ASEAN Cooperation on Climate Change

The vulnerability to and impact of climate change is a major concern to ASEAN. According to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released in 2014 observed that human influence on the climate system is clear, and recent anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are the highest in history. Average temperature trends in Southeast Asia have been increasing, rising by 0.1-0.3C per decade over the last five decades (USAID 2010). Temperature projections show that temperatures will continue to rise, potentially reaching 2-4C by the end of the century, with largest rises predicted for Thailand, Indonesia and Viet Nam.

Southeast Asia is one of the most at-risk regions in the world to the impacts on climate change, with forecasted rankings showing six of the twenty countries most vulnerable to climate change worldwide being Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia, Viet Nam and the Philippines. Specific multi-hazard hotspots (particularly hydro-meteorological hazards) include many of the populated Indonesian islands; the Chao Phraya Delta in Thailand; the Ayeyarwady (Irrawaddy) Delta in Myanmar; the Mekong Delta in Cambodia and Viet Nam; the eastern coastline of Viet Nam up to the Red River Delta; and Manila and other zones across the Philippines.

Climate change is also impacting the frequency, intensity, timing and spatial coverage of climatological and hydro-meteorological hazard-based disasters. Climate change is resulting in an increase in the frequency of heat waves, heavy precipitation, sea level rise, and increasing intensity of floods, tropical cyclones, and droughts.

The increasing global temperature, combined with increasing food demand, would pose large risks to food security globally. It was projected by the mid-21st century and beyond, global marine species redistribution and marine biodiversity reduction in sensitive regions will challenge the sustained provision of fisheries productivity and other ecosystem services). For wheat, rice, and maize in tropical and temperate regions, climate change is projected to negatively impact production for local temperature. Climate change also intensifies the competition for water due to the reduction of renewable surface water and groundwater resources in most dry subtropical regions.

In urban areas, climate change is projected to increase risks for people, assets, economies, and ecosystems, including risks from heat stress, storms and extreme precipitation, inland and coastal flooding, landslides, air pollution, drought, water scarcity, sea level rise and storm surges. Climate change may also increase displacement. Populations that lack the resources for planned migration experience higher exposure to extreme weather events, particularly in developing countries with low income. Climate change impacts are projected to slow down economic growth, make poverty reduction more difficult, and prolong existing and create new poverty traps.

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)[1] revealed that Southeast Asian region is one of the regions that are projected to experience the strongest increases in normalized temperatures. Southeast Asian is also projected to be the region most affected by heat extremes. Unprecedented high summer temperatures are expected to return every year if warming continues to rise. Coastal regions of Asia and the Pacific are among those most vulnerable to climate change-related Sea Level Rise (SLR). Flood exposure is apparently increasing in coastal cities due to growing populations and assets, SLR, and subsidence. From studies conducted in 136 cities, it was estimated that the average global flood losses in 2005 were approximately $6 billion per year and will increase to $52 billion by 2050. Of the top 13 Asian cities with the largest increase of annual losses between 2005 and 2050, 3 are located in AMS region: Ho Chi Minh City (Viet Nam), Jakarta (Indonesia), and Bangkok (Thailand).

1. Asian Development Bank (2017), A Region at Risk: The Human Dimensions of Climate Change in Asia and the Pacific, 2017<
2. ASEAN Secretariat (2017), the Fifth ASEAN State Environment Report<

  1. Strengthen human and institutional capacity in implementing climate change adaptation and mitigation, especially on vulnerable and marginalised communities;
  2. Facilitate the development of comprehensive and coherent responses to climate change challenges, such as but not limited to multi-stakeholder and multi-sectoral approaches;
  3. Leverage on private sector and community to have access to new and innovative financing mechanisms to address climate change;
  4. Strengthen the capacity of sectoral institutions and local governments in conducting Greenhouse Gas (GHG) inventory, and vulnerability assessments and adaptation needs;
  5. Strengthen the effort of government, private sector, and community in reducing GHG emission from main activities of development;
  6. Mainstream climate change risk management and GHG emission reduction on sectoral planning;

