21 May 2024

There was a round of applause for Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who attended the World Leaders Summit of the Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow last week, for boldly declaring that Thailand aims to reach carbon neutrality by 2050 and net zero greenhouse gas emissions by or before 2065.

This is one of the largest commitments Thailand has made to the UN. From now on, Thailand has to put climate action ahead of other agenda, otherwise all these noble goals would remain elusive.

Thailand is one of the top ten countries most affected by the climate crisis. According to the latest Global Climate Risk Index, Thailand ranked 9th as far as the impacts of climate-related and extreme weather events were concerned from 2000-2019.

Thailand’s pledged cuts augur well for the ongoing COP26 discussions, which would like to see more countries reduce their national emissions. The meeting is expected to release a new agreement, which delegates from 128 countries are drafting now, on Friday, the last day of the two-week conference.

The new agreement will urge participants to stop using coal and subsidising fossil fuels. This will be a new element, as the Paris agreement did not mention this. In the case of Thailand, there are 10 coal fired power generation plants, located in Rayong (6), Prachin Buri (2), Ayutthaya and Lampang. It is estimated these plants emit 21-24 million tons of carbon dioxide each year. With new plants being built, there will be more CO2 gas emissions.

Although Thailand did not sign up to the pledge to get rid of coal-fired power plants within 2030, the government has pledged to replace them gradually with easily accessible renewable and green energy sources, such as solar and wind. This is how Thailand can contribute to stopping global temperatures moving past 1.5oC.

In Glasgow, the Thai leader also brought up the country’s new development model, known as the “Bio-Circular-Green” or BCG economic model, and reiterated that it will be the pathway towards a paradigm shift to environmentally friendly economic development. This theme will top the agenda at the Asia Pacific Economic Leaders Meeting in Bangkok next year. Thailand will take up the chairmanship of APEC later this week.

In the post COVID-19 era, Thailand is choosing a more balanced way of development that will encompass all elements, including time, space and people, to ensure that future economic progress will be sustainable and leaves no one behind.

To accomplish these objectives, the government must work out a long-term plan to reward those who use green energy and cut harmful gas emissions through tax incentives.

Thailand should, however, have gone further, as both Indonesia and Vietnam have done. Both ASEAN members signed up to the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use, to stop deforestation by 2030.

In the days ahead, the Prayut government has to convince all concerned authorities of the country’s new commitment to preventing further warming of the Earth, as well as show the private sector and citizens how they have to change their behaviours and lifestyles to save their country and the world.

By Kavi Chongkittavorn