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Impact of Climate Change on ASEAN International Affairs: Risk and Opportunity Multiplier



This study examines the implications of climate change for international affairs in Southeast Asia and for ASEAN as a multilateral organization. Climate change and efforts to mitigate climate change give rise to major risks as well as opportunities in international affairs. It is therefore in the interest of all countries to be aware of the risks and prepare for them, and the overarching purpose of this study is to support ASEAN and its member states in this area. Given Southeast Asia’s complex geography—with numerous archipelagoes, long coastlines, intricate borders, and great-power neighbors—climate change is especially likely to affect interstate relations in the region.Climate change may impact on international affairs among the ASEAN countries at several levels. Firstly, changing climatic conditions may affect interstate relations through humanitarian crises, migration, and/or the need for greater imports of vital goods. Secondly, reducing greenhouse gas emissions requires international coordination and cooperation. Thirdly, the global energy transition driven by climate policy may lead to an altered geopolitical situation in the world, including ASEAN.
Impact of Climate Change on
ASEAN International Aairs
Risk and Opportunity Multiplier
Published November 2017
Suggested citation:
Indra Overland et al. (2017) Impact of Climate Change on ASEAN International
Aairs: Risk and Opportunity Multiplier, Norwegian Institute of International
Aairs and Myanmar Institute of International and Strategic Studies, available
Published by the Norwegian Institute of International Aairs and
Myanmar Institute of Strategic and International Studies
ISSN: 1894-650X
Indra OVERLAND Research Professor and Head, Energy Program, Norwegian Institute of Int. Aairs
Latifah AZLAN Researcher, Institute of Strategic and International Studies Malaysia
Pich CHARADINE Assistant Director, Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace
Kavi CHONGKITTAVORN Senior Fellow, Institute of Strategic and International Studies ailand
Chanaloun EKSURIYA Research Fellow, Institute of Foreign Aairs of the Lao PDR
Edwin S. ESTRADA Head of Non-Traditional Security Studies, Foreign Service Institute of the Philippines
Saiful Azmi HUSAIN Senior Lecturer, Universiti Brunei Darussalam
Ainun JAABI Researcher, Institute of Strategic and International Studies Malaysia
Nathan LEMPHERS Visiting Fellow, Norwegian Institute of International Aairs
Moonyati MOHD YATID Senior Analyst, Institute of Strategic and International Studies Malaysia
Hang uy NGUYEN Research Fellow, Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam
R.J. Marco Lorenzo C. PARCON Foreign Aairs Research Specialist, Foreign Service Institute of the Philippines
Shibao PEK Policy Research Analyst, Singapore Institute of International Aairs
Vidhyandika PERKASA Head, Dep. of Pol. and Int. Relations, Centre for Strategic and Int. Studies Indonesia
Fawziah SELAMAT Deputy Director, Singapore Institute of International Aairs
Chansouda SIBORLIBOUN Research Fellow, Institute of Foreign Aairs of the Lao PDR
Pou SOTHIRAK Executive Director, Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace
Apichai SUNCHINDAH Independent expert, ailand
Khin Ni Ni THEIN Professor and Secretary of Adv. Group, National Water Resources Committee, Myanmar
Daw Khin ida TIN Director, Ministry of National Resources and Environmental Conservation, Myanmar
Roman VAKULCHUK Senior Research Fellow, Norwegian Institute of International Aairs
Arief WIJAYA Senior Manager, Climate and Forests, World Resources Institute Indonesia
Harris ZAINUL Researcher, Institute of Strategic and International Studies Malaysia
e content of this study benets from the collective Southeast Asian foreign-policy expertise and
experience of its authors. However, the authors have made their contributions as individuals, and
the study does not represent the ocial views or positions of their employers, the institutions that
selected them for participation in the study, the governments of their countries of origin, the Myan-
mar Institute of Strategic and International Studies, the Norwegian Institute of International Aairs,
or the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Aairs.
In this multi-author study, it has been necessary to reach compromises between dierent views.
e authors endorse the overall direction and content of the study, but not necessarily every statement.
Authors ...................................................................................................................... III
Executive summary ................................................................................................... V
Introduction .............................................................................................................
Southeast Asia: A hotspot for climate change ................................................
Existing research on climate change and ASEAN ...........................................
Analysis: climate-change implications for ASEAN international aairs .............
Sea-level rise .....................................................................................................
Extreme weather events ...................................................................................
Migration ...........................................................................................................
Altered river flow ...............................................................................................
Haze ................................................................................................................... 
Food security ..................................................................................................... 
Global energy transition ................................................................................... 
International climate-policy commitments of the ASEAN countries ............. 
ASEAN’s role on climate and energy policy .................................................... 
Recommendations for ASEAN ................................................................................. 
Follow up the NDCs ........................................................................................... 
Build competence and awareness ................................................................... 
Promote regional energy integration .............................................................. 
Promote cooperation on other transboundary climate issues ...................... 
Underlying principles ....................................................................................... 
Annex: Roundtable program ................................................................................... 
References ................................................................................................................. 
Executive summary
is study examines the implications of climate change and climate policy for international aairs
in Southeast Asia and for ASEAN as a multilateral organization. Climate change and eorts to
mitigate climate change give rise to major risks as well as opportunities in international aairs. It
is therefore in the interest of all countries to be aware of the risks and prepare for them, and the
overarching purpose of this study is to support ASEAN and its member states in this area.
• According to the Global Climate Risk Index, four of the world’s ten countries most aected by
climate change are located in Southeast Asia: Myanmar, the Philippines, ailand, and Vietnam.
Given Southeast Asia’s complex geography—with numerous archipelagoes, long coastlines, intricate
borders, and great-power neighbors—climate change is especially likely to aect interstate relations
in the region.
Climate change may impact on international aairs among the ASEAN countries at several levels.
Firstly, changing climatic conditions may aect interstate relations through humanitarian crises,
migration, and/or a need for greater imports of vital goods. Secondly, reducing greenhouse gas emis-
sions requires international coordination and cooperation. irdly, the global energy transition driven
by climate policy may lead to an altered geopolitical situation in the world, including ASEAN.
e rising sea level, extreme weather events, climate-driven migration, changed river-ow, hydro-
power promotion, international cooperation to combat haze, and climate-related food security
risks—all have implications for international aairs among the ASEAN member states.
Several low-elevation areas of Southeast Asia may be aected by the rising sea level. e region has
over 50 coastal cities with more than half a million inhabitants. e smaller a country, the greater
its population density and the more low-elevation territory it has, the greater are the risks it faces.
In addition, the greater the proportion of the population engaged in agriculture, the more likely is
climate change to cause migration.
Migration out of low-lying areas in the broader region is a major potential climate-related trigger
of international issues in Southeast Asia. Bangladesh, as one of the world’s most populous, densely
populated, and low-lying countries, could become a source of rising migration to Myanmar and
other ASEAN member states. is could also highlight the divide between majority Muslim and
majority non-Muslim states within ASEAN on a greater scale than the 2015 boat refugee crisis did.
Climate mitigation necessitates a global energy transition, and this has implications for interstate
relations. e trend in Southeast Asia has been towards increasing dependence on imports of fossil
fuels from the Middle East, entailing growing vulnerability to political developments in that part
of the world. is can be counteracted by climate mitigation measures such as reducing fossil-fuel
subsidies and increasing the share of renewables in the energy mix. Conversely, a failed energy
transition among the ASEAN countries will increase their energy dependency.
