a boost in momentum, cooperation and ambition. But we have a long way to go.”

“We need more concrete plans, more ambition from more countries and more businesses. We need all financial institutions, public and private, to choose, once and for all, the green economy.”

At the grand event ahead of COP25 in Santiago, Chile  to discuss further  the ambitions to be addressed under the Parist Agreement, 77 countries committed to cut greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, while other 70 countries announced they will either boost their national action plans by 2020 or have started the process of doing so, according to the UN.

Meanwhile, over 100 business leaders delivered concrete actions to align with the Paris Agreement targets, and speed up the transition from the grey to green economy, including asset-owners holding over $2 trillion in assets and leading companies with combined value also over $2 trillion.

On Monday, the Secretary-General of the United Nations hosted the Climate Action Summit in New York with the objective of boosting ambition and rapidly accelerate action to implement the Paris Agreement. 

The Agreement was agreed by parties to the climate convention UNFCCC in Paris in 2015 as the new accord to cope with climate change, but it is literally voluntary based with pledges from the country members, prompting it to face an uphill challenge to reach the colective targets.

The Secretary-General aimed to demonstrate a leap in collective national political ambition and massive low-emission movements in the real economy in this event by,

•Raising national ambition :Countries would be asked to present concrete, realistic plans, compatible with the latest Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 C by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, to enhance their Nationally Determined Contributions by 2020, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent over the next decade, and to net zero by 2050.

• Prompting transformative changes needed to support the implementation of these plans in the areas of energy transition, infrastructure, cities and local action, industry transition, resilience and adaptation, nature-based solutions, and climate finance and carbon pricing.

• Generating political momentum through enhanced social and political driver as well as youth and public engagement.

In short, UN Secretary-General António Guterres was calling on all leaders to come to New York with concrete, realistic plans to enhance their nationally determined contributions by 2020, in line with reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent over the next decade, and to net zero emissions by 2050.

At the event many countries and over 100 cities – including many of the world’s largest were cited by the UN as having announced “significant and concrete new steps” to combat the climate crisis.

Many smaller countries, including Small Island Developing States and Least Developed Countries, were among those who made the biggest pledges, despite the fact the they have contributed the least to the problem, however.

Youth leaders including Greta Thunberg who delivered the speech to pressure the leaders again, drove home the urgency of greater action by leaders, and their determination to hold leaders to account.

Some responded.

• France announced that it would not enter into any trade agreement with countries that have policies counter to the Paris Agreement.

• Germany committed to carbon neutrality by 2050

• India pledged to increase renewable energy capacity to 175gw by 2022 and committed to further increasing to 450GW, and announced that 80 countries have joined the International Solar Alliance.

• China said it would cut emissions by over 12 billion tons annually, and would pursue a path of high quality growth and low carbon development.

• The Russian Federation announced that they will ratify the Paris Agreement, bringing the total number of countries that have joined the Agreement to 187.

•Countries, including France and New Zealand, announced that they will not allow oil or gas exploration on their lands or off-shore waters.

• Heads of State from Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, and Slovakia, are among those that announced that they will work to phase out coal. 

•The Republic of Korea announced it would shut down four coal-fired power plants, and six more will be closed by 2022, as well as the doubling of its contribution to the Green Climate Fund.

•Pakistan said it would plant more than 10 billion trees over the next five years.

• The Summit also delivered critical platforms for improving energy efficiency and reducing the growing energy needs for cooling, with the “Three Percent Club” coalition working to drive a three percent annual global increase in energy efficiency and the Cool Coalition setting ambitious national cooling targets for its members with the potential to deliver up to 1 degree on the pathway to a 2050 net zero carbon world.

•12 countries made financial commitments to the Green Climate Fund, the official financial mechanism to assist developing countries in adaptation and mitigation practices to counter climate change. This is in addition to recent announcements from Norway, Germany, France and the United Kingdom who have recently doubled their present contributions.

•The European Union announced at least 25% of the next EU budget will be devoted to climate-related activities.

• The United Kingdom made a major additional contribution, doubling its overall international climate finance to L11.6 billion for the period from 2020 to 2025.

•Further, the Climate Investment Platform was officially announced today. It will seek to directly mobilize US$ 1 trillion in clean energy investment by 2025 in 20 Least Developed Countries in its first year.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres urged governments, businesses and people everywhere to join the initiatives announced at the Summit, and promised to “keep pushing” for greater ambition and action. 

The Secretary-General committed the UN system to support implementation of plans presented at the Summit, with an initial report to be delivered at COP25 in Santiago, Chile.

Thailand and ASEAN

Meanwhile, ASEAN expressed its readiness for active participation in tackling climate change

Thailand’s Prime Minister and Defense Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha attended and delivered a statement on behalf of ASEAN at Summit, saying 

ASEAN welcomed the convening of the Climate Action Summit and commended the Secretary-General for his leadership in addressing the climate change issue. 

The Thai premier continued that ASEAN is highly vulnerable to impacts of climate change since most of the population lives along low-lying coasts and river plains. The increased impacts of climate change have increasingly threatened the region’s economic and social progress, he cited.

In this regard, ASEAN has strived to strengthen resilience by implementing both climate change “mitigation” and “adaptation” measures, and is committed to be actively involved in global climate action at various levels.

At the global level, PM Prayut said ASEAN strongly supports efforts under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). 

All ASEAN Member States are Parties to the Paris Agreement and have communicated their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). 

At the regional level, the PM said ASEAN has been implementing strategic measures under the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Blueprint 2025 in order to move towards “Sustainable Climate” and to realize a resilient community. 

ASEAN has key targets, which include those on energy transition. PM Prayut said ASEAN has exceeded its energy efficiency target, reducing energy intensity by more than 21.9% compared to 2005 levels, well ahead of its 2020 target. 

The Thai premier said ASEAN will continue to work towards the long-term target to reduce energy intensity by 30% by 2025 and have also set a target to increase the component of renewable energy mix by 23% by 2025.

On the targets on land transport, ASEAN aims to reduce the average fuel consumption of new light-duty vehicles sold in ASEAN by 26% between 2015 and 2025. It will also introduce and strengthen fiscal policy measures based on fuel economy or on CO2 emissions at national level; and promote the adoption of national fuel consumption standards for light-duty vehicles, striving towards a regional standard in the long term, the Thai PM pointed.

In addition, ASEAN stresses the direct linkage between climate action and all means of implementation, including capacity-building, transfer of technology and financial support. 

The Summit therefore presented an opportunity for developed countries to deliver on their financial commitments and ASEAN hoped to see their strong political signals to scale-up climate finance that is secure, predictable and sustainable in the post-2020 context, the Thai PM remarked.

Lastly, PM Prayut stressed that no one country can fight climate change alone, therefore “partnership is vital”. 

“ASEAN stands ready to advance partnership with the global community on climate action to ensure sustainability for present and future generations,” PM Prayut said.