Greenpeace, Oxfam urges ASEAN members to set aside differences for climate action

ASEAN member states must set aside political differences and stand united in pursuing climate change solutions to ensure that the region is able to cope with the looming environmental and humanitarian crisis. This was the message of Greenpeace and Oxfam during a forum for Southeast Asian diplomats, government officials and civil society representatives, held at the Department of Foreign Affairs in Pasay City.

The event dubbed, “Advancing our Regional Interests in the Climate Change Negotiations” and organized by the environmental groups Greenpeace and Oxfam, Eastern Regional Organization for Public Administration (EROPA) and Young Progressives Southeast Asia (YPSEA) was attended by officials and UN climate change negotiators from Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and Brunei.

Today’s forum aims to provide a venue for government representatives and civil society to see each others’ perspectives on a regional solution to addressing climate change. These will be presented back to the participants’ respective countries, with the goal of being fed into the respective country positions in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), explained lawyer Zelda Soriano, Political Adviser of Greenpeace Southeast Asia. The next round of climate change talks will happen in Bangkok in August.

“Floods, drought and other climate extremes are becoming more frequent, intense and devastating in Southeast Asia due to global warming. This should compel the 10-nation Association of the Southeast Asian Nations to set aside conflict and act together to address this massive problem,” said Soriano.

“The UN convention is still the best and perhaps the only multilateral negotiations space to agree on a global deal necessary to address climate change. But by the state of negotiations, ASEAN which aims for an economic community in 2015, cannot just wait or completely rely on the outcome of the UN talks for immediate and strategic climate solutions,” she added. “Agreeing on a low carbon development framework in its regional economic integration is the opportunity for ASEAN governments to address the particular vulnerability of the region to climate impact without compromising economic development.”

Soriano emphasized that an agreement to harmonize incentive policies for no-carbon renewable energy among willing and able countries of ASEAN and possibly with its bilateral country partners, China and India, in the context of economic community building will send encouraging signal to investors.

Riza Bernabe, Policy and Research Adviser of Oxfam in Southeast Asia laments that the UNFCCC Durban meeting last December 2011, which extended the Kyoto Protocol and provided the mandate for negotiation of a legally binding agreement requiring major emitters to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions, failed to deliver on the crucial issue of ensuring concrete sources of funds to fill the Green Climate Fund.

The Green Climate Fund is a mechanism within the UNFCCC by which developed countries shall provide finance for climate change mitigation and adaption for developing countries.

“Within the UNFCCC talks, clarity on the sources of climate finance and the Green Climate Fund is important to the ASEAN. Without this clarity on sources of finance, developing countries will not have the necessary funds to cope with the negative effects of climate change and help the people, especially the poorest and most vulnerable,” said Bernabe.

Meanwile, Dr. Orly Mercado, former Philippine Ambassador to the ASEAN now the Secretary General of EROPA said, “at this time of climate crisis, we need the kind of cooperation that involves and engages the citizens, more than the traditional top-level security arrangement of ASEAN.”

The group argues that there have been times in history when ASEAN leaders have stood out as heroes and champions in the face of crisis, such as during the 1950s when the ASEAN founders stood their ground against larger powers to insulate the region from further conflict. A-FAB is calling on ASEAN, as body to display the same strength as a bloc, to come together, this time to address the challenge of the bigger and more fundamental challenge of climate change.

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