6 June 2024

Thailand is among many countries facing issues with climate change. With many world leaders committing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and global warming, what has Thailand done so far?

Thai PBS World recently talked to an honorary expert and Member of the National Committee on Climate Change Policy, Prasertsuk Patoonsittichai, who works closely with the Thai government in the development of policies related to environmental issues, particularly in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the carbon footprint.

What has been done so far?

Thailand’s National Committee on Climate Change Policy was established by the government, which has the mandate to define climate change and environmental-related policies at a national level. Chaired by the prime minister, the committee also involves different ministries, members of the public and private sectors, academic institutions and climate change experts like herself.

The committee is composed of sub-committees, namely climate change policy and planning integration, knowledge and database, negotiation and international cooperation, action for climate empowerment and public relations. Prasertsuk explains, however, that the sub-committee working on the roadmap and strategy is the most important.

Prasertsuk Patoonsittichai

In fact, tackling climate change and global warming doesn’t only depend on the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, which is the national focal point of the United Nations Framework Convention and Climate Change (UNFCCC), but the committee must work with every related ministry and every sector. As the honorary expert explains, 80% of greenhouse gas emissions come from the energy and industrial sectors, which is directly related to the Ministry of Energy.

“We founded the national committee, we have a master plan for every sector, but the action plan depends on each ministry,” Prasertsuk explains.

So far, Thailand has introduced numerous approaches for tackling climate change at a national, sectoral and municipality level, both short-term and long-term. Among them is the 20-year National Development Plan (2017-2036), which focuses on “green growth”, promoting sustainable development, and the Climate Change Master Plan (2012-2050), which is a framework of integrated policies and action plans related to climate change.

With all the “master plans” in place, Prasertsuk claims that Thailand has improved on its initial target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20%, as the country managed to reduce such emissions by 30%, with its aim to reach 40% in 2030. The climate change expert believes, however, that it is still not enough.

(Photo by Christopher Furlong / POOL / AFP)

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha also announced last year, during the COP26 summit in Glasgow, Scotland, that Thailand aims to meet the ultimate goal of carbon neutrality by 2050 and net zero emissions by 2065. With Thailand’s ambitious commitments being made, Prasertsuk believes that they can meet this target on the condition that they receive support from other countries, especially from Europe.

“If we can get all the areas of support, whether it’s in finance, technology or capacity-building, we can meet the target in the year that we planned.”

Setting the right policy

When asked what challenges remain for Thailand in tackling climate change, the former executive director of the Thailand Greenhouse Gas Organisation said they come from implementation of the policies, as it still requires financial, technological and capacity-building support.

Another big issue is “emission inventories”, or a database that lists the amount and sources of pollutants discharged into the atmosphere. As she explains, emissions come from various sources, from the industrial sector to local waste, but there is not enough data on this matter.

“This is the problem,” she said. “If we don’t have enough data, we cannot set a good policy, we cannot set an incentive and we cannot set the right measures [to fix the problem].”

To solve this, Thailand is currently working on a draft of the climate change law, which nearby countries, such as Vietnam and the Laos PDR, have already introduced. The draft itself, however, is still waiting for cabinet approval, with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment revising drafts and adding more relevant measures.

“We had some questions from the cabinet, the ministries concerned and some in the private sector, about whether the climate change law ise up to date because, in detail, it doesn’t cover economic measures, like carbon tax or carbon pricing measures.”

File Image (Photo by NELSON ALMEIDA / AFP)

Apart from the national level, there’s also a roadmap at a local level. As she explains, their committee will create an understanding between ministries involved and the governors of each province. The committee will also assist local governments to create a roadmap to reduce greenhouse gas and carbon footprints in their provinces.

“We can say that every governor understands the problem,” she explains. “They know how much greenhouse gas they emit or, as we call it, their carbon footprint. So, we try to support them with their roadmap.”

We must work together, regardless of gender

While stressing the importance of female leadership, Prasertsuk sees more women leaders, both in the environmental and energy sectors, including local administrations, who can play an important role in making decisions.

When asked why it is important to have more female leaders or committee members, however, Prasertsuk thinks gender is not an issue. She insists, people, regardless of gender, must work together and find solutions together.

“We must work together, both men and women, so that we can do every activity, investment and everything together.”

By Nad Bunnag, Thai PBS World