Taking steps towards climate action
text size

Taking steps towards climate action

In response to escalating global concerns over climate change, Thailand has taken a stride by drafting its Climate Change Act that, if enacted, will be the country's first climate change law.

This week, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment announced that it would submit the draft law to the cabinet for approval in June. If the cabinet does not object, it will be sent to parliament for reading.

However, critics have raised doubts about whether this draft will help the country reduce emissions and cope with climate change in a sustainable manner. Some wonder whether it is just a paper tiger.

But the draft reaffirms Thailand's commitment to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 and net-zero Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions by 2065.

At COP28 -- the latest global summit last December -- Environment Minister Pol Gen Patcharawat Wongsuwan said the country's emissions are expected to peak in 2025 before gradually declining, as Thailand aims to increase renewable energy to 68% by 2040 and 74% by 2050.

The proposal was written in 2021 and got a green light from the former Prayut Chan-o-cha cabinet. It was kept in drawers for three years before the Department of Climate Change and Environment (DCCE) put it up for public hearing between February and April 2024.

The draft bill is expected to be read and vetted by the cabinet and parliament by mid-year.


The draft law empowers the National Climate Change Committee (NCCC) to develop a comprehensive Climate Change Master Plan (CCMP) -- a blueprint for the country's climate mitigation and adaptation efforts.

The draft law requires responsible public and government agencies to establish climate mitigation and adaptation objectives that align with the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) and the Long-term Low Greenhouse Gas Emission Development Strategy (LT-LEDS).

The draft also stipulates strong penalties, with climate offenders liable for paying hefty fines as high as 5 million baht while a minimal fine will be 10,000 baht.


It is noteworthy that this legal proposal gives weight to carbon trading. Roughly one-third of this draft legislation, approximately 62 out of 180 clauses, is for the carbon market. The rest are legal details such as legal terms, details of organisational structures, and the scope of authorities.

Its main objective is to promote the voluntary carbon market through existing state agencies, such as the Thailand Greenhouse Gas Management Organization (TGO) and the industrial sector, as well as emissions trading with countries within the European Union.

This proposal promotes emission reporting and monitoring. For instance, Section 6 of the climate change draft bill requires targeted businesses to report their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and the amount of removed emissions to the DCCE under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. Targeted businesses in this draft law are emission-intensive.

The draft provides the basic structure of an Emission Trading Scheme (ETS), which is a market-based carbon pricing tool for emission trading among emission-intensive businesses. For example, Section 8 legally enables businesses to receive, pay and manage transactions from emission trading and how these businesses can buy or sell surplus emissions.

This proposal also stipulates the pilot "voluntary" emissions trading scheme that will take place in Thailand during 2029-2030.

In Section 10, the draft bill establishes definitions of carbon credits and licensing requirements for carbon credit businesses, including exchanges and certification providers, as stipulated in upcoming sub-regulation. Additionally, registered carbon credits that have been certified by the TGO can be converted into allowances under the ETS, provided they meet the NCCC's criteria.

Apart from emissions trading, this legal draft also introduces a carbon tax. The proposed emission levy will be applicable to industrial operators, manufacturers, and importers only.

Additionally, it establishes the Climate Change Fund (CCF) that will help fund climate change initiatives and support businesses in emission reduction efforts that align with national climate change policy and targets.


As most of the draft's content concerns the carbon market, carbon tax, and funding mechanisms, it is not surprising that critics and conservationists see this draft law as pro-business.

Critics also raised concerns that the draft has a loophole for the prosecution of climate offenders. While Section 6 requires related bodies and businesses to record carbon emission databases in Section 6, article 49 in the same draft ironically prevents public disclosure of emission data if it harms and causes damage to individuals.

Such conflicting codes will provide an escape clause for polluters to evade public scrutiny and hide evidence of pollution.

Climate change adaptation plans and objectives are not clear either. While Articles 134-141 of the draft law mention adaptation plans for climate change, these plans, which are related to the community and society to copy and adjust to climate change problems, are broadly termed.

The draft leaves the duty of the NCCC to define the nature of the climate adaptation plan. That is unnecessary because the government and related agencies have already developed community climate adaptation plans.

The draft law also did not touch on regulations, rights protection, resource allocation, budgeting, and participation mechanisms for running climate change adaptation plans. This means traditional bureaucratic mechanisms will be responsible for designing and running climate change adaptation projects.

While this draft law tries to promote the carbon market and carbon credits, it lacks oversight provisions regarding "greenwashing" activities that are prevalent in carbon trading.

The government should look at the United Nations; for example, in 2022, the UN High-Level Expert Group on the Net-Zero Emissions Commitments of Non-State Entities proposed measures to prevent greenwashing activities.

One of the measures is separating intensive carbon emission businesses, such as petrochemicals, from other businesses until such high-emission businesses use more environmentally sustainable production.


The formation of the Climate Change Fund (CCF), detailed in Article 24 of the draft bill, inspires hope. But accessibility to the money might not be easy.

In the draft law, the money will be given to government entities, state-owned enterprises, and private organisations to execute various climate mitigation plans within legal frameworks.

It is dismaying that CCF does not provide a stipulation for the fund to be used for offering assistance for issues pertaining to loss and damage, supporting vulnerable groups, and engaging the public in fund management.

In short, under this draft law, CCF might serve government projects and businesses and might overlook marginalised and vulnerable communities. For instance, Section 6 outlines a capacity-building program for helping business operators in pilot schemes to reduce emissions.

However, Article 28, which is related to access to CCF's financial grant, prioritises government agencies and state enterprises over small and medium-sized operators.


Some critics even call this draft law overly ambitious for Thailand. But compared to our Asean neighbours, our country is already falling behind in implementing climate measures.

Look no further than Vietnam, which in 2021 saw a remarkable 337% increase in solar generation and subsequent reduction in coal and gas consumption.

In 2022, Indonesia joined the Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP), which is an intergovernmental partnership for accelerating the phasing out of fossil fuels. Jakarta has pledged to cap total power sector emissions at 290 million tonnes of CO2 by 2030.

Indonesia also launched its national emission trading scheme for coal-fired power plants in 2023, which aligns with a revised unconditional NDC target of a 31.9% emissions reduction by 2030.

Both Indonesia and Vietnam also signed the Coal Exit and Methane Pledge agreement at COP26.

Regrettably, Thailand has not joined these accelerating fossil-fuel phase-out partnerships.

That said, the draft of Thailand's climate change legislation should be amended to serve all related sectors. Apart from giving weight to carbon credit and climate funding, this draft should have included, if not prioritised, transitioning the energy and agricultural sectors to low-carbon industries. Our farm sector is carbon intensive, too.

This draft law should help consumers and businesses access affordable technology such as solar energy, and it should immediately help to promote low-carbon rice production. Market-based solutions like ETS could then complement these efforts.

Kongpob Areerat is a communication manager and researcher at Climate Finance Network Thailand (CFNT), a think tank devoted to propelling sustainable financial practices and assisting in Thailand's transition towards a low-carbon economy in line with the 1.5°C climate target.

Do you like the content of this article?