Clean energy and climate justice advocates from different parts of Southeast Asia gathered to call on leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to abandon fossil-fuel dependence in the region in a forum held two days before the beginning of the 30th ASEAN Summit.
Representatives of civil society organizations from Myanmar, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam, joined Filipino advocates in demanding ASEAN member countries, led by its Chairperson Pres. Rodrigo Duterte, to reflect the calls of climate vulnerable and coal-affected sectors across ASEAN in putting a stop to the expansion of coal in the region by cancelling future coal projects, as well as removing all public financing and subsidies to coal.
“With all the impacts of climate change and the commercial availability of renewable energy and energy-efficient technology, there is no reason for countries in Southeast Asia to keep investing on coal,” said Wanun Permpibul of Climate Watch Thailand.
At present, seven out of the thirty countries with the highest coal expansion in the pipeline are from Southeast Asia, namely Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Cambodia and Myanmar. This is in spite the global decline of coal and cancellation of coal projects, with China and India, managing to freeze 68 GW of construction at over 100 project sites. Coal plants are also being retired at an unprecedented pace, with 64 GW of retirements in the past two years, mainly in the European Union and the United States.

SEA CSOs urge ASEAN to support renewables, abandon coal

Indonesian campaigner Beggy Serigar of Auriga noted how coal extraction, transport and use have caused great suffering among Southeast Asian peoples. “Not only should coal be abandoned because of its effect on the climate, but because of the effects of coal mining and coal use on communities who are struggling across ASEAN, losing their livelihood, having their environment destroyed, and their health threatened,” Serigar said.

“With the wave of technological advances and the significant falling price of renewable energy, Southeast Asia is standing on a great opportunity to take advantage of its available renewable energy resources, to ensure better health and well-being among citizens, to protect the environment and to pursue clean development,” said Vietnam Sustainable Energy Alliance Coordinator Do Minh Tam of Green ID Vietnam.

“Today, the people of Myanmar continue to struggle against existing and proposed coal-fired power plants,” noted Winn Pu of Earthrights International. “We don’t want nor need dirty energy for our country’s development, as we are rich with natural resources for renewable energy,” Winn Pu stated.

Right to develop not an excuse from climate inaction

“As far back as 2007, ASEAN leaders have expressed unity and resolve in addressing the climate crisis. Most recently, all ASEAN member countries have agreed to the Paris Climate Agreement, committing to keeping the globe at an average of 1.5 degrees Celsius and taking drastic measures to globally decarbonize,” said Pedrosa.

“However, the nationally-determined contributions (NDCs) of ASEAN nations remain inconsistent with their respective energy and economic policies,” Pedrosa said. “While ASEAN must to call for rich countries to recognize their historical responsibility in the climate crisis by scaling up ambition and delivering on climate finance, technology transfer and capacity building, we also need ASEAN governments to commit to their fair share of contributions to climate action and not make these fair shares conditional to finance.”

“We recognize that at present, there is a need for sustaining the energy needs of the Southeast Asian peoples, with over 120 million of the region’s population having no access to electricity,” said Pedrosa, who also heads the Energy Working Group of the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice. “However, ASEAN member countries are not exempted from its responsibility to mitigate its emissions, especially as the window for responsive climate action is shrinking by the moment, and Southeast Asian peoples are among those on the frontline of climate disasters.”

“The Philippines, being this year’s host for the ASEAN Summit, should take the lead in bringing the discussion on a coal-free ASEAN to the table,” said Ben Muni of Greenpeace Philippines. “We cannot allow the ASEAN leadership to ignore the deluge of coal plants that is literally choking the region,” Muni concluded.

The CSOs invited the public to take part in the action to take place at April 28th, where a large mobilization will call upon the ASEAN to heed the voice of Southeast Asian peoples for a coal-free ASEAN.