Is Thailand Making Progress Towards Reaching its Climate Change Mitigation Goals?

Runoff from the north into the Chao Phraya River, heavy rains and high tides all pose major flooding threat to Bangkok. Credit: Ron Corben/IPS

By Sinsiri Tiwutanond
BANGKOK , Aug 1 2018 (IPS)

As preparations are underway for an important formal discussion between countries committed to the Paris Agreement; Thailand, Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy, has been determining its progress towards reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 20 to 25 percent by 2030. But experts have warned against merely emphasising policies to affect real changes.

Under the Facilitative Dialogue 2018, countries will have the opportunity to revisit  their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) in a fight to close the gap between the GHG emissions trajectory needed to achieve the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement. NDCs are outlines of the actions countries propose to undertake in order to limit the rise in average global temperatures to well below 2°C.

“Climate change impacts deal with long-term planning. We need to be looking at how we are planning to adapt ourselves to the impact in the next five to 10 years and the infrastructure needed to be resilient to those impacts. It is very site-specific. You can’t really focus on the policy level alone,” Wanun Permpibul of Thailand Climate Action Network told IPS.

According Permpibul, unofficial talks have indicated that Thailand may not be revisiting their NDC commitments this year.

“When we meet with government officials, they claim that they already achieved 17 percent of reduction even though we haven’t implement the NDCs yet. It seems they are still unsure if we are going to resubmit our targets this year,” she said.

She cautioned against this optimism as there are still ongoing projects from the government that contradict their NDC commitment, in particular a plan for two coal-fired powered plants in in the southern tourist destinations of Krabi and Songkhla. Earlier this year, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand announced it would delay the construction of the power plants after months-long opposition from local villagers and activists. However, the coal-fired power plants remained on the pipeline with an expected start date in the next three years.

“There is no room to say we have a marginalised renewable energy and that is already acceptable. We’ve been working with communities and networks in the lower northern region of Thailand and they have already witnessed the impacts of climate change. It’s more difficult now to plan for their crops because the rainfall pattern has changed,” Permpibul said.

She believes a stronger push is needed to see real progress towards the government’s commitment. “We need to limit the temperature to 1.5 degrees. It’s a matter of life and death and it’s the urgency that Thailand is not aware of. You can’t afford to go for another half degree.”

Global Green Growth Intuitive (GGGI) Thailand’s green growth and planning and implementation programme manager Khan Ram-Indra said that the country is making meaningful progress on their NDC goals. Credit: Sinsiri Tiwutanond/IPS

Global Green Growth Intuitive (GGGI) is one of the organisations working closely to assist the country’s Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy (ONEP).

GGGI’s Thailand’s green growth and planning and implementation programme manager Khan Ram-Indra said that Thailand is making meaningful progress on their NDC goals.

The organisation has previously worked with the government to develop a GHG reduction roadmap for the Thai industry to remain on track with the agreement.

“GGGI’s work in Thailand has a strong focus on green industries. We believe we are in the best position to help Thailand achieve their ambitious target in GHG reduction. Out of the 20 percent [commitment under the NDC], eight percent will be from the energy industry, which is the area we are focused on, so we are currently working to turn those plans into real actions by collaborating directly with the private sector to develop bankable projects,” Ram-Indra said.

He said what makes GGGI’s work here crucial is that it is among a few development agencies working to focus on bankable project developments in the implementation phase of the value chain instead of planning. This has already demonstrated hopeful results from local companies. Under GGGI’s Accelerate NDC Implementation track, the organisation worked with local industry to identify potential energy efficiency projects and helped mobilise financing from its reach of investors.

Through a series of audits, on-site electricity and economic studies, the organisation was able to narrow down two companies with the most potential for energy efficiency projects.

GGGI was also able to raise USD1 million for a green industry project and based on that project, the organisation predicts similar successes across the country. While green investment makes up the bulk of GGGI’s efforts, Ram-Indra stressed that the means are as important as the end. “What we want is to see real tangible GHG reduction by the end of the project,” he added.

