Environmental groups, diplomats and government officials have urged member-countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to come up with a firm stand on pursuing solutions to climate change to ensure that the region would be able to cope with what they fear is a looming environmental crisis. They cited the Asean’s vulnerability to climate change, which is seen to seriously affect most aspects of livelihood and limit the regional bloc’s future development options.
“Asean countries are highly at risk but we are less prepared. We have to come up with a strong stand on the urgency of the issue and develop an action plan to better understand and respond to climate change,” Orlando Mercado, a former senator and former Philippine ambassador to the Asean, said. Mercado is now the secretary-general of the Eastern Regional Organization for Public Administration (Eropa).
Mercado, a speaker during a forum on climate change for Southeast Asian diplomats, government officials and civil-society representatives held at the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) last week, told the BusinessMirror that there is a greater need for the Asean to be resilient to climate change and support national and global efforts to fight it.
“A stronger common Asean stand [on climate change] is still possible. It is also imperative,” he said.
Asean groups the Philippines, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Nirawan Pipitsombat, head of the Climate Change Office of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources in Thailand, said that while Asean has attempted to draw a common statement for several years already, the member-countries of the regional bloc should support each other on arriving at solutions to address climate change.
“We have failed several times to come up with a common stand but I do believe that we have to support each other on how to implement the Asean’s action plans to combat climate change such as prioritizing actions on adaptation [and] identifying and studying vulnerable sites and other environmental problems,” Pipitsombat added.
Zelda Soriano, political adviser of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, also urged the Asean member-countries to set aside conflict and act together to address the environmental challenges facing the region.
“Our region is faced with so many environmental risks and problems and we need to consolidate our efforts to find out regional solutions to address climate change. Agreeing on a low-carbon development framework in its regional economic integration is the opportunity for the Asean governments to address the particular vulnerability of the region to climate impact without compromising economic development,” Soriano said.
Riza Bernabe, policy and research adviser of Oxfam in Southeast Asia, said past climate-change negotiations failed to deliver on the crucial issue of ensuring concrete sources of funds to fill the $100-billion Green Climate Fund (GCF), a mechanism to help developing countries adapt to climate change and curb carbon emissions.
“While we are happy to see that some countries support efforts to get the GCF up and running, the fund up to now remains an empty shell. We need a reliable and predictable flow of money going into the fund to help us combact climate change,” Bernabe added.
MONDAY, 23 JULY 2012 21:44 IMELDA V. ABAÑO / CORRESPONDENT