Opinion: Going Green the New Economic Strategy for ASEAN

PHOTO: Bank of Thailand

The following is a guest opinion editorial. Their statements are their own and may not reflect those of TPN media. Their biography and information are below the article.

The ASEAN Community Vision 2025 reiterates the paramount importance of protecting the environment and ensuring sustainable economies in Southeast Asia. This is in sync with the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which emphasizes preventing environmental degradation and mitigating climate change.

ASEAN nations can ensure green and sustainable economic growth by prioritizing sustainable finance and sustainable infrastructure, and by recycling waste. While making a speedy economic recovery amidst the pandemic, countries can take advantage of the increasing sustainability focus, by creating green jobs.

The ASEAN Sustainable Finance State of the Market 2020 report published highlights that green, social, and sustainability (GSS) debt financing in Southeast Asia reached US$12.1billion in 2020.

Malaysia’s CIMB bank has pledged to ensure sustainability and alleviate climate change.

During CIMB’s Sustainability Investor Day, it was mentioned that the Malaysian bank will allocate RM30 billion for sustainable finance within the next three years. CIMB’s sustainable financing includes bonds, wealth products, wholesale and commercial banking.

As part of its sustainability targets, the bank hopes to achieve zero greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050.

This is aligned with the Malaysian government’s 12th Malaysia Plan announced recently. The new Malaysian administration hopes that the Southeast Asian country can decrease greenhouse emissions intensity by 45 percent before 2030, and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

To reduce carbon emissions, the Malaysian administration will establish a carbon tax and carbon trading.

Malaysia has also started to prioritize sustainable infrastructure.

The Malaysian Prime Minister announced that in Peninsular Malaysia, coal-powered plants will be replaced by gas-powered plants. Future electricity generation in Malaysia will come from other renewable sources such as solar, biogas, and biomass.

The country will also advance energy-efficient vehicles, particularly electric vehicles. There are plans to install charging kiosks for electric vehicles.

Similarly, Indonesia has started to build sustainable infrastructure, hoping to achieve sustainability and emission reduction targets.

Jakarta was awarded the 2021 Sustainable Transport Award in recognition of the city’s efforts in building sustainable public transport infrastructure.

The Indonesian capital is bicycle-friendly with the capital’s administration building 63 kilometers of bicycle lanes.

Furthermore, the Jakarta administration hopes to convert 10,000 public buses into electric buses, before 2030.

The Indonesian government intends to build more than $1 billion worth of solar panels on building rooftops across Indonesia.

Brunei’s Ministry of Energy conceived a five-year plan to advance renewable and solar energy.

The Southeast Asian nation hopes to attain 30 percent renewable energy before 2035.

In April 2021, Brunei Shell Petroleum had installed a solar photovoltaic plant, which will provide electricity, while decreasing carbon emissions annually.

Brunei will legislate the Energy Efficiency Order 2021, to encourage firms and households to utilize energy-efficient appliances.

Cambodia is currently working with long-time environmental partner Australia to explore clean hydrogen fuel as a renewable source of energy.

This is in support of Cambodia’s Renewable Energy Assessment and Integration Strategy to generate more green and sustainable energy sources, and to cut down greenhouse emissions.

To achieve a circular and sustainable economy in Southeast Asia, ASEAN nations have to recycle and reuse material waste, in particular plastics.

The Plastics Recycling Association of Singapore (PRAS) was inaugurated in August 2021, with the objective of analyzing innovative solutions and augmenting Singapore’s competency in recycling and managing plastic wastage.

PRAS president hopes that the recycling of plastics in Singapore will reach 70 per cent within the next decade.

Singapore’s Minister for Sustainability and the Environment commented recently that amongst the solutions in Singapore are having a beverage bottle return program, building a PET bottle recycling amenity, and refining mixed plastic waste into construction materials.

According to the UN, the fashion and clothing industry is known to be the second biggest polluter internationally. The UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion highlights that $500 billion worth of unsold clothes is disposed into landfills annually.

To resolve this issue, fashion brands in Vietnam have ventured into sustainable and eco-friendly fashion.

Uniqlo had gathered used clothes around Vietnam and converted them into wearable clothes.

Vietnamese fashion brand Leinné specializes in sustainable and eco-friendly luxury products, using sustainable materials.

The accessory brand will also promote environmental awareness by conducting environmental campaigns. For instance, its Refinity Community campaign will collect old clothes and convert them into reusable daily items.

Other than reducing clothing wastage, Vietnam is also looking to reduce packaging waste.

Vietnam’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment is considering legislating a law that will hold manufacturers and packaging importers in Vietnam responsible for managing packaging waste.

As part of economic recovery amidst the pandemic, Southeast Asian nations can leverage the increasing focus on sustainability, by identifying and creating more green jobs. Furthermore, green roles are critical in creating sustainable and environmentally-friendly economies.

According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), there are green roles in industries such as agriculture, renewable energy, and construction, that will help to preserve the natural environment, and mitigate climate risks.

The Philippines government legislated the Green Jobs Act in 2016, to encourage Philippines firms to create green jobs, by providing incentives for businesses.

Thailand’s Department of Skill Development has started to collaborate with businesses to develop competencies and skill-sets in the sustainability sector and to generate more green jobs.

Bain and Company’s article “Southeast Asia’s Green Economy: Pathway to Full Potential” published in November 2020 highlights that the green and sustainability industry will add $1 trillion to Southeast Asia’s GDP by 2030.

Furthermore, ASEAN cities such as Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, and Jakarta will be heavily impacted by climate change.

It is an opportune moment for Southeast Asian nations to seize the opportunities presented by the sustainability sector and fulfill their environmental pledges, in order to mitigate climate change expeditiously.

Writer’s name: Ong Bo Yang

Profile: http://www.linkedin.com/in/ongboyang

Biography

I am currently a double Masters’ student, majoring in Master of Science in Programme and Project Management at the University of Warwick, and majoring in Master of Business Administration (MBA) at Quantic School of Business and Technology.

I have written 17 Op-Eds for 12 ASEAN newspapers, namely Cambodia’s The Phnom Penh Post, Malaysia’s Daily Express, Malaysiakini, and The Sun Daily, Myanmar’s The Myanmar Times, Philippines’s Daily Tribune, Singapore’s The Business Times, Thailand’s Bangkok Post, Chiang Rai Times, The Pattaya News, and TPN National, and Vietnam’s VnExpress.

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