ASEAN Cooperation on Climate Change

The vulnerability to and impact of climate change is a major concern to ASEAN. According to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released in late 2007, warming of the climate system is evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level. Since IPCC’s first assessment report in 1990, assessed projections have suggested that global averaged temperature increases between about 0.15 degree Celsius and 0.3 degree Celsius per decade for 1990 to 200513. The IPCC projects that, without further action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the global average temperature is likely to rise by a further 1.8 to 4.0 degrees Celsius this century, and by up to 6.4 degrees Celsius in the worst case scenario. The projected global warming is likely to trigger serious consequences for humankind and other life forms, including a rise in sea levels of between 18 and 59 centimetres which will endanger coastal areas and small islands, and a greater frequency and severity of extreme weather events.

Southeast Asia is highly vulnerable to climate change as a large proportion of the population and economic activity is concentrated along coastlines; the region is heavily reliant on agriculture for livelihoods; there is a high dependence on natural resources and forestry; and the level of extreme poverty remains high. A study carried out by Asian Development Bank (ADB) revealed that the mean temperature in the region increased by 0.1 to 0.3 degree Celsius per decade between 1951 and 2000; rainfall trended downward from 1960 to 2000; and sea levels have risen 1 to 3 millimetres per year. Heat waves, droughts, floods, and tropical cyclones have also become more intense and frequent.

The same study projects a 4.8 degrees Celsius rise in mean annual temperature and a 70 centimetres rise in mean sea level by 2100 in Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam. A rise in sea level would result in major problems for many of ASEAN’s largest coastal cities, such as Jakarta, Bangkok and Manila. Millions of people may have to be resettled and massive expenditures incurred to protect the coastal cities. Projections of economic losses by the ADB study include a decline up to 50 percent of rice yield potential by 2100 and a loss of 6.7 percent of combined gross domestic product (GDP) each year by 2100. Other effects of climate change to the region include an increase of GHGs in the atmosphere partly due to low carbon sequestration potential of forests, increasing water stress, as well as adverse impact on human health.

ASEAN Member States, though not the source of significant emission of greenhouse gases, have taken actions to address climate change through various environmental, economic and social activities over the years. Several ASEAN Member States have announced voluntary mitigation targets, including Indonesia (emission reduction of 26% from business-as-usual (BAU) by 2020, and can be increased to 41% with enhanced international assistance), Malaysia (reduction of 40% in terms of energy intensity of GDP by 2020 compared to 2005 levels), Philippines (deviate by 20% from BAU of their emission growth path), and Singapore (emission reduction of 16% below BAU by 2020).

Many AMS have also started strengthening their adaptive capacity through mainstreaming climate change adaptation in development planning. It has been projected that annual benefit (avoided damage) is likely to exceed the annual cost by 2060 and by 2100; benefits could reach 1.9 percent of GDP, compared to the cost at 0.2 percent of GDP.

ASEAN Joint Statement on Climate Change

ASEAN has played its active and leadership role in addressing climate change in the global community. The stewardship comes from the ASEAN Heads of State and Government themselves. The ASEAN Leaders at the regional level have issued Declarations/Statements related to climate change at their 2007, 2009 2010, 2011, and 2014 Through the Statements, the ASEAN Leaders expressed ASEAN’s common understanding/position and aspirations towards a global solution to the challenge of climate change and their resolve to achieve an ASEAN community resilient to climate change through national and regional actions.

In the 2014 Statement, AMS declare to, among others:

  • Call all Parties to (i) work effectively and in good faith towards adopting a protocol, legal instrument or agreed outcome with legal force applicable to all by the end of 2015; (ii) take immediate action on ratifying the Doha Amendments to the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol; and (iii) table Nationally Determined Contributions well in advance of COP 21 in Paris in December 2015.
  • Urge developed countries to show leadership and increase commitments in terms of assistance to developing countries and least developed countries for key elements being considered in the development of the 2015 agreement, among others:
    1.  Adaptation
    2. Mitigation
    3. Loss and damage
    4. Technology development and transfer
    5. REDD+
    6. Financing (such as through Green Climate Fund and Adaptation Fund, REDD+ financing mechanism))
    7. Transparency of action and support (including Measurement, Reporting and Verification (MRV)
  • Reiterate commitment for AMS to (i) enhancing cooperation to improve ASEAN’s collective capacity to address climate change; and (ii) strengthening rapid response capacity to be more efficient and effective in the event of natural disasters through existing mechanisms under the ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response (AADMER); and (iii) pursuing a successful COP 20 leading to 2015 agreement at COP 21.

ASEAN-US Joint Statement on Climate Change was also issued in 2014 to articulate ASEAN and US commitment to addressing climate change issues.

ASEAN Cooperation on Climate Change

Collectively, ASEAN countries have been responding to climate change by focusing on the implementation of relevant actions in the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) Blueprint 2009-2015.


