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COP26: Southeast Asia moves on climate with A$2 bil Australia funding, net zero targets

Highlights

Australia to double support for Pacific nations, SE Asia

Thailand carbon neutrality in 2050, net zero emissions by 2065

Vietnam pledges to net zero by 2050

Southeast Asia's efforts to mitigate climate change gained traction on the first day of UN Climate Change Conference with Australia doubling it climate funding support for the region to A$2 billion (about $1.5 billion) and two major countries -- Vietnam and Thailand -- committing to net zero emissions.

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The moves are important because Southeast Asia is one of the world's most vulnerable regions to climate change and rising sea levels, a large percentage of its population lacks access to energy, and technological development suffers from funding scarcity.

"Driving down the cost of technology and enabling it to be adopted at scale is at the core of the Australian way to reach our target to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 that we are committing to at this COP26," Prime Minister Scott Morrison said at the COP26 conference in Glasgow Nov. 1.

"We have already reduced emissions by more than 20% since 2005 and 54% as an emissions intensity measure. We're ahead of the pack. Over the same time, our economy has grown by 45%, proving that economic growth is not at odds with emissions reduction," Morrison said.

He said Australia's CO2 emissions will fall by 35% by 2030, far exceeding its Paris commitment to reduce emissions by 26%-28% below 2005 levels by 2030.

"And we are doubling our initial climate finance commitment for our pacific family and Southeast Asian partners to A$2 billion committed here at COP26," Morrison said, adding that it had technology partnerships with Singapore, Germany, the UK, Japan, Korea and Indonesia, and is close to concluding one with India.

Australia's Climate Council said Nov. 2 in a statement that the A$2 billion commitment represents around 0.3% of the international goal of mobilizing $100 billion/year. "Even with this announcement of increased international climate financing, Australia is well behind where it needs to be," the council critiqued.

In a separate joint statement on Nov. 1, PM Morrison, minister for emissions reduction Angus Taylor, and minister for foreign affairs Marise Payne said Australia's new A$2 billion commitment will be spread over the next five years to developing countries in the region.

"Today we are committing an additional A$500 million, on top of the A$1.5 billion announced by the Prime Minister in December 2020. This doubles our previous five-year commitment of A$1 billion between 2015 and 2020," according to the joint statement.

It said the investment would include an increase for the Pacific region from A$500 million to at least A$700 million.

Net zero plans take off

In Glasgow, Prayut Chan-o-Cha, Prime Minister of Thailand, said the country would aim to reach carbon neutrality in 2050, and net zero emissions in or before 2065.

"At present, the amount of Green House Gas (GHG) emitted by Thailand is about 0.72% of the total global emissions," he said, noting that Thailand is one of the 10 countries most severely affected by atmospheric degradation.

Under the framework of the UNFCCC, Thailand had committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in energy and transport sectors by at least 7% by 2020, but in 2019 the target was exceeded with reduction of 17%, more than one year ahead of schedule, Prayut said.

"With the adequate, timely and equitable support of technology transfer and cooperation, and most importantly, the availability of and access to ample green financing facilities, Thailand can increase our NDC to 40%, and reach the Net Zero Emissions in 2050," he added.

Another Southeast Asian country with a new commitment was Vietnam.

"For its part, although we are a developing country that started industrialization only over the three decades ago, Vietnam will take stronger measures to reduce greenhouse gas emission to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050," Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh said.

"Developed countries, being major emitters in the past in exchange for present economic prosperity, need to fully meet their existing financial commitments. At the same time, it is urgent for us to arrive at more ambitious financial targets for the post-2025 period," he added.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo also said in his speech that developed economies need to raise their contribution and technology sharing to help the country fight climate change.

New carbon deals

In Glasgow, Australia's Morrison and Fiji's Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama signed an agreement to build a carbon market for Fiji.

Fiji will join Australia's recently established Indo-Pacific Carbon Offsets Scheme, which was announced in April and modelled on Australia's domestic carbon market called Emissions Reduction Fund, to develop a carbon offset scheme in the Indo-Pacific region.

"The Government is also investing an additional A$44 million, on top of the A$59.9 million originally invested into the Scheme, taking the total investment to A$104 million over 10 years," the statement added.