Executive summary
• Failure to move away from fossil fuels, especially coal, may damage the international reputation
of the ASEAN countries. Counter to the nationally determined contributions (NDCs) which the
ASEAN countries themselves have formulated under the Paris Agreement, the regions coal-based
electricity generation capacity has been expanding rapidly. is may also lead to a large number of
stranded coal assets in the future.
All the ASEAN member states have ratied the Kyoto Protocol and signed the Paris Agreement, and
nine out of ten have also ratied the Paris Agreement. At least half of the ASEAN member states
reacted publicly to President Donald Trump’s announcement that the United States would withdraw
from the Paris Agreement, criticizing it and/or reiterating their own country’s commitment to climate
action. ASEAN has identied climate change as a priority issue since the 2007 ASEAN Summit in
Singapore. is declared commitment of ASEAN and its member states to international climate
policy can provide a good foundation for joint regional climate policy formulation and action.
However, despite their positive stances on climate change, most ASEAN countries have not taken on
prominent roles in international climate policy. As a result, they remain takers rather than makers in
international climate politics. ASEAN as an organization stands to gain or lose status by following
upor not following up its member states on climate issues, and by member states succeeding or
failing to meet their NDCs. e ASEAN Secretariat can fulll an important function by promoting
a team spirit around this status drive.
ASEAN could formulate a regionally determined contribution (RDC) for ASEAN by adding up the
nationally determined contributions of the ASEAN member states. is could help create a team
spirit related to the NDCs, as well as possible peer review/pressure.
ASEAN could implement several other concrete measures to energize its work on climate change:
maintain a focus on the NDCs of its member states under the Paris Agreement; ensure that cur-
rent and future initiatives under the ASEAN Plan of Action for Energy Cooperation (APAEC) are
ambitious and detailed as to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions; highlight the vulnerability
of Southeast Asia to climate change by publishing and sharing relevant analysis; advocate improved
disclosure and reporting of the nancial risks of climate change to governments and investors; put
climate change high on the agenda of every ASEAN summit; involve and connect relevant civil
society and academic organizations across Southeast Asia; facilitate regional electricity trade through
the expansion of the ASEAN Power Grid for better handling of the intermittency of renewable
energy; promote the accelerated phase- out of fossil-fuel subsidies—which is also a prerequisite for
developing trans-border electricity trade in Southeast Asia.
To be successful, climate-related initiatives will need to consider the ASEAN way of conducting busi-
ness, with its emphasis on national sovereignty, non-interference and consensus in decision-making.
e United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has set an example of
common but dierentiated capabilities and responsibilities, further developed with the Paris Agreement’s
concept of nationally determined contributions, which are precisely that—nationally determined. is
approach is highly compatible with the traditional ASEAN approach to interstate cooperation.
• ASEAN may be experiencing a problem of collective action on international climate policy: the
member states are looking to ASEAN to adopt a stronger role, whereas the ASEAN Secretariat
looks to the member states to take the lead and give clear signals. A rst step towards solving this
conundrum could be for the ASEAN Secretariat to further expand and strengthen its climate policy
stang—which will require funding and capacity enhancement.
Climate change can have an impact on interna-
tional aairs at several levels. Firstly, changing cli-
matic conditions such as sea-level rise, droughts,
oods, and storms can aect relations between
states through humanitarian crises, migration,
greater dependency on imports of vital goods,
and even conict (Brzoska and Frölich 2015;
Buhaug et al. 2014). Secondly, climate change
is a global problem that cannot be dealt with
by any country on its own; reducing greenhouse
gas emissions requires international coordination
and cooperation. irdly, the energy transition
required for climate mitigation may lead to an
altered geopolitical situation, with new risks as
well as advantages. Climate change is therefore
both a risk- and an opportunity-multiplier in
international relations: it may aggravate exist-
ing interstate tensions, or catalyze collaboration
across international boundaries.
e overarching purpose of this study is to
promote and protect the interests of the ASEAN
member states, both as individual countries and
collectively. Because climate change and attempts
to mitigate climate change entail major risks as
well as opportunities in the international aairs
of the region (Vinke et al. 2017: iv), it is in the
interest of all countries to be aware of them.
e study draws on publicly available data
as well as the input of researchers from relevant
institutions in all ten ASEAN countries. e con-
tributing researchers gathered for a roundtable in
Yangon, Myanmar on June 19–20, 2017, organ-
ized jointly by the Myanmar Institute of Stra-
tegic and International Studies (Myanmar ISIS)
and the Norwegian Institute of International
Aairs (NUPI). e roundtable was nanced by
the Norwegian Embassy in Yangon, facilitated
by Khin Maung Lynn (Joint Secretary, Myan-
mar ISIS) and opened by HE U Nyunt Maung
Shein (Chairman, Myanmar ISIS), HE Dr AKP
Mochtan (Deputy Secretary-General for Com-
munity and Corporate Aairs, ASEAN), and
Professor Ulf Sverdrup (Director, NUPI) (see
Annex for details). Workshop participants made
presentations on the international implications
of climate change for the foreign policies of their
countries and provided written responses to a set
of questions, later followed up with written input
from each country.
is study is inspired by a report on the
geopolitical consequences of the transition to
renewable energy recently published by Colum-
bia University, Harvard University, and NUPI
(O’Sullivan et al. 2017). e present study on
Southeast Asia takes an approach that is more
geographically focused, but thematically broader,
encompassing the geopolitical consequences of
climate change as well as attempts to mitigate
climate change. It was decided to broaden the
thematic scope of this study because of the par-
ticular vulnerability of the ASEAN countries to
climate change.
Southeast Asia: A hotspot
for climate change
According to the Global Climate Risk Index,
four of the world’s ten countries most aected
by climate change are located in Southeast Asia:
Myanmar, the Philippines, ailand, and Viet-
nam. Neighboring Bangladesh is also ranked
among the top ten (Kreft et al. 2016; see also
ADB 2017). is is illustrated in Figure 1. Sim-
ilarly, the Climate Vulnerability Index classies
the regions population and ecosystems as either
“highly” or “extremely” vulnerable to climate
change (Maplecroft 2017).
One of the most tangible consequences of global
warming is the melting of ice, leading to higher
sea levels. e population and economic activ-
ity of Southeast Asia are concentrated along the
regions coastlines, where there are over 50 cities
with more than half a million inhabitants each.
A study conducted by the Asian Development
Bank projects a 4.8 °C rise in annual temperature
and a 70 cm rise in sea level by 2100 in Indonesia,
the Philippines, ailand, and Vietnam (cited in
ASEAN 2015; see also see Vinke et al. 2017: 28;
Levermann et al. 2013). is would entail serious
problems for many of the regions major coastal
and estuary cities, including Bangkok, Jakarta,
Manila, and Yangon.
According to one set of estimates, should
the Greenland ice melt and ow into the world
oceans, the sea level might rise by 6 meters; should
all the ice in Antarctica melt, the sea level might
rise by 60 meters (NSIDC 2017). Other estimates
indicate that sea level is likely to rise by around 1
meter by the end of this century, i.e. within the
lifetime of today’s children (Vermeer and Rahm-
storf 2009: 21527; Jevrejeva et al. 2010: 1).
Estimates of sea-level rise are characterized by
considerable uncertainty (van den Broeke et al.
2016: 1933), and are therefore constantly revised
in light of new research. What is clear is that there
is considerable risk of rising sea levels in the near
and more remote future, necessitating large-scale
spending to safeguard cities and infrastructure,
and resettle coastal populations.
e special geography of Southeast Asia
makes it particularly likely that climate change
will aect interstate relations. e region has
intricate international borders, like those between
ailand and its neighbors, or on the island of
Borneo/Kalimantan, which is divided between
Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, and Malaysia.