ASEAN Working Group on Climate Change (AWGCC) was established in 2009 to oversee the implementation of the relevant action lines in the ASCC Blueprint. the Action Plan on Joint Response to Climate Change was also developed in 2012 to provide a more detailed reference in implementing the Blueprint.

Due to the cross-sectoral nature of climate change issues, climate change is addressed not only by AWGCC, but also by other relevant working groups in environment sector and beyond (such as agriculture and forestry, energy and transport, and science and technology).

Completed Projects

Some key regional activities on climate change that have been completed under environment sector include:

  • A US$ 15 million regional project titled “Rehabilitation and Sustainable Use of Peatland Forests in Southeast Asia”, was implemented from 2009 to 2014 to undertake measures to prevent peatland fires, the major source of smoke haze in the region.
  • The Project on “Biodiversity and Climate Change” with financial assistance from Germany amounting to Euro 2,500,000 is being implemented to assist ASEAN in developing and implementing strategies and instruments in the field of biodiversity and climate change.
  • A Workshop and Exchange on Climate Resilient Cities: Identifying Best Practices was recently held on 18-19 January 2010 in Jakarta, Indonesia for representatives from ASEAN city and national governments to exchange best practices, lessons learned and experiences in addressing the current and future impacts of climate change.
  • Workshops on Risks and Impacts from Extreme Events of (i) Floods and (ii) Droughts in ASEAN Countries were held on 9-10 June 2010 in Indonesia and 22-23 September 2010 in Thailand respectively. The Workshops assessed the capacity of AMS with regard to flood and drought management, to review their individual and collective preparedness to engage in risk mitigation and adaptation planning, and to exchange best practices of flood and drought management solutions.
  • The ASEAN Plus Three Youth Environment Forum: Creating a Climate for Change was held on 22-25 April 2010 in Brunei Darussalam as a part of the implementation of the ASEAN Environmental Education Plan (AEEAP) 2008-2012. The Forum aimed at generating interest and awareness of youths from ASEAN and Plus Three countries on climate change issues. The Forum concluded with a ‘Statement on ASEAN Plus Three Youth Actions on Environment,’ which amongst others outlined the youths’ pledges and resolution to play their part in safeguarding the environment.
  • The annual ASEAN Plus Three Leadership Programme on Sustainable Production and Consumption is also one of the AEEAP 2008-2012 activities. The Programme aims at equipping business and industry leaders with necessary knowledge, skills and tools to develop strategies for sustainable development.
  • Environmentally Sustainable Development Film Festival: Change the Climate Change was held on the sidelines of the 13th IAMME on 18 October 2011 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Unique, creative, indigenous and impactful initiatives taken by various stakeholders in ASEAN countries were showcased to inspire and promote awareness among ASEAN citizens of the importance of multi-stakeholder participation in addressing climate change.
  • ASEAN-India Expert Meeting on Regional Programme of Climate Change was held on 27-29 June 2012 in Bangalore, India, to exchange information and develop a framework for collaboration and discuss ways forward to address climate change both on mitigation and adaptation fronts.
  • The Yogyakarta City Greenhouse Gases (GHG) Emissions and HEAT+ – Launch and Training: In collaboration with International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) – Local Governments for Sustainability, the ASEAN-US technical Assistance and Training Facility (ASEAN-US TATF) held a two-day workshop on 20-21 September 2012, in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, to present the Yogyakarta City Greenhouse Gases (GHG) Emission Inventory Report and to demonstrate the use of ICLEI’s internationally recognized monitoring software system the Harmonized Emissions Analysis Tool (HEAT+). In 2012, Yogyakarta became an ASEAN pilot city to demonstrate a systematic and standardized methodology to measure and monitor citywide carbon emissions. The pilot will serve as a model for other ASEAN cities, and is expected to encourage them to adopt a systematic approach for inventorying GHG emissions and the use of tools such as the HEAT+ software, allowing ASEAN cities to become better equipped to measure and monitor carbon emissions and, in turn, develop effective strategies for low carbon economic growth and climate resiliency.
  • An ASEAN Action Plan on Joint Response to Climate Change was adopted by the 12th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Environment held on 26 September 2012, to implement the ASEAN Leaders’ Statement on Joint Response to Climate Change issued at the 16th ASEAN Summit in 2010. A Partners Consultation Meeting was held on 26 March 2013 in Siem Reap, Cambodia, to explore potential collaboration with dialogue partners and regional/international organizations to implement the Action Plan.
  • Climate Leadership Academy (CLA) on Urban Climate Adaptation for Cities in Southeast Asia was held on 13-15 August 2013 in Jakarta as the first activity of the CityLinks Pilot Partnership project between the United States (US) and ASEAN Member States (AMS). With the theme “From Risk Barriers to Results – Managing the social, Political, Environmental, and Financial Risk of Urban Infrastructure,” the event provided a useful platform for ASEAN and US in hands-on technical skill exchanges, and virtual technical advice from a distinguished group of climate specialists to develop and adapt practical approaches to address the impact of climate change at the local level.