PM Prayut is sided by UK PM Boris Johnson and UN chief António Guterres at COP26. Credit: Thai Gov

Thailand to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 if supported: PM Prayut

Thailand has made a surprise move at COP26 as it has announced that it will level up its mid- and long-term targets on GHG emissions reduction, saying it would accomplish net-zero emissions by 2050 with the mid-term target raised to 40% if gaining support from the international community, the stance which has prompted the country to stand in line with other major countries including the US or the EU

Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha announced the country’s most updated targets on Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions reduction for both the mid-and long-term periods, by 2030 and after half the century respectively, at COP26 in Glasgow late last night, saying the country would reach the net-zero GHG emissions by 2050 and the mid-term target of 40% if it gains technological as well as financial support from the international community.

The country initially aimed to reach net-zero GHG emissions by 2065 as well as carbon neutrality by 2050, the PM revealed these deadlines for the first time at the World Leaders Summit at the Conference, which is part of the UN climate conference held every year among Parties to the UN climate convention, aka UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change).

This year is the make-up for last year’s arrangement, which was postponed by Covid-19. The Conference is seen as a make-or-break event as it’s the first time that the initial targets pledged under the framework of the 2015 Paris Agreement under the convention, or NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions), will be subject to review as set for every five years.

The convention’s scientific body, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), recently laid bare the facts in its prominent 1.5C report and AR 6 report that to avoid climate-related catastrophes, the global temperature needs to be capped below 2C by the end of this century, or preferably 1.5C. This needs countries to almost halve GHG emissions by the next decade or 2030, or around 45% compared to the 2010 level, and accomplish net-zero emissions by the mid-century, or 2050.

Major countries like the US or the EU have pledged to reach net-zero emissions by this deadline, but not many developing countries have. (See graphic below)

PM Prayut while delivering his speech at the World Leaders Summit, COP26. Credit: Thai Gov

“Today, I have come here with a strong will, which is very challenging in itself; that Thailand will level up our climate action in every way and by all means. This is for the country to reach carbon neutrality by 2050 and reach net zero emissions by 2065.

“And with adequate and equitable support for technology, finance, capacity building, as well as cooperation under the convention, I trust that Thailand can level up our GHG emissions reduction target (the mid-term target set by 2030) to 40%, which would then facilitate us to reach the net-zero emissions within 2050,” PM Prayut declared the country’s new GHG emissions reduction targets as reading the statement on the stage.

Earlier, Thailand communicated to the UNFCCC’s secretariate upon the deadline late last year, informing about its GHG emissions target that the country intended to reduce its GHG emission by 20 per cent from the projected Business-as-Usual (BAU) level by 2030, and this contribution could increase up to 25%, subject to adequate support on technology, finance, and other related issues. Thailand’s projected BAU by 2030 stands at 555 MtCO2e.

The country’s pledge was confirmed again by Natural Resources and Environment Minister Varawut Silpa-archa during the press conference last week. The minister also said of the country’s long-term climate strategy, which was first set to be announced by the PM at the Conference, saying the country would move towards a carbon-neutral society in the next 45 years, or 2065, and net-zero emissions, initially in 2090, the plans which drew criticism from climate experts and observers that they were too sluggish. (Read: Climate experts urge Thailand to do more as PM to announce long-term climate strategy at COP26)

PM Prayut said of Thailand’s determination in participating in the global climate framework in addressing the climate problem, saying Thailand has emitted GHG accounted for about 0.72 per cent of the total global emissions but is one of the ten countries most severely affected by climate change.

The country was among the first countries that ratified the Paris Agreement, which was agreed upon at COP21 in Paris, where he had also attended in person. It had also accomplished the previous commitment called NAMA (Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action), with the reduction of GHG emissions by 17% in 2020, more than double the target set at around 7-20%.

Moreover, the country was among the first to submit the updated NDC and the long-term climate strategy called the Long-Term Low GHG Emissions Development Strategy, he said. All these, the premier stressed, demonstrate the country’s seriousness in the fight against climate change.

“Our commitments to the global community are not just an empty promise. Thailand has fulfilled those commitments made to the international community, untiredly and unremittingly,” said PM Prayut, adding it would declare next the country’s national agenda of the Bio-Circular-Green economy model in the APEC meeting that Thailand is hosting next year.

“I would like to say that time is running out and there is no more time for any failure. The world is telling us that the destruction must end and be over. This is to retain our food, our water, and the air that we all share. Humanity must be brave and wise and we must be thoughtful and patient to bring victory in fighting climate change to our children.

“I must stress that we have no “Plan B” to cure this inflected earth because we have only one earth and don’t have any “Planet B” that is like ours,” PM Prayut said in his closing remarks.

The mid-term targets and net-zero emissions pledges by some major countries of G20 reported in UNEP’s Emissions Gap 2021 Report, the Heat Is On. Credit: UNEP