“For our Thailand programmes, they tend to focus more on climate change mitigation. Because GGGI’s mandate is to create a resilient world of strong inclusive and sustainable growth, with all of our projects, especially green cities, we make sure that the plan that we develop to help mobilise finance has a strong aspect of resilience to address climate change,” Ram-Indra explained.

Other projects on GGGI’s portfolio also include assisting the Udon Thani municipality develop a feasibility study to decide what will be the most cost-effective measures in collecting e-waste products. Udon Thani, a province located 560 km northeast of Bangkok, is ramping up efforts to become a regional hub for waste products after successfully developing their own waste treatment plant. GGGI is also assisting them conduct a feasibility study for a recycling plant that disassemble products like mobile phones and makes them more economically viable to sell to third-parties.

Another focus is on the Green Climate Fund, which Thailand currently has limited capacity in accessing. GGGI is working closely with ONEP which is the focal point of the fund to help the agency effectively access it.

Whether these efforts would bolster the country’s results to meet its NDCs by 2030 remains to be seen.

“If you set your demands very high, it doesn’t reflect the reality of this country. Rather, why don’t we use the time and resources to make our targets more ambitious and affect real changes,” Permpibul concluded.

Trump Escalates Rhetoric on Iran

Kelsey Davenport is director for nonproliferation policy at the Arms Control Association

By Kelsey Davenport

Rhetoric escalated between the United States and Iran when U.S. President Donald Trump irresponsibly tweeted July 22 that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani must “NEVER EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN” or else suffer consequences the likes of which “FEW HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE.”

The meeting for a Comprehensive agreement on the Iranian nuclear program in 2015. Attendees included John Kerry of the United States, Philip Hammond of the United Kingdom, Sergey Lavrov of Russia, Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany, Laurent Fabius of France, Wang Yi of China, Federica Mogherini of the European Union and Javad Zarif of Iran.

In response to Trump’s threat, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted July 23 that Iran is “UNIMPRESSED” by the bluster and ended his message with the warning “BE CAUTIOUS.”

The Trump tweet was likely prompted by Rouhani warning July 22 that the United States should know that “war with Iran is the mother of all wars” and if Iran’s oil exports are blocked, “no other country in the region” will export oil.

The sanctions that Trump reimposed May 8 when he violated and withdrew from the multilateral nuclear deal with Iran, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), include measures penalizing states if they fail to significantly reduce imports of Iranian oil every 180 days.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterated in a July 22 speech that the U.S. focus is to get states importing Iranian oil to “as close to zero as possible” by the Nov. 4 180-day deadline (see below for details).

Pompeo said little about the JCPOA in his speech, which criticized the Iranian regime and reiterated that the United States is engaged in a “diplomatic and financial pressure campaign” to cut off funds used by the government to “enrich itself and support death and destruction.”

While Trump’s tweet prompted pushback from some policymakers, U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton July 23 reiterated and appeared to broaden the vague and reckless threat, saying “if Iran does anything at all to the negative, they will pay a price like few countries have ever paid before.”

Secretary of Defense James Mattis said July 24 that Trump is making “very clear” that Iran is “on the wrong track” and called for Tehran to “shape up and show responsibility.”

The exchange of threats between the United States and Iran is taking place as the P4+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom) are looking for options to sustain sanctions relief and keep Iran in the JCPOA (see below for details).

The P4+1 face a ticking clock, as the first U.S. sanctions re-imposed by Trump will be enforceable Aug. 6, when the 90-day wind down closes. These measures target certain banking activities, trade involving certain metals, coal, and the automotive sector, and the purchase of U.S. dollars by the Iranian government.

The Treasury Department will also revoke authorizations allowing carpets and Iranian foodstuffs to be exported to the United States and revoke licenses issued for the sale of commercial aircraft parts and services to Iran.

The remaining sanctions penalties, including those that target Iran’s oil sales, will be effective Nov. 4.