Massive typhoons, sinking islands, and flooded megacities. These disasters are what come to mind when I think of climate change in Southeast Asia. Physical climate risks continue to be subject of considerable research and for good reason. According to the Global Climate Risk Index, of the top ten countries most affected by climate change four are located in Southeast Asia: Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.
But all of these immediate weather-related impacts have knock-on effects on the international relations among countries in this region. Forced migration, food insecurity, accelerated hydropower construction, and rapidly dropping renewable energy prices, create new risks and opportunities for relations among countries in Southeast Asia.
In contrast to analysis on physical climate impacts and adaptation, the impacts of climate change on interstate relations in this region is woefully understudied.
A new report published today by the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (where I was a Visiting Research Fellow earlier this year) and by sister institutes in all ten ASEAN countries starts to address this critical knowledge gap.
I’m a co-author of this report and, along with 22 co-authors from these organizations, participated in a workshop in Yangon, Myanmar in June 2017 to share experiences and analysis on the risks and opportunities on international relations among ASEAN countries.
Without giving away too much of the report, here are ten recommendations to the ASEAN organization and its member countries:
- Put climate change high on the agenda of every ASEAN summit
- Maintain a focus on the NDCs (nationally determined contributions) of its member states under the Paris Agreement
- Formulate a regionally determined contribution (RDC) for ASEAN by adding up the nationally determined contributions of the ASEAN member states.
- Ensure that current and future initiatives under the ASEAN Plan of Action for Energy Cooperation (APAEC) are ambitious and detailed as to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions
- Highlight the vulnerability of Southeast Asia to climate change by publishing and sharing relevant analysis
- Advocate improved disclosure and reporting of the financial risks of climate change to governments and investors
- Involve and connect relevant civil society and academic organizations across Southeast Asia
- Facilitate regional electricity trade through the expansion the ASEAN Power Grid for better handling of the intermittency of renewable energy
- Promote the accelerated phase- out of fossil-fuel subsidies—which is also a prerequisite for developing trans-border electricity trade in Southeast Asia
- Further expand and strengthen ASEAN’s climate policy staffing—which will require funding and capacity enhancement’