Following Thailand’s pledge to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 and Net-Zero Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 2065 at the 26th session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26), in Glasgow, United Kingdom, the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning (ONEP) in collaboration with Thai-German Climate Programme – Policy, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, organised a symposium titled “COP26 Debrief: Global Future, Thai Future” on 16 December 2021 at the Ballroom, Centara Grand Hotel Central Ladprao, Bangkok. The aim was to disseminate and summarise the results of COP26 as well as to raise public awareness and drive joint operations from the policy level into more concrete practice.
This symposium also provided a forum for those involved to share their insights and strategies for action on climate change and was honoured to have the participation of representatives of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, the Energy Policy and Planning Office, the Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning, the Office of the Board of Investment, and the Bank of Thailand. More than 300 people from government agencies, the private sector, the education sector, the public sector, media, and independent organisations attended the event.
In his keynote address, Mr. Varawut Silpa-archa, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment (MoNRE) stated that Thailand is one of the top ten countries most affected by climate change from floods, droughts and rising sea levels despite accounting for only 0.8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Engaging with the international community to keep global average temperatures is a matter of international concern. It requires immediate attention to mitigate such severe consequences.
To realise its ambitious pledge, Thailand is working hard on the Long-term Low Greenhouse Gas Emission Development Strategy (LTS) to achieve a climate-resilient and low greenhouse gas emissions goal.
In addition to being Thailand’s national focal point on climate change, the MoNRE has an important mission of carbon sequestration. Increasing the country’s forested and green areas by 55%, as specified in the 20-year national strategic framework, is an effort to increase the number of carbon sinks.
Mr. Varawut stated, “Working on climate change comprises both carbon emissions reduction and carbon sequestration. Although MoNRE is in charge of carbon sequestration, many ministries, including the Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Industry, the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, and other relevant sectors must collaborate to reduce carbon emissions.
Under the carbon sequestration implementation plan outlined in the 20-year national strategic framework, Thailand has the capacity to sequester 120-150 million tons of CO2 equivalent. However, so far, Thailand has emitted 350 million tons of CO2 equivalent greenhouse gas emissions. There are still gaps where greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced. From now on, all sectors must work together.
The forum noted that it was gratifying to see that many agencies have now begun to actively drive their work in carbon emissions reduction.
So far, Thailand has achieved a short-term action plan, known as the Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action (NAMA), with a reduction of 17% in the energy and transportation sectors. This is almost doubling the target set in 2019 before the 2020 deadline. Currently, Thailand is in a mid-term plan (2020-2030), known as “Nationally Determined Contributions” (NDCs), which is a key mechanism for achieving the Paris Agreement. Thailand will increase greenhouse gas reductions in the waste and waste disposal sectors, as well as in the industrial process and product use sectors, in order to meet its ambitious target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from human activities by 20–25%.
The Ministry of Energy has amended the National Energy Plan to transition into the Energy Disruption era through the 4D + 1E scheme. Digitalization is adopting modern technology to increase energy efficiency and to push Thailand to become an ASEAN energy centre. Decarbonization is reducing the consumption of fossil fuels and coal use while increasing the production and use of electricity generated from solar cells, biomass, and biogas. Deregulation is unlocking regulations on electricity generation and trading to help prosumers reduce electricity purchase costs. Decentralization is the delegation of authority to local governments and the promotion of community energy management while Electrification means fostering the electrification of everything, conducting and expanding the electric train network, and promoting the utilisation of electric vehicles (EV).
Meanwhile, the transport sector has demonstrated its commitment to developing infrastructure to manage rail and waterway travel for people and goods.
Furthermore, to drive the country towards a green or low-carbon society and create new business opportunities, the Thailand Board of Investment supports the global community’s transition to a low-carbon economy, which necessitates public and private sector investment. There are policies and measures in place to encourage investment in renewable energy and low-carbon transportation. It is a vital infrastructure for the production of goods and services, benefitting both domestic and foreign investment. The private sector is also encouraged to invest in changing the manufacturing process to be in line with international standards and environmental measures. Furthermore, there are tax exemptions for investment portfolios in renewable energy and carbon capture and storage technology for the petrochemical industry. Other measures include encouragement for large corporations to support small-scale farmers in their supply chain to invest in technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such as through low-carbon rice cultivation; the promotion of investment in the production of electric vehicles in the country including electric bikes, electric tuk-tuks, electric cars, and battery production, investment in research and related developments, and so on.
In the finance sector, the Bank of Thailand recognises its important role in driving nations to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. Monetary policy, through commercial banks, capital markets and insurance businesses, has to facilitate the shift of private investment to green businesses. To transition to digitalization and green finance in the financial sector, the Bank of Thailand is developing Sustainable Finance Initiatives for Thailand and designing Thailand’s Financial Landscape by early 2022 in collaboration with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Office of the Insurance Commission, the Fiscal Policy Office, and the Stock Exchange of Thailand. In practice, it needs a standardised database to define and categorise projects or activities in the sustainable economic sector as green taxonomy. It is useful to enable regulators in issuing policies to support sustainable finance in accordance with the green taxonomy. It can also help investors identify opportunities in developing products and services that comply with sustainability criteria and drive the goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. This is a collaboration of the Bank of Thailand and the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning with relevant agencies. In addition, in the design of financial products and services, it is necessary to integrate a risk analysis, impacts, and benefits of climate change implantation to be able to determine the price mechanism and appropriate incentives to promote sustainable business and reduce environmental impact. Moreover, readiness, capacity building and awareness-raising in all relevant sectors are also taken into consideration.