Indonesia consists of over 17 000 islands; the
Philippines has over 7000. Myanmar shares direct
land borders with great powers China and India;
Laos and Vietnam share borders with China,
and Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia,
and the Philippines all have maritime borders
with China (if one takes into account Chinese
territorial claims in the South China Sea). is
geographical complexity creates many risks of
climate-related developments spilling over from
one state to another—but also opportunities for
countries to coordinate their climate mitigation
and adaptation measures.
Figure 1. Climate risk by coun-
try (lower number / darker
color = higher climate risk)
(Kreft et al. 2016).
1–10 11–20 21–50 51–100 >100 No data
Climate Risk Index: Ranking 1996–2015
Figure 1. Climate risk by country (lower number / darker color = higher climate risk) (Kreft et al. 2016).
e Global Climate Risk Index ranks the vul-
nerability of the individual ASEAN countries to
climate change as shown in Table 1.
Table 1. Ranking climate risk of ASEAN
countries (Kreft et al. 2016)
1 Myanmar
2 Philippines
3 Vietnam
4 ailand
5 Cambodia
6 Indonesia
7 Laos
8 Malaysia
9 Brunei Darussalam
10 Singapore
Figure 2 shows a similar picture, broken down by
province: almost all provinces in the Philippines
and Cambodia, and most in Laos, are considered
to be at high risk from climate change. Moreover,
as the eects of climate change and climate policy
spill over from one country to another, also other
countries will be aected.
Existing research on climate
change and ASEAN
Some research has been conducted on climate
change in Southeast Asia, but there has been little
attention to the international relations implica-
tions of climate change and climate policy for the
region and for ASEAN as a multilateral organ-
In addition to creating regional climate-risk
scenarios like those mentioned in the introduc-
tion, various scholars have examined domestic
adaption to climate change and mitigation meas-
ures in Southeast Asia (Koh et al. 2015; Rasiah
et al. 2017; Hornoiu 2016; Caballero-Anthony
et al. 2015; Syed et al. 2014; Vehmas et al. 2012;
Sahraie 2011). e edited volume by Koh et
al. (2015) oers a comprehensive collection of
studies on adaptation and mitigation measures
adopted by individual member states and by
ASEAN as an organization, dealing with such
topics as sea-level rise, legal framework, future
Figure 2. Vulnerability to climate
change of ASEAN countries (except
Myanmar); darker color = more vul-
nerable (Finlayson 2016)
Figure 2. Vulnerability to climate change of ASEAN countries (except Myanmar); darker color =
more vulnerable (Finlayson 2016)
impacts and vulnerabilities, economic intercon-
nections, climate migrants, adaptation and dis-
aster management as well as risk reduction and
humanitarian assistance. A study by Salamanca
and Nguyen (2016: 1) classies the ASEAN
countries according to three categories of adap-
tation policies: adaptation pioneers (Philippines
and Vietnam), emerging champions (Cambodia,
Indonesia, and Myanmar), and wait-and-see
countries (Laos, Malaysia, and ailand).
According to Salamanca and Nguyen (2016:
5), “most of the adaptation policies currently
implemented in the ASEAN Member States
are still relatively new…Yet adaptation eorts
are increasing.” In his study of climate-change
coverage in ASEAN English-language newspa-
pers 2002–2012, Freeman (2017) nds that the
attention has grown substantially since 2006,
but often involves general normative statements
rather than action-oriented solutions.
A few scholars have examined what ASEAN
as an organization can do to handle challenges
related to climate change (Lassa et al. 2015;
Koh et al. 2015; Salamanca and Nguyen 2016).
Lassa et al. (2015) call for greater cooperation
with the International Panel on Climate Change,
and note that shared research activities and data
collection across the ASEAN countries could
help mitigate the risks of maladaptation. Fur-
ther, as Goron (2014) points out, the ASEAN
voice in UNFCCC negotiations has been quite
fragmented and the weight and inuence of the
ASEAN countries have been limited compared,
for instance, to those of the EU countries.
Using a general equilibrium model to assess
the impacts of the international climate policy
on the ASEAN countries and their energy sys-
tems, Ruamsuke et al. (2015) nd that ailand
and Vietnam are most vulnerable. eir model
indicates, not surprisingly, that clean electricity
generation is a major tool for reducing carbon
emissions in the region. Other scholars have
studied renewable energy promotion, electric-
ity generation and energy security in ASEAN
(Sovacool 2009; Kumar et al. 2013; Huber et
al. 2015; Shadman et al. 2016). Shadman et al.
(2016) report on a case study of drought in six
ASEAN countries and its eect on renewable
electricity generation; they argue that a Southeast
Asian electricity system based on renewables is
vulnerable to drought and that long-term energy
planning in ASEAN has ignored climate risk and
its impact on energy security.
A few scholars have evaluated the impact of
climate change and climate events in ASEAN
on business (Amran et al. 2016; Hayakawa et
al. 2015). Amran et al. (2016) conclude that
few businesses have integrated climate change
into their corporate strategies in Southeast Asia,
whether as a risk or as an opportunity. Kumar et al.
(2013) note that climate change is not the major
impetus for biofuel development in the region’s
major biofuels producers—Indonesia, Malaysia,
the Philippines, and ailand. More important
are commercial and socio-economic incentives.
Several works discuss the issue of forced
migration in ASEAN (e.g. Petcharamesree
2016; Nethery 2014; Ananta and Arin 2004;
Grundy-Warr 2004). Petcharamesree (2016) dis-
cusses the legal framework for handling forced
migration in Southeast Asia, and concludes that
the creation of a unied regional approach to
forced migration is needed. She notes that the
ten ASEAN member-states are driven largely by
their national agendas and tend not to act until
a problem grows into a crisis—as is the case with
many other countries around the world.
In sum, there is a growing body of research
on the impacts of climate change in South-East
Asia. However, the international relations aspect
has received little attention, and there is limited
awareness of this important element of climate
change among the ASEAN member states. is
study attempts to ll the gap.
Analysis: climate-change implications
for ASEAN international aairs
Sea-level rise
Rising sea levels will have profound implica-
tions for states and the relations between them.
As indicated above, due to its complex mari-
time geography, Southeast Asia will be aected
more than most other parts of the world. e
territories of all non-landlocked states will
shrink, especially those with long coastlines
and/or signicant low-lying areas. Out of the
world’s 25 cities most vulnerable to a 1-meter
sea-level rise, as many as 19 are located in the
Asia-Pacic region, 7 of them in the Philippines
alone (Brecht et al. 2012). But it is Indonesia
that is expected to be hardest hit by coastal
ooding, with 5.9 million people aected every
year by 2100 (McLeod et al. 2010; Vinke et al.
2017: 33).
Beyond reductions in territory, altered coast-
lines will change the baseline calculations used
to estimate territorial waters and exclusive eco-
nomic zones under the United Nations Con-
vention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS), to
which all the ASEAN countries are signatories,
including landlocked Laos.1 ese changes will
aect maritime defense systems as well as the
rights to sheries and other oshore natural
1 Cambodia has signed but not ratied UNCLOS.
Table 2. Low-elevation coastal area and
population, selected Asian countries
coast (LEC) as %
of total surface area
LEC population
as % of total
Bangladesh 40 49
Cambodia 8 26
China 2 11
India 3 6
Indonesia 9 18
Myanmar 7 28
Pakistan 3 3
Philippines 7 17
ailand 7 26
Vietnam 20 55
Sources: adapted from Vinke et al. 2017: 11; Neumann et al. 2015
Treat et al. (2013) present an extreme scenario,
in which all the ice in the world melts and ows
into the oceans. is scenario is unlikely to mate
rialize in the foreseeable future, but it provides
pointers on sensitive geographical areas. Figure 3
shows how this would play out in Southeast Asia.
Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Jakarta, Manila,
and Singapore would vanish, along with most
of Cambodia and Singapore and large parts of
Kalimantan, the Irrawaddy Delta, Southern Viet-
nam, Sumatra, and central ailand. Southeast
Asias populous neighbors would also be hard
hit, forcing large numbers of people to search
for new places to live. Chinas most densely pop-
ulated coastal areas, currently home to some 600
million people, would be submerged, as would
Bangladesh with a population of over 160 mil-
Analysis: climate-change implications for ASEAN international aairs
lion and India’s entire eastern seaboard with a
population of several hundred million.
Much of Singapore is at and low-lying—30%
of the country has elevations of ve meters or
less—and is therefore particularly vulnerable
to rising sea levels (National Climate Change
Secretariat 2017). Singapore has already begun
mitigation eorts to prepare for this. In 2011,
the minimum land reclamation level was raised
from 3 to 4 meters (Tang 2017). In addition,
seawalls and rock slopes already protect over 70%
of Singapore’s coastline (Tang 2017). anks to
the country’s small surface area, the cost of rais-
ing these to protect against higher sea levels is
comparatively low (Ng and Mendelsohn 2005).
In a very long-term perspective, should much of
the ice on the South Pole melt and sea levels rise
more dramatically, the challenges for Singapore
might be greater, perhaps threatening the very
survival of the city state.
e impact of rising sea levels on maritime ter-
ritorial rights has received some attention in the
general academic literature (Ruppel 2015: 100;
Vidas 2014; Di Leva and Morita 2008; Caron
2009), but surprisingly little in Southeast Asia.
However, VornDick (2012) argues in an op-ed
in e Diplomat that Chinese claims in the South
China Sea are likely to be undermined by rising
sea levels. One of China’s strategies for claiming
maritime territory in the South China Sea is to
create or expand articial islands and reefs whose
surrounding waters it can then claim. Due to cli-
mate change, China may nd that some of these
newly created territories are no longer above sea
level. Another perspective is that, if demand for
oil and gas falls due to international climate pol-
icy and/or disruptive technologies, the parties to
the South China Sea maritime territory disputes
may also come to view the anticipated oshore
fossil petroleum resources as less valuable, poten-
tially dampening these disputes.
Extreme weather events
Another important aspect of climate change is the
expected worsening of extreme weather events.
e extent of the impact of climate change on
extreme weather events is not known with cer-
tainty, but it is likely that such events will become
Figure 3. Altered coastlines after the
melting of all ice on earth (Treat et al.
Figure 3. Altered coastlines after the melting of all ice on earth (Treat et al. 2013).
Analysis: climate-change implications for ASEAN international aairs
harsher (Vinke et al. 2017: xi). Southeast Asia is
already experiencing the impact of such events.
Many parts of the region are aected, but data
availability is best for the largest cities, as shown
in Figure 4.
One of the most extreme recent weather events
that the region has experienced was Cyclone Nar-
gis, which killed over 138000 people in Myanmar
in 2008 (Brakenridge et al. 2017: 81; Howe and
Bang 2017: 58; Seekins 2009: 717; Junk 2016:
78). Such a natural catastrophe and its humani-
tarian consequences create obligations for other
countries to get involved—which, in the case of
Myanmar’s military government, triggered fears
of foreign political intervention (Barber 2009;
Seekins 2009; Selth 2008).
Another extreme weather event in recent years
was Typhoon Haiyan, which struck the central
Philippines province of Leyte in 2013, killing at
least 10000 people and bringing extensive eco-
nomic damage (e Guardian 2013a; Brower
et al. 2014). Importantly for the focus of this
study, it also caused a rise in cross-border migra-
tion (Mosuela and Matias 2015: 99; Lum and
Margesson 2014). is illustrates how extreme
weather events have an impact not only on the
countries they strike, but may also indirectly
aect other countries and interstate relations.
Along with changes in precipitation, rising sea
levels are an important potential driver of migra-
tion. As discussed above, several low-lying parts of
Southeast Asia may be aected by rising sea levels,
and people may need to nd new places to live. e
more low-lying areas, the greater the population
density and the smaller the surface area of a coun-
try, the greater is this risk. In larger countries with
more varied geographies, such pressures may in
large part be resolved through internal migration.
However, even in such countries, this may prove
costly. For example, in Vietnam the majority of
the population is concentrated on the fertile plains
between the mountains and the sea. Although this
is a large country with many higher-lying areas,
large numbers of people could nd themselves dis-
placed, and alternative settlement areas available
within the country would not be as fertile.
e likelihood of international migration in
response to climate change is heightened by the
fact that several countries in the region already
have well-established patterns of emigration—
partly to other ASEAN countries, partly to other
parts of the world (see Figure 5).
Except for Brunei Darussalam and Singapore,
all ASEAN member states are already major
sources of outbound migration, each having over
a million nationals abroad (ILO 2015). ere are
Figure 4. Impact of extreme
weather events on three Southeast
Asian megacities 1980–2017 (data
collated from numerous sources)
Figure 5. Net migration, South
east Asian states (data from
World Bank 2016)
0 0
Million USD
0 0
Million USD
0 0
Million USD
Figure 4. Impact of extreme weather events on three Southeast Asian megacities 1980–2017 (data
collated from numerous sources)
Analysis: climate-change implications for ASEAN international aairs
over 10 million ethnic Filipinos working abroad,
of which 41% are temporary labor migrants,
11% are irregular migrants and the remaining
48% are considered permanent migrants (CFO
2013). As a consequence, interaction with other
states over the status and rights of overseas Filipi-
nos is an important aspect of Filipino diplomacy,
and the Filipino government has made protec-
tion of overseas Filipinos the third pillar of the
country’s foreign policy.
Migrant issues are also important for other
major labor-exporting and -importing countries
and the relationships between them—for example
between Cambodia and Malaysia, Cambodia and
ailand, and Myanmar and ailand (Lim and
Hong 2016). In 2011, following the exposure of
serious abuse cases, Cambodia imposed a ban on
sending domestic maids to Malaysia. e ban was
lifted in 2015, when both governments signed a
new memorandum of understanding on resum-
ing deployment of low-skilled laborers to Malay-
sia. In mid-2014, when the ai military junta
came to power, approximately 220000 Cambo-
dian laborers were forcibly deported back to the
border by truck. e Cambodian government
promptly responded that the ai government
should be held responsible. e ai government
continues to send illegal migrant workers back to
Cambodia, but the two governments have been
trying to nd ways to resolve this tension and
limit the strain on their bilateral relationship.
e greater the proportion of the population
engaged in agriculture, the more likely is climate
change to cause migration. A recent study of the
Philippines and Vietnam notes lack of water for
agriculture as one of the main causes of migra-
tion among young people (Anderson et al. 2017).
Bohra-Mishra et al. (2017) nd that rising tem-
peratures and typhoons cause outmigration in
the rural Philippines through their negative
impact on crop yields.
Malaysia is among the ASEAN countries
thought to be less sensitive to climate change,
and probably less likely to experience large-scale
internal climate-related migration (Hassan et
al. 2016: 25–36). However, Malaysia is already
host to some three million migrants from many
countries (ILO 2015: 18)—a large number for a
– 2000000
1992 1997 2002 2007
– 1500000
– 1000000
– 500000
– 2000000
Net migration
Figure 5. Net migration, Southeast Asian states (data from World Bank 2016)
Analysis: climate-change implications for ASEAN international aairs
country that is not even a signatory to the 1951
Refugee Convention. A new inux of migrants
driven by climate change would place further
strain on the Malaysian government and society.
Also Singapore is a magnet for migrants from
across Southeast Asia. It might well become the
target destination of large numbers of people in
the case of a climate-induced wave of migration.
However, Singapore is also a small country with
simple borders which it has been managing with
increasing strictness. Many attempted illegal
immigrants are arrested; punishments include
prison sentences, caning, and deportation. It
therefore seems unlikely that Singapore would
be signicantly aected by a future climate-re-
lated migration wave (ng 2015; Osada 2015).
e potentially largest source of climate-re-
lated migration in the broader region is Bangla-
desh, due to several factors. Firstly, Bangladesh,
with its almost 163 million inhabitants, is one of
the world’s most populous countries. Secondly,
it is the world’s most densely populated country,
except for some small countries. In the words
of Harris (2014), “160 million people live in a
place one-fth the size of France and as at as
chapati.” irdly, it is one of the world’s most
low-lying countries.
According to estimates by Rajan (2008), with
a 1-meter sea-level rise scenario, displacement of
5.73 million Bangladeshis can be expected by
2050, and 41.62 million by 2100. With a sea
level rise scenario of 3 meters, displacement by
2010 is estimated at 58.25 million; with a rise of
5 meters, 75.82 million (see also Rahman et al.
2011; Paul and Rashid 2016). If the Paris Agree-
ment is fully implemented, the sea level may rise
by 0.65 meters by the year 2100; under a busi-
ness-as-usual scenario it may rise by 1.4 meters
by 2100, and for every 1° C of global warming
the sea will rise another estimated 2.3 meters
(Vinke et al. 2017: xi). Neighboring India and
Myanmar are unlikely to welcome large numbers
of migrants from Bangladesh. e entire eastern
seaboard of India is low-lying and at risk of rising
sea levels; this makes it dicult to imagine India
as being eager to accommodate many displaced
Bangladeshis, not least since Bangladesh (as well
as then Western Pakistan) was separated from
India because it was thought dicult to integrate
Bangladeshi Muslims with Indian Hindus.
ere is already a history of tensions between
Bangladesh and Myanmar over ethnic, refugee,
and human rights issues. While the impact of cli-
mate change and extreme climate events on migra-
tion from coastal Bangladesh is well studied (e.g.,
Stojanov et al. 2016; Saha 2017; Islam and Sham-
suddoha 2017; Mallick et al. 2017; Roy 2017;
Bose 2016), there has been hardly any analysis of
the potential impact on the ASEAN countries.
As illustrated by events in 2015, climate-in-
duced migration carries risks not only for bilat-
eral relations between Bangladesh and Myanmar,
but also for international relations in the broader
region. at year, some 25000 Muslims set o
from Myanmar in poorly equipped boats to
Indonesia, Malaysia, and ailand, but were
not welcomed anywhere, sparking disagreement
among these countries and highlighting the
divide between Muslim-majority and non-Mus-
lim majority states within ASEAN (UNHCR,
cited in Miles 2015). Compared to some of the
scenarios for climate-induced displacement from
Bangladesh, 25000 boat refugees is a relatively
small number. Much larger waves of migration
could cause considerably more interstate tension.
Altered river flow
Some of the world’s largest rivers have their head-
waters in the Himalayan glaciers, and supply
water to millions of people across East, South,
and Southeast Asia. Climate change leads to gla-
cial melting, which can render river ow more
dependent on annual precipitation and therefore
more unstable. is in turn may force local com-
munities in downstream rural areas to change
their traditional food production patterns,
potentially leading to migration and impacting
relations between countries.
ree major Himalayan rivers originate in
Tibet and then ow through Southeast Asia:
the Irrawaddy, the Mekong, and the Salween.2
2 e Irrawaddy originates in territory disputed by China and
Analysis: climate-change implications for ASEAN international aairs
e longest of these three, the Mekong, ows
through six countries. e lower Mekong Basin
alone is home to 60 million people, out of which
an estimated 40 million are involved in capture
of wild sh (Grill et al. 2014; ompson et al.
2014; Kuenzer et al. 2013; Mekong River Com-
mission 2010).
Also hydroelectric dams can also create river-
ine complications. ey help states achieve their
Paris Agreement commitments on greenhouse
gas emissions and can be a signicant source
of low-cost, reliable, renewable energy for local
populations and generate economic benets for
the region. However, they can also have negative
impacts on downstream communities and eco-
systems, including sheries and agriculture. e
400-odd existing and planned dams in Bhutan,
China, India, Nepal, and Pakistan will aect the
ecology of the Himalayas; some of them will also
aect conditions downstream in Southeast Asia
(e Guardian 2013b).
e damming of the Mekong River has sig-
nicant transboundary implications. ere are
already tensions between Vietnam on the one
hand and China and Laos on the other. In particu-
lar, Vietnam has expressed signicant concerns
about Laos’ current approach to hydropower
development. Vietnam is apprehensive that Laos
has underestimated the costs and environmental
impacts of dam construction and that proper
feasibility research has not been conducted. But,
despite being linked by the Mekong, it is di-
cult for the other Southeast Asian countries to
inuence Laos. e international treaty between
these countries, the Mekong Agreement, only
requires Laos to consult its neighbors about their
views through the Mekong River Commission.
Commercial interests also play a role, with Chi-
nese, Malaysian, and ai companies involved in
dam construction in Laos (Wright 2016). Proper
regional planning is required to improve coordi-
nation among the states in the area.
China is the largest source of external invest-
ment in Southeast Asian hydropower. e Chi-
nese play a signicant role in dam construction in
several ASEAN countries: Cambodia, Indonesia,
Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines, and Vietnam
(Asian Power 2013; Urban et al. 2013; Biba 2012;
Wade 2011: 18; Liebman 2005). e Myitsone
Dam project in Myanmar is particularly con-
troversial, due to its large reservoir which will
threaten biodiversity, alter traditional livelihoods,
and displace local communities. Moreover, this
dam project is located near the Sagaing seismic
fault-line, and a large share of the electricity it
generates will be exported to China (Ives 2017;
Kiik 2016; Reilly 2013; Hilton 2013). e Myit-
sone Dam project has occasioned protests both
inside and outside Myanmar. It may even have
played a role in the decision of Myanmar’s pre-
vious military government to open up the coun-
try politically, in order to have Western sanctions
eased and escape from dependence on China
(Shannon and Farrelly 2014: 28; Sun 2012). As
climate change has understandably not been high
on the agenda among economically impover-
ished communities in Southeast Asia, discussion
of Chinese investments related to the Myitsone
Dam and other hydropower projects across the
region has focused on the local environment in
impact and on the rights of the local popula-
tion. However, if the population of Southeast
Asia becomes more climate conscious, the public
debate could possibly shift to weighing the pros
and cons of Chinese inuence and climate miti-
gation. In any case, Chinese hydropower invest-
ment is an important dimension of relations
between China and the ASEAN countries. Even
without climate change, rivers and hydropower
dams are fraught with international issues. When
receding glaciers, altered precipitation patterns,
and already climate-stressed downstream agricul-
tural communities are considered, the need for
additional attention to the transboundary impli-
cations of rivers and dams becomes clear.
