On March 20, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued its most dire warning yet: the world is edging toward a dangerous tipping point, and current efforts to avoid this outcome are insufficient. It also noted, however, that solutions to mitigate and adapt to climate change are already available.
These findings are particularly relevant for Southeast Asia, which has some of the world’s longest coastlines at risk from sea-level rise and densely populated, low-lying cities prone to flooding. Meanwhile, rapid deforestation is reducing the region’s rich biodiversity, accelerating the impacts of climate change.
Can Southeast Asia meet both energy and climate demands?
By the end of this decade, Southeast Asia’s population is expected to grow by a staggering 35 million people. Its combined GDP is expected to grow to C$6.3 trillion by 2030. Based on these two factors, the region’s energy demand could increase by as much as 60 per cent by 2040. The immediate challenge for policymakers in Southeast Asia as they look to the region’s looming power needs is ensuring accessibility and affordability while still meeting net-zero targets and halting biodiversity loss.
Some policymakers are already acting in anticipation of these challenges. Indonesia and Vietnam, for example, recently struck the largest climate-mitigation programs with the G7 (plus Norway and Denmark) to accelerate their respective emission transitions from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy – fast-tracking their net-zero targets.
Other solutions include investing in nature-based solutions (NbS) that generate significant employment while addressing multiple environmental crises. For instance, community-based restoration of degraded mangroves will help sequester carbon, buffer against storm surges, and conserve biodiversity. Additionally, higher demand for NbS-driven carbon credits could make the carbon market worth about C$20 billion annually by 2050. The IPCC has been telling us for years what we already know: the time to act is now.