Asean should sets sights higher

Asean should sets sights higher

Pledges by Asean member states under the Paris Agreement on climate change must go further to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ensure local communities play a prominent role.

When Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meet in Glasgow tomorrow for the COP26 conference, much attention will focus on the effectiveness of their voluntary pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Those pledges are put in Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). NDCs embody efforts by each country to reduce national emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change to achieve the global targets set out in the Paris Agreement, which sets the goal of limiting global heating to 2C, and ideally 1.5C, above the pre-industrial level.

This is a problem because reaching the Paris Agreement's more ambitious 1.5C goal would require global greenhouse gas emissions to fall by 45% from 2010's level by 2030. But according to the UNFCCC Secretariat's synthesis report, even with the enhanced NDCs, emissions are still set to rise by 16.3% by 2030. So, rather than capping temperature increase at 1.5C, it puts us on track for a 2.7C warmer world by the end of the century.

The forestry and land use sector (FOLU) is an important part of the equation, particularly in Southeast Asia. Approximately 43% of total greenhouse gas emissions from the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) come from this sector. RECOFTC holds that for these emissions to be addressed, local communities must be fully at the table.

How have Asean countries stepped up to the urgency and need for ambition on climate change?

In Cambodia, FOLU is the highest carbon-emitting sector, contributing 49.2% of total emissions. Recently, Cambodia pledges to halve the deforestation rate by 2030. However, it is not clear whether Cambodia will commit to to scale up afforestation to 60% of national land area by 2030.

Indonesia's original NDC pledged an unconditional 26% reduction in emissions, rising to 41%, with international support. Latest NDC improved slightly with a new target for 29% and conditional reductions of up to 41%.

The most notable development in Lao PDR's new targets for reducing emissions. Lao PDR will now reduce FOLU emissions by 1,100 kilotonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year between 2020 and 2030. This is three times more than the reduction achieved between 2000 and 2015. The country had included in its goal to add forest areas to 70% of total land in the country, yet without specific metrics for emissions reductions.

FOLU is a big emitting sector in Myanmar, and the country sets a conditional target of reducing deforestation by 50% by 2030 with the provision of international support. This is alongside an unconditional target to reduce deforestation by 25%. However, the current political situation throws into question the effectiveness of implementation and also the international support needed for the conditional commitments to materialise.

Thailand did not include the FOLU sector within its original NDC mitigation targets. Thailand intends to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20-25% from its business-as-usual trajectory. Vietnam pledges to reduce emissions by 9% by 2030 by its own effort, and by 27% if the country received the international support. In Vietnam, forest cover has been increasing by 41.9% by the end of 2019 and is targeted to reach 45% by 2030. Particularly when the agriculture sector is combined with FOLU, Vietnam has made fairly significant commitments in the land use sector.

Increase in ambition needed, with forests and local communities at the centre. Overall, FOLU is a prominent sector throughout Asean countries. Thailand is an outlier for not including it in its mitigation targets. Other countries such as Vietnam have made consistent progress in reversing deforestation trends. In the past two decades, the Southeast Asia region has lost 610,000 square kilometers of forest -- an area slightly less than the size of Myanmar.

As countries strengthen their commitments, communities need a seat at the table where decisions are made, a prominent role in implementation to ensure they can participate effectively in climate action. They must be more ambitious and must put the FOLU sector as well as local communities squarely at the centre, for the long-term wellbeing of us all.

Regan Pairojmahakij is a senior programme officer on landscapes in a changing climate at the Regional Community Forestry Training Center for Asia and the Pacific. RECOFTC's work is made possible with the support of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.

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