Tackling climate change, China and ASEAN are important partners
Published: Nov 07, 2022 04:12 PM
Power plant in Sihanoukville, Cambodia by China Huadian Corp  Photo: Chinanews.com

Power plant in Sihanoukville, Cambodia by China Huadian Corp Photo: Chinanews.com

Since 2022, extreme climate which includes heat waves, droughts and torrential rain have ravaged the globe, posing a serious threat to economies and people's lives. Climate change is no longer a future challenge but a current and urgent crisis. Statistics show that under the threat of climate change, Asia's GDP is predicted to lose $4.7 trillion a year, with less developed countries being the hardest hit. Since ASEAN's population and economic activity is concentrated along the coast, it is particularly fragile to climate-related damage such as floods, droughts and rising sea levels. It is no surprise that climate change has become one of the biggest threats to the region
's long-term stability and prosperity.

As a response to climate change, ASEAN countries set a goal to reduce overall energy intensity by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2025, and increase the share of renewable energy to 23 percent of its total primary energy supply, 35 percent of the total installed capacity of power generation, according to the (2021-2025) ASEAN Plan of Action for Energy Cooperation.

The joint report by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the BRI International Green Development Coalition pointed out that ASEAN countries face a crucial period of economic transformation and upgrade. It is expected that ASEAN's carbon emissions will keep rising in line with economic and population growth, meaning the realization of energy transition goals must address a huge gaps in capital, technology and infrastructure.

China has become a global leader in green technology innovation. It has strong technological and financial advantages in the clean energy industry. There is great potential for green and low-carbon cooperation between China and ASEAN.

Since the release of the first ASEAN-China Environmental Cooperation Strategy in 2009, the two sides have issued several cooperation strategies and action plans, established a mature policy dialogue mechanism addressing environment and climate issues. Cooperation on through high-level dialogue, biodiversity and ecological protection, ecological industry and technology have been carried out. Such activities contribute greatly to South-South environmental cooperation.

According to media reports, from 2011, China has signed 41 climate change cooperation documents with 36 developing countries, including ASEAN countries, mobilizing total funds of around 1.2 billion yuan ($166 million). The Cambodia Low-carbon Demonstration Zone in Sihanoukville city is one of the 10 low-carbon projects China announced to establish in developing countries. It's reported that as of 2022, China has donated 200 solar panels and 2,800 solar bulbs, along with 10 sets of environmental monitoring equipment and 200 electric motorcycles to the project. Chuop Paris, Director-General from Ministry of Environment said that following the increased use of green energy in Sihanoukville, the power supply has not only become more stable, but also environmental-friendly. Local people have felt the benefits brought by the low-carbon demonstration zone. Clean energy equipment aided by China has helped Cambodia take an important step towards combating climate change.

Near Laos' capital city Vientiane lies the Saysettha Development Zone. The China-Laos Saysettha Low-Carbon Demonstration Zone here is another example of China and an ASEAN country addressing climate change together. It is also part of the program to build the Green Belt and Road Initiative. The demonstration zone was officially unveiled on April 29, 2022. With new energy vehicles and solar power infrastructure put into use, it is expected to reduce local carbon emissions by about 1,243 tons per year, equivalent to planting more than 100,000 trees. The concept of green and sustainable development as created a model for a low-carbon and eco-friendly city in Laos and other ASEAN countries.

At the 19th China-ASEAN Expo held in Nanning, China this September, Chinese and ASEAN parties signed a total of 10 environmental protection industry projects, 19 enterprises and institutions signed strategic cooperation agreements, and the research center for carbon neutrality in Beibu Gulf was established. China and ASEAN have also reached an agreement on cooperation on air pollution control, transformation in energy sector, and jointly building green industrial parks.

With the formal entry into force of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership this year, the cooperation between China and ASEAN in carbon neutrality will release huge potential. With ASEAN's renewable energy market growing rapidly and China being the world's largest producer of green energy, the two sides should cooperate effectively in zero-emission energy production and consumption, as well as storage equipment.

From a global perspective, all countries are working together to deal with climate change through energy conservation and emissions reduction. The Paris Agreement signed by 194 parties entered into force in 2016 and aims to drastically reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and limit the rise in global temperature this century to less than 2°C.

But as we've seen this year, record heatwaves and the energy crisis caused by the Russia-Ukraine conflict has forced some European countries to delay their climate goals, while the United States, one of the world's largest emitters, has been lost in a domestic partisan battle over climate change, leaving uncertainty hanging over its climate policies. Some developed countries abuse their advantage in technology and impose extra trade terms and restrictive measures on developing countries. These trends have already raised concerns over the prospect of global emission reductions.

Meanwhile, as important developing economies, China and ASEAN have taken active measures to address climate change. ASEAN updated its Nationally Determined Contribution targets in 2021. China announced the target of carbon peaking and carbon neutrality back in 2020, that is peaking CO² emissions by 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality by 2060, providing strong impetus for the world to achieve the Paris Agreement goal.

Climate change knows no borders. It is a common challenge faced by all humankind and requires the world to work together. In this process, all parties should abandon unilateralism, geopolitical games and green barriers, and join hands to build a win-win, fair and reasonable global climate governance system. China and ASEAN countries are friendly neighbors linked by mountains and rivers. It is our responsibility and mission to continue environmental protection cooperation, promote energy transformation, enhance climate response capability, and preserve a beautiful Asia as our home.

The author is a scholar on international studies. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn