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ASEAN Needs A Green New Deal

ASEAN Needs A Green New Deal

Tropical cyclones that form over Southeast Asia’s Savu Sea do not typically hit land. But in early April, Cyclone Seroja created a path of destruction across Indonesian islands and East Timor. Within days, more than 200 people were dead or missing and 2,000 buildings damaged. Seroja is the latest reminder of Southeast Asia’s extreme vulnerability to climate change.

More than 190 countries around the world have issued commitments to curtail greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions over the five years since the signing of the Paris Agreement on climate change. Added together these commitments would reduce GHG emissions by a mere one percent by 2030, according to a recent United Nations (UN) Climate Change report. Meanwhile, scientists have found that a 45 percent reduction is needed to avoid catastrophic climate change in the decades ahead.

Southeast Asia should take notice. The region is one of the most vulnerable in the world to climate change – both its low-lying coastal cities and extensive agriculture are at risk. Several countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) – an economic union of 10 member states – are ranked among those most affected by climate change. Between 1998-2017, Myanmar, the Philippines and Vietnam placed third, fifth and ninth, respectively.

But the region has failed to reduce emissions by even one percent. Instead, individual countries have proclaimed their intentions, with no substance or follow through. ASEAN needs to take a radical new turn, and develop an ambitious, cohesive plan for lowering GHG gas emissions. This would not only protect people and economies, but also set an example for other regions in the world.

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