The Bank of Thailand representative also emphasised that having a standardised data infrastructure will enable the financial sector to contribute more effectively to the movement towards the greenhouse gas reduction targets.
“From now on, ONEP will collaborate and work closely with all relevant sectors in all forms to ensure Thailand’s operations are successful in both carbon emission reduction and carbon sequestration,”Dr. Phirun Saiyasitpanich, Secretary-General of ONEP, added.
Dr. Phirun also made the point that climate finance is another key factor in enabling Thailand to implement climate change. It is a critical mechanism to drive forward actions to address climate change mitigation and adaptation, along with capacity building, technology development, and transfer for economic development, to transform Thailand into a low-carbon society.
Furthermore, he underlined the value of developing carbon credit trading in countries that have already begun operations. The standards of the Thai carbon market must be raised to comply with international trade measures such as the European Union’s Carbon Border Adjustment Measure (CBAM), as well as in elevating Thailand to be the ASEAN region’s carbon credit trading centre.
Dr. Natthanich Asvapoositkul, Director of the Climate Change Management Coordination Division (CCMC), Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning (ONEP) delivered the conclusions from COP26. The key outcome is the Glasgow Climate Pact, which is the package of decisions from all nations that consists of a range of agreed items aiming to turn the 2020s into a decade of climate action and support. To prevent a climate catastrophe, party countries have been urged to raise their greenhouse gas reduction targets to keep the global temperature from rising above 2 degrees Celsius and to strive for 1.5 degrees Celsius. The ultimate goal is to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2050.
Moreover, nations are called upon to phase down unabated coal power and inefficient subsidies for fossil fuels. This is the first-ever inclusion of this issue to be addressed in a United Nations agreement.
Another agreed issue is a common timeframe for implementation and NDC targets. After 2040, nations must submit this to the Convention every five years. Each country will have a corresponding timeframe for implementation in order to provide an effective assessment of the global operating situation, also known as the Global Stocktake (GST).
The Transparency Framework is a part of the package of data monitoring and information verification in the national greenhouse gas inventory report, the report on finance, technology, the capacity building support report, as well as the report on information tracking progress towards NDCs goals.
In addition, there is an agreement on the international carbon credit transfer. Nations completed the Paris Agreement’s rulebook related to market mechanisms and non-market approaches.
Following negotiations during the COP26, agreement was reached on the financial mechanism. The developed countries have to accelerate funding, between 2021 and 2025, to reach 100 billion US dollars a year. As it stands now, only 48 billion USD has been raised. An Ad Hoc Work Program to discuss new financial goals is to be set up. After 2025, funding for adaptation operations will at least double and financial and technological mechanisms to support the implementation of NDCs in developing countries will be integrated.
H.E. Mr. Georg Schmidt, the German Ambassador to Thailand, remarked, “There is an apparent contradiction between ecology and economy, but it’s not either/or.It is much more expensive to do nothing than to do something.”
For more than a decade, Germany and Thailand have actively and continuously collaborated to combat climate change in numerous projects, and Germany will continue to support Thailand in the year to come, providing climate funds totaling up to 1.5 billion baht, of which 200 million baht will be used to support the Thai Environment Fund to enable in turn its support of climate change projects from civil society, including provincial and local projects.
“Our thanks go to the German government for their ongoing assistance in working with Thailand and understanding Thai people. I sincerely hope that next year, when Thailand and Germany celebrate our 160th anniversary of friendship, good things will happen,” Mr. Varawut said.
He also addressed efforts to integrate climate change information and understanding into the education sector, which is an intriguing aspect. Educational personnel must thoroughly understand climate change in order to transfer appropriate knowledge to students from the kindergarten to university levels.
Mr. Varawut added, “… in the end, social measures, laws, tax measures and trade mechanisms may be important factors in addressing climate change. But is not Mother Nature’s force the ultimate and mightiest measure? Three or four years ago, if I had said I wanted to cut global aviation in half to reduce both air and sound pollution, I believe everyone would have laughed at me and said it was impossible. But let’s take a look at what happened today. COVID occurred when nature delivered a glancing blow. Airlines all over the world have been grounded. This is the sacred order of nature. With the measures that we are taking today, it’s something we need to help each other to do. Let’s force ourselves first before nature forces us again. “
“We are very proud of our cooperation in tackling climate change. We have exchanged knowledge and technology transfer for a long time and continuously. From now on, the government can set the rules, so the transition is fair to everyone. But we also need people for the change. Without the people nothing will happen. All sectors must work together to translate COP26 and design into everyday reality to mitigate and adapt to climate change. It is a challenge. It’s a challenge for Thailand. It’s a challenge for Germany. It’s a challenge for the world. We walk together in this challenge.” H.E. Mr. Georg Schmidt, the German Ambassador to Thailand, concluded.
Climate change is a problem that we “ALL” don’t have much time to fix. The only way to save us all is by working together across all sectors. Before we all reach the irreversible point and are unable to avoid the consequences.
Dr. Angkana Chalermpong
Director of Climate Policy Project
Thai-German Climate Programme (TGCP)
Tel: +66 2 298 6587-8