Transboundary haze is an international relations
issue in ASEAN, because of its transboundary
eects on air quality and human health (Kop-
litz et al. 2016). e haze originates from agri-
culture-related res in East and South Sumatra
and parts of Kalimantan and aects neighboring
countries, Malaysia and Singapore in particular.
Analysis: climate-change implications for ASEAN international aairs
Haze pollution in ASEAN and its signicant eco-
nomic, health and other impacts on the region
have been widely studied (Cotton 1999; Odihi
2001; Byron 2004; Tacconi et al. 2008; Nguitra-
gool 2002; Forsyth 2014; Varkkey 2014; Nurhi-
dayah et al. 2015; Yong and Peh 2016; Sabuti and
Mohamed 2016; Lee et al. 2017; Ng 2017; Nesa-
durai 2017; Nazeer and Fumitaka 2017). ASEAN
member states signed the ASEAN Agreement on
Transboundary Haze Pollution in 2002, which is
still the only ASEAN-wide environmental agree-
ment. However, transboundary haze remains an
enduring concern for the ASEAN countries. In
2013, the haze caused a diplomatic row, with
Indonesia arguing that Malaysian and Singapo-
rean companies with plantations in Indonesia
were among those starting the res.
Dealing more eectively with the haze can
present an opportunity for the ASEAN countries
to partner to reduce harmful forest-clearing prac-
tices. Working together on this can be a good way
of achieving international cooperation, while also
promoting climate mitigation and improving
health (Koplitz et al. 2016).
Food security
Various studies have examined the impact of
climate change and extreme climate events on
agriculture and food production in Southeast
Asia (Bohra-Mishra et al. 2017; Lassa et al.
2015; Chan et al. 2017; Caballero-Anthony et
al. 2015; Chen et al. 2012). A large proportion
of the region’s workforce is engaged in primary
sector occupations—agriculture, forestry, and
sheries—all of which are especially vulnerable
to climate change. Projections of losses include a
50 percent decline in rice yields and a 6.7 percent
fall in GDP by 2100 (ASEAN 2015). Lassa et al.
(2015) stress that ASEAN agriculture, and rice
production in particular, are at risk from droughts
and ooding. ey conclude by oering a set of
policy measures to mitigate the inuence of cli-
mate change on food security in ASEAN, and
recommend that the ASEAN Secretariat should
coordinate these measures with the International
Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the Southeast
Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and
Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) on climate
science and impacts on agriculture.
Within Southeast Asia, issues of food security,
failed crops, and migration are closely intercon-
nected (Rutten et al. 2014; Chan et al. 2017).
Rutten et al. (2014) argue that investments in
Vietnam and the Mekong River Delta will need
to address the complexity of links between pop-
ulation, agriculture, land, and climate mitigation
and adaptation measures. Several scholars also
note that climate change is the most serious ris-
ing threat to the sheries sector in many ASEAN
countries, and may reduce food insecurity if not
dealt with properly (McNeely and Suksawang
2017; Chan et al. 2017; Amran et al. 2016).
Global energy transition
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions will necessi-
tate a transition away from fossil fuels. is is to
some extent an issue of domestic policy, but also
has implications for ve dierent aspects of rela-
tions between countries. Firstly, both reducing
subsidies for fossil fuels and increasing the share
of renewables in the energy mix would counter-
act the current trend towards increasing depend-
ence on imported fossil fuels among the ASEAN
member states (Pickford 2017). Such increasing
reliance threatens to render most ASEAN mem-
ber states dependent on fossil-fuel imports (see
Figure 6). Even Malaysia, the region’s second
largest oil producer, is on the verge of becoming a
net importer. Dependence on fossil-fuel imports
reduces the energy security of countries, exposing
them to political developments in the Middle
East (Overland 2015). is heightens the risk of
entanglements with China and other East Asian
countries which also depend increasingly on oil
imports from the Middle East.
Secondly, transition to large-scale use of
renewable energy will require further inte-
gration of electricity grids between countries,
to provide grid balancing and counteract the
intermittency inherent in most forms of renew-
able energy (Brouwer et al. 2014; Suberu et al.
2014). Since 1997, greater electricity integra-
tion has been conceptualized as the ASEAN
Power Grid (APG). However, although there
Figure 6. Energy depend-
ence of ASEAN countries
(data source: World Bank
Analysis: climate-change implications for ASEAN international aairs
are already eleven power lines between six pairs
of ASEAN countries, seven of these connec-
tions involve ailand; all electricity trade has
remained bilateral, and several ASEAN countries
have no connections with any ASEAN neighbors
(Andrews-Speed 2016: 2; Ahmed et al. 2017).
us, the energy transition represents a possi-
bility for increased cooperation within ASEAN.
As we argue in the recommendations, this is an
opportunity that could be actively pursued by
ASEAN as an organization.
irdly, a failed energy transition away from
fossil fuels in the ASEAN countries may dam-
age their international reputation and result in
stranded assets. e current trend is towards
rapid expansion of coal-based electricity gener-
ation capacity in Southeast Asia, with 358 new
coal-red power plants planned in the ASEAN
countries between 2011 and 2030 (Koplitz et
al. 2017: 1468). Coal is projected to become
the largest energy source for ASEAN from
2040 onwards (Ahmed et al. 2017: 1423). is
contradicts the nationally determined contri-
butions (NDCs) that the ASEAN countries
themselves have formulated, and may also lead
to a large number of stranded coal assets in
the future. Furthermore—and of greater rel-
evance to this study—this could damage the
international standing of the ASEAN coun-
tries in the international arena. Here we may
Vietnam Myanmar
– 200
% of energy imported/exported
Figure 6. Energy dependence of ASEAN countries (data source: World Bank 2017)
Analysis: climate-change implications for ASEAN international aairs
recall how Germany’s continued reliance on
coal has rendered its ambitious Energiewende
less impressive than it might otherwise be.3
A tarnished reputation on climate action may
in turn reduce a country’s inuence in other
important issue areas.
Fourthly, those Southeast Asian countries
that are net fossil energy exporters may expe-
rience reduced demand for their commodities,
due to the energy transition in the rest of the
world. is would weaken their trade balances
as well as their geo-economic position, and is of
special concern for the region’s net oil export-
ers—Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam.
For Indo-
nesia, the situation is complicated. On the one
hand, Indonesia is a net importer of oil (when
both crude oil and oil products are taken into
account), so lower oil prices might be a good
thing. On the other hand, Indonesia rejoined
OPEC in 2015, hoping to become a net explorer
oil-exporter again. Should international oil mar-
kets dwindle, that move might seem less mean-
ingful in hindsight.
Indonesia also vies with Australia for the
position as the world’s largest coal exporter (IEA
2016: 6; Workman 2017)—and coal exports are
an evident liability under the Paris Agreement.
Indonesia is also the world’s fth largest exporter
of liqueed natural gas (LNG), while Malaysia
is an even greater exporter of LNG, placing it
third in the world (Statista 2017). Although nat-
ural gas is sometimes cast as a bridge fuel from a
high- to a low-carbon energy system, its market
basis in a decarbonizing global energy system
also involves major uncertainties, as some of the
natural gas produced must be burnt to generate
the energy to cool the rest of the natural gas
3 On Germany, see Renn and Marshall 2016; Lauber and
Jacobsson 2015. On the role of status in international rela-
tions, see Biba 2016; Freedman 2016.
