The European Union (EU) has earmarked millions of euros for supporting climate friendly development in Southeast Asia. After the EU became a “strategic partner” of the Association of the Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) bloc in December 2020, both blocs pledged to make climate change policy a key area of cooperation.

EUs Support to Southeast Asia

EUs Support to Southeast Asia: Climate Change

  • EUs Assistance to Southeast Asia:
    • Multilateral Assistance:
      • The EU is the largest provider of development assistance to the ASEAN region, and has committed millions of euros to various environmental programs.
      • This includes 5 million Euros to the ASEAN Smart Green Cities initiative and another 5 million Euros towards a new means of preventing deforestation, called the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade in ASEAN.
    • Individual Help:
      • Along with multilateral assistance, the EU also works with individual ASEAN member states on eco-friendly policies like Thailand’s Bio-Circular-Green Economic Model and Singapore’s Green Plan 2030.
  • Problems Faced by the EU in Southeast Asia:
    • Region’s environmental policy as Southeast Asia is going in the wrong direction in many areas on climate change.
    • Five ASEAN states were among the fifteen countries most affected by climate change between 1999–2018, according to the Climate Risk Index 2020.
  • Coal Consumption in Southeast Asia:
    • Southeast Asia’s energy demand is projected to grow 60% by 2040.
    • Coal-fired energy will overtake natural gas as the main power source in the ASEAN region by 2030. And by 2040 it could account for almost 50% of the region’s projected CO2 emissions.
      • In 2019, the region consumed around 332 million tons of coal, nearly double the consumption from a decade earlier, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).
    • This will contribute to a two-thirds rise in CO2 emissions to almost 2.4 gigatons, according to the Southeast Asia Energy Outlook 2019.
  • Risks for the EU in Southeast Asia:
    • Could Face Exporters Anger:
      • If the EU takes a strong forceful stance on coal consumption in the region, it could spark anger from the main exporters of the commodity, China, India and Australia.
    • Policy Resistance:
      • The EU’s climate change policy in the region has already been met with resistance.
        • Indonesia last year initiated proceedings at the World Trade Organization against the EU’s phased ban on palm-oil imports.
          • The EU contends the ban is to protect the environment, but Indonesia, the world’s largest palm oil producer, says it is mere protectionism.
        • Malaysia, the world’s second-largest palm oil producer, supports Indonesia in its battle against the EU.
    • Accusations of Hypocrisy:
      • The other problem for the EU is that it risks accusations of hypocrisy if it takes too forceful a stance on coal-fired energy production in Southeast Asia.
        • Poland and the Czech Republic of the EU remain dependent on coal-fired energy production.
        • Southeast Asia and Europe each accounted for around 11% of the world’s thermal coal imports in 2019.

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