Thai Government Feels the Heat on Climate Deal

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Bangkok Post, Paris, France

Thailand will have a lot to do following adoption of the new Paris climate agreement on Saturday, while looking forward to collaborate in the next-year climate talk as a chair of G77.  

Adopted by 195 parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) on Saturday evening, a new Paris climate agreement set a long-term goal to shift to zero-carbon economy.All parties countries agreed to adopt this historic agreement. However, reduction of national greenhouse gas emission targets will base on individual plans.

According to the UNFCCC, Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) submitted by all countries will have ability to limit global temperature rise at 2.7 Celsius degree above pre-industrial level. This is still far from succeeding an ambitious target of 2 Celsius degree—and even further from 1.5 Celsius degree target—that will more effectively prevent the world from severe consequences caused by climate change.

So the agreement sets out a schedule for them to return to the table every five years with tougher plans. The first will take place in 2020. Each country will also be required to conduct system of measuring, reporting and verification (MRV) on INDCs target progress. “This will lay more responsibility on Thailand especially when it has to return with a new target in every five years,” said Prasert Sirinapaporn, deputy delegation of Thailand to Paris climate negotiation.

 “We have more work to do after this to collaborate to comply with the agreement.” More works including the new tougher target that has to be revised, he added, conducting the MRV will need more resources. Thailand committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 7% from the projected business-as-usual (BAU)—level of emissions that would result if future development trends follow the past that no action is taken place—in pre-2020.

By 2030, emissions must be reduced by 20-25%. But to achieve the highest target or the 25% will require foreign financial supports, transfer of technology and capacity building. Some measures in national level must be set up.

During the climate negotiation, Minister of Environmental and Natural Resources Gen Surasak Karnjanarat promised at the Joint-level segment that Thailand would address climate change challenges. To achieve Thailand’s INDC, he announced to adopt Power Development Plan (PDP) that will increase renewable energy use and strengthen energy efficiency measures.

Many ongoing infrastructure projects such as ten line of mass rapid transit, double-track railway, railways network extension into neighbor countries will help cut greenhouse gas emissions. He added that Thailand will promote voluntary-basis carbon market in industrial sector and increase forest area nationwide.

However, most of these policies has been in preparation or implementation stage prior the Paris climate negotiation with widespread critics for their unlikely achievement in reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, meaning Thailand will have a lot to do to come up with effective measures. Such as the controversial PDP which replace gas supplies dependency with increasing of renewable sources from 7% currently to 20% of total energy capacity by 2036. Mega hydropower plant is included in renewable sources.

Coal uses will be increased too from 10% to 25%, possibly pushes nine coal-fired power plants into pipeline, which raise questions for Thailand’s ability to achieve its INDC target. Some infrastructure projects are being question for the government’s attempt to introduce Environmental Impact Assessment shortcut to rush to construction process.

Under ruling of Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, several development projects that will increase greenhouse gas emissions such as deep sea ports, special economic zones coal plants and gas concession are being pushed forward.  Meanwhile, the government’s most-criticised “Get Back Forest policy”—aims to increase forest area up to 40% of state territory—has been reported for violating indigenous people’s rights.

Indigenous people representatives raise problems of climate agreement for lack of human rights perspective while leaving marginal groups of people behind. Human rights and indigenous people rights is not recognised in article two of the Paris agreement’s text referring to implementation of agreement to hold global temperature rise.

This raise their concerns for governments’ use of climate change as accusation to violate rights of indigenous people who lived in blend with forest for centuries. Like the Thai government’s policy to reclaim forest, some indigenous people were placed in jail early this year for possessing small amount of forest wood to repair their houses. They were charged for causing global warming. But none of illegal commercial loggers are arrested so far.

“The government has implemented top-down policy to curb with deforestation and climate change,” said Kittisak Rattanakrajangsri from the Network if Indigenous People in Thailand who joined the Paris climate conference.

“Indigenous people has already experienced impact of climate change in the past years. We are trying to adapt our way of live to cope with the changes. But community-based approaches don’t get enough attention in policy level.”

Paris marked the first time 134 countries known as G77 and China agreed on adopting such international climate agreement. Including Thailand, some members of the countries group stated that the text couldn’t meet demands of every party. But it is the most balancing agreement that every developing is working together and will look forward to implementation, said the G77 source.

The debate on financial issued is solved as developed countries agreed to take a lead in mobilizing financial supports to developing countries for 100 billion US dollar a year by 2020. During the climate leader summit on Dec 30, Gen Prayut said Thailand as a chair of G77 would commit to collaborate with the UNFCCC parties in the next year climate conference in Morocco.