4 Vietnam is a net exporter of crude oil, but net importer of oil
products (EIA 2017).
to -162°C for liquefaction and transportation,
generating additional greenhouse gas emissions
(Ulvestad and Overland 2011). In our review
of the literature, little evidence was found that
Southeast Asian energy exporters had considered
the threat posed by the global energy transition
to their roles as exporters in the international
energy system.
Finally, the global energy transition can
bring new opportunities for cooperation with
countries outside Southeast Asia. is is espe-
cially true of the four great powers that vie for
inuence in the ASEAN region: China, the
European Union, Japan, and the USA. All
appear keen to gain a foothold in this region,
with its population of over 600 million and rap-
idly growing markets. Not least, these powers
are stimulated by each other’s engagements in
the region, which in turn creates opportunities
for the Southeast Asian countries to cooperate
with multiple great powers. One country where
this can be observed is Myanmar, where China
and Japan have been oering dierent energy
International climate-policy
commitments of the ASEAN countries
e existing commitment of the ASEAN
member states to international climate policy
provides a good foundation for joint regional
climate-policy formulation and action. All
ASEAN member states have ratied the Kyoto
Protocol and signed the Paris Agreement, and
nine out of ten have ratied the Paris Agreement
(see Table 3), with Myanmar expected to do so
in the near future.
Table 3. Commitments to interna-
tional climate policy
Analysis: climate-change implications for ASEAN international aairs
Table 3. Commitments to international climate policy
Emission reduction
Emission reduction
Brunei 2009 Sept. 21st,
Activity-related targets: Reduce energy
consumption by 65% increase share of
renewables to 10%; reduce morning peak
hour CO2 emissions from vehicles by 40%;
increase total gazetted forest reserves from
the current 41% to 55% of total land area.
BAU 2035
Cambodia 2002 Feb. 6, 2017 - 27% (+land use,
land-use change and
BAU 2030
Indonesia 2004 Oct. 31, 2016 29% 41% BAU (2010-) 2030
Lao PDR 2003 Sept. 7, 2016 Activity-related targets: increase forest cover
to 70% of total land area; increase renewable
energy to 30% of its energy consumption
2000-2015 2015-2030
Malaysia 2002 Nov. 16, 2016 35% (per unit
45% (per unit GDP) 2005 2030
Myanmar 2003 Pending Sectors have been identied for mitigation, but without specic emission
Philippines 2003 April 22, 2016 - 70% BAU (2000-) 2030
Singapore 2006 Sept. 21, 2016 36% (per unit of GDP) 2005 2030
ailand 2002 Sept. 21, 2016 20% 25 % BAU (2005-) 2030
Vietnam 2002 Nov. 3, 2016 8% 25 % BAU (2010-) 2030
China 2002 -60 % 2030
EU 2002 -40 % 2030
India 2002 -35 % 2030
USA -28 % 2025
BAU = business-as-usual scenario as reference for emissions reduction
Sources: UNFCCC 2017a, 2017b; UNTC 2017; World Bank 2017
Analysis: climate-change implications for ASEAN international aairs
At least half of the ASEAN member states also
reacted publicly to President Donald Trump’s
announcement in 2017 that the United States
would withdraw from the Paris Agreement, crit-
icizing it directly and/or reiterating their own
country’s commitment to climate action (see
Table 4).
ASEAN’s role on climate
and energy policy
ASEAN has helped promote cooperation and
integration among its member countries on cli-
mate policy. Since the ASEAN Summit in Singa-
pore in 2007, ASEAN has repeatedly identied
climate change as a priority issue to be addressed
by the organization. An ASEAN Climate Change
Initiative (ACCI) and an ASEAN Working
Group on Climate Change (AWGCC) were
established in 2009. e ASEAN Leaders then
adopted the Statement on Joint Response to Cli-
mate Change (2010), followed by the adoption
of the ASEAN Action Plan on Joint Response
to Climate (AAPJRC) by the ASEAN Environ-
ment Ministers in 2012. e ASEAN Summits
have periodically issued statements pertaining to
climate change (2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2014,
2015 and 2016), expressing the common aspi-
rations of the member states to tackle climate
change through national and regional commit-
ments. ese have been issued especially in con-
nection with the UNFCCC COPs, including at
COP-22 in 2016. e current ASEAN Com-
munity Blueprint to 2025 includes a specic
section on Sustainable Climate, with references
elsewhere in the document to climate change as
well. e AWGCC serves as the primary sectoral
body within ASEAN focusing specically on cli-
mate-change matters. Due to the inter-connected
nature of this issue with several other sectors, the
current work plan of AWGCC has a special sec-
tion devoted to cross-sectoral coordination and
global partnership.
Table 4. ASEAN reactions to US
withdrawal from Paris Agreement
Table 4. ASEAN reactions to US withdrawal from Paris Agreement
Indonesia Withdrawal is not in line with a commitment to international
cooperation. No country can face climate change alone, international
cooperation is needed.
Arrmanatha Nasir, Speaker of
the Indonesian Ministry of For-
eign Aairs (Arisandi 2017).
Malaysia “Profound regret and deep concern”. “Retrogressive”. As the world’s
second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, and with a per-capita emis-
sions level that far exceeds the global average, the USA has a “moral
obligation” to continue to champion environmental issues. However,
with the drive and dedication shown by other countries to battle the
issue of global warming, coupled with great powers such as China and
the European Union assuming leading roles, the Paris Agreement will
continue to be a success despite the US withdrawal.
Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar,
Minister of Natural Resources
and Environment (e Sun
Daily 2017; e Malaysian
Insight 2017).
Philippines “e Philippines is deeply troubled by the decision of the US to with-
draw from the Paris Agreement and appeals that they reconsider their
position.e US, as the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases,
and more importantly, one of the world leaders, would have played a
key role in creating the much-needed global paradigm shift towards a
more climate-resilient and climate-smart future.”
Climate Change Commission
under the Oce of the President
Singapore “Disappointed” at the decision and called for a continued push in
global support for the Paris Agreement. “A great pity.” Climate change
is a “clear and present danger,” the resolution of which requires a
concerted global eort.
Masagos Zulkii (2017);
Minister for the Environment
and Water Resources; Vivian
Balakrishnan, Minister for
Foreign Aairs; Channel News
Asia (2017).
ailand Reiterated ailand’s commitment and the importance of the Paris
ONEP ailand 2017.
Analysis: climate-change implications for ASEAN international aairs
e importance of climate change is also
mentioned in the memorandum developed by
the ASEAN Institutes of Strategic and Interna-
tional Studies (ASEAN ISIS) on February 15,
2017, titled e Future of ASEAN: Meeting the
Challenges of a Changing Global and Regional
Landscape (ASEAN ISIS 2017). According to
the memorandum, “eorts at mitigation can
only be eective through coordinated eorts...
It also notes the diculty of coordination due to
diering levels of development in the individual
ASEAN member states.
Recognizing ASEAN’s past eorts and con-
tinuing challenges, the organization could
play an even more proactive role in promoting
cooperation on climate policy (Astriana 2015).
Indeed, nearly all Southeast Asian contributors to
this study have stated that ASEAN could further
strengthen its leadership on climate issues. e
next section outlines several specic recommen-
dations for how ASEAN could achieve this new
and bolder role.
Recommendations for ASEAN
In practice, international climate policy is con-
ceptualized and formulated mainly in the wealthy
Western countries. Although they negotiate with
other countries, most of the policy initiative and
push, as well as the underlying climate science,
originate in the West. Also ASEAN’s largest
neighbor, China, through its proactive industrial
policy on solar panel manufacturing and its clear
stance on the Paris Agreement, has assumed a
leading role.