ASEAN Working Group on Climate Change (AWGCC) was established in 2009 and is envisaged to be a consultative and collaborative platform to:

  1. Enhance regional cooperation and action to address the adverse impacts of climate change on socio-economic development in ASEAN Member States; including through cooperation and information sharing with other stakeholders such as private sector, local community, regional and international partners, etc;
  2. Formulate the regions interests, concerns and priorities in an ASEAN Joint Statement on Climate Change to be articulated at annual UNFCCC COP sessions; and
  3. Serve as a consultative forum to promote a coordination and collaboration amongst various ASEAN Sectoral Bodies dealing with sectors impacted by climate change such as energy, forestry, agriculture, transportation, science and technology, disaster management, etc, to enhance the coordination and integration of efforts in addressing 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 2025. In order to realise the relevant strategic measures in the ASCC Blueprint 2025, AWGCC is guided by the AWGCC Action Plan that comprises priority actions until 2025. This action plan will further be incorporated into ASEAN Post 2015 Strategic Plan on Environment (ASPEN) which is currently being developed.

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 the environment sector and beyond (such as agriculture and forestry, energy and transport, and science and technology).

In 2013, the total GHG emission levels including those from land-use change and forestry in ASEAN amounted to 3,414 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e), with the largest area of emission growth has been due to energy-using activities and bunker fuels, which are sectors associated with the regions structural transition away from agriculture[2]. Although not the source of significant emission of greenhouse gases, ASEAN Member States have taken actions to address climate change through various environmental, economic and social activities over the years. All AMS have ratified Paris Agreement and submitted their voluntary nationally determined contributions to the UNFCCC Secretariat, as follows:

AMS Emission Reduction (conditional) Emission Reduction (conditional) Reference Year Target Year
Brunei Darussalam Activity Related Targets:

Energy: reduce energy consumption by 65% increase share of renewables

Land Transport: reduce morning peak due hour CO2 emissions from vehicles by 40%

Forests: increase total gazette forest reserves from the current 41%-55% of the total area
Cambodia - 27% (+land use, land-use change and forestry) BAU 2030
Indonesia 29% 41% BAU (2010) 2030
Lao PDR Activity related targets:

Energy: reduce renewable energy to 30% of its energy consumption

Forests: increase forest cover to 70% of total land area
2005-2015 2015-2030
Malaysia 35% (per unit of GDP) 45% (per unit GDP) 2015 2030
Myanmar Sectors are identified for mitigation but without specific emition targets
Philippines - 70% BAU (2000-) 2030
Singapore 36% (per unit GDP) 2005 2030
Thailand 20% 25% BAU (2005-) 2030
Vietnam 8% 25% BAU (2010) 2030

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, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 summits. Through the Statements, the ASEAN Leaders expressed ASEAN's common views/concerns 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 addition to ASEAN Joint Statement on Climate Change, ASEAN and dialogue partner countries also adopted joint-statements to articulate the commitment to collectively addressing climate change issues, as follows:

  • ASEAN-US Joint Statement on Climate Change adopted at the 2nd?ASEAN-US Summit on 13 November 2014 in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar.
  • ASEAN-EU Statement on the Paris Agreement: Reaffirming Commitment to Cooperation to Address the Shared Challenge of Climate Change adopted at the Post Ministerial Conference (PMC) +1 Session with the European Union (EU) to commemorate the 40th Anniversary of the Establishment of ASEAN-EU Dialogue Relations on 6 August 2017 in Manila, the Philippines.

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

  • ASEAN-India Project on Enhancing Climate Change at the Local Level at Southeast Asia (Phase I). The project was implemented in 2015, coordinated by the Southeast Asia Disaster Prevention Research Initiative Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (SEADPRI-UKM). The project established a virtual network of existing ASEAN Partner Institutions on Climate Change Adaptation, and to continue with the exchange of information on good practices and communication beyond the project.
  • ASEAN-India Project on Climate Change Projections and Assessment of Impacts; Modelling and Capacity Building Programme-India-ASEAN Region. The project was implemented in 2016-2017. The project was coordinated by India Institute of Science (IISc) Bangalore.