Despite their positive stances, most ASEAN
countries have not taken on such forward-leaning
roles in international climate policy. As a result,
they have remained takers rather than makers on
many climate issues. is is a lost opportunity for
ASEAN as an organization. It can gain or lose
status in international aairs by following up or
not following up its member states on climate
issues, and by its member states succeeding or
failing to meet their nationally determined con-
tributions under the Paris Agreement. ASEAN
can fulll an important function by creating a
team spirit around to the nationally determined
contributions of its member states. e following
are some suggestions for ways in which ASEAN
might approach this:
Follow up the NDCs
Monitor and publicly comment on the imple-
mentation of nationally determined contribu-
tions by the ASEAN member states.
Formulate a regionally determined contri-
bution (RDC) for ASEAN by adding up
the nationally determined contributions of
the ASEAN member states. is could help
create a team spirit related to the nationally
determined contributions, and possible peer
Build competence and awareness
• Ensure that current and future ASEAN Plan
of Action for Energy Cooperation (APAEC)
initiatives are highly visible and aligned with
ASEAN’s commitments to climate change and
reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (Lidula
et al. 2007).
Highlight the vulnerability of Southeast Asia
to climate change by publishing and sharing
relevant analysis. For example, comprehensive
regional data on extreme weather events and
their consequences could be made more read-
ily available.
• Advocate improved disclosure and reporting
of the nancial risks of climate change for gov-
ernments and investors.
Leverage the privilege of the country chair of
ASEAN each year to prioritize climate change
on the organizations agenda.
• Place climate change high on the agenda of
every ASEAN Summit.
Involve and connect relevant civil society and
academic organizations across Southeast Asia
on issues of climate change.
• Ensure that the long-planned ASEAN Insti-
tute for Green Economy becomes operative
and is well resourced.
Transfer knowledge via the sharing of best
practices and technology-related investments
in clean energy.
Promote regional energy integration
• Facilitate regional electricity trade through an
expansion the ASEAN Power Grid (APG) to
manage the intermittency of renewable energy.
• Promote the phase-out of subsidies for fossil
fuels, which would facilitate the development
of regional electricity trade.
Recommendations for ASEAN
Develop regional benchmarks for clean energy
measures and practices.
Encourage joint renewable energy projects,
transboundary pump power solutions, green
nance investment, trade in renewable energy
technology, relevant educational projects
(including joint MSc and PhD programs
between universities in dierent ASEAN
countries), and sta exchanges between gov-
ernment institutions in ASEAN member
states on issues related to energy and the envi-
Broker partnerships among ASEAN member
states and between ASEAN member states and
non-ASEAN countries and companies.
Promote cooperation on other
transboundary climate issues
Building on ASEAN’s work on transboundary
haze, explore the adoption of transboundary
strategies on water resources management,
extreme weather conditions, climate-induced
migration, coastal and marine ecosystems pro-
tection, and outbreaks of heat-related disease.
Underlying principles
In advancing ASEAN cooperation on climate
policy, it will be essential “to promote and ensure
balanced social development and sustainable
environment that meets the needs of the peo-
ples at all times,” as emphasized in the document
ASEAN 2025: Forging Ahead Together (ASEAN
2015). e highly diverse economic and social
conditions across the Southeast Asian countries
make a one-size-ts-all approach inappropriate.
To be successful, any climate-related initiatives
will need to consider the ASEAN way of con-
ducting business, which emphasizes national
sovereignty, non-interference, and consensus in
decision-making. Such an approach can help allay
potential tensions among ASEAN member states
and discourage the ASEAN Secretariat from over-
reaching. e United Nations Framework Con-
vention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has set
an example of common but dierentiated capa-
bilities and responsibilities, further developed in
the Paris Agreement with the concept of nation-
ally determined contributions, which are precisely
that: nationally determined. is approach is
highly compatible with the traditional ASEAN
approach to interstate cooperation.
e combination of strong support for a more
proactive role for ASEAN on climate policy and
the organizations traditional consensus style and
cautiousness in policymaking give rise to a collec-
tive action problem: the member countries wait
for ASEAN to take a stronger role, while ASEAN
looks to its member states for someone to take
leadership. A rst step might be for the ASEAN
Secretariat to expand its stang and expertise on
climate policy—which will require more funding
and greater capacity enhancement.
Monday, June 19
16:00–16:15 Registration
16:15–16:30 Welcome remarks
• HE U Nyunt Maung Shein, Chairman, Myanmar Institute of Strategic and International Studies
(Myanmar ISIS)
HE Dr AKP Mochtan, Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN for Community and Corporate
Aairs, ASEAN
• Director Professor Ulf Sverdrup, Norwegian Institute of International Aairs (NUPI)
16:30–18:00 Introductory Presentations
Chair: Dr. Daw Kyi Kyi Hla, Senior Member, Myanmar ISIS
Climate Change and the Paris Agreement by Mr Nathan Lemphers, University of Toronto and
Visiting Research Fellow at NUPI
Climate change and the Renewable Energy Transition: Implications for International Relations
by Professor Indra Overland, Senior Research Fellow and Head of Energy Program, NUPI
• ASEAN and climate change by Mr Ky Anh Nguyen, Director, Sustainable Development Direc-
torate, ASEAN
• Presentation on Mangrove Reforestation in Myanmar by Former Director General U Aye Lwin
• Discussion
18:30–20:30 Welcome Dinner, with Cultural Entertainment
(Grand Ballroom Level-2)
Tuesday, June 20
Country Presentations by each ASEAN country, addressing the questions in the Concept Note
Chair: Dr Indra Overland, NUPI
09:00–09:15 Presentation from Cambodia
09:15–09:30 Presentation from Indonesia
09:30–09:45 Presentation from Laos
09.45–10:30 Discussion
10:30–11:00 Tea Break
Chair: Daw Kaythi Soe, Director General of Strategic Studies and Training Department and Secretary
of Myanmar ISIS
11:00–11:15 Presentation from Malaysia
11:15–11:30 Presentation from Myanmar
11:30–11:45 Presentation from the Philippines
11:45–12:30 Discussion
12:30–13:30 Lunch at the Market Restaurant (Level-2)
Chair: H.E. Dr. AKP Mochtan, Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN for Community and Corporate
Aairs, ASEAN
13:30–13:45 Presentation from Singapore
13:45–14:00 Presentation from ailand
14:00–14:15 Presentation from Vietnam
14:15–14:30 Discussion
14:30–14:45 Tea Break
14:45–15:45 Discussion: How can ASEAN address the challenges of climate change?
Chair: Daw Carole Ann Chit a, Member of Myanmar ISIS
15:45–16:00 Concluding remarks
by U Khin Maung Lynn, Joint Secretary-1 Myanmar ISIS and Director Professor Ulf Sverdrup, NUPI
Annex: Roundtable program
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... Recognizing the vulnerability of several member states as well the potential economic, ecological, socio-cultural impacts of natural disasters and climate change, ASEAN has also emphasized on regional and international cooperation to address climate change, both for mitigation and adaptation. While ASEAN addressed climate change as a critical issue as an organization in multiple statements and declarations since 2007, The ASEAN vision 2025 is the first organizational attempt to address CCA and CCM alongside disaster risk reduction [16,17,[35][36][37]. The member states, compared to other Asian sub-regions, are relatively advanced on regional cooperation which extends to a variety of issues, particularly on trans-boundary pollution and water resource management. ...
... 'The ASEAN 2025: 'Forging Ahead Together' released in November 2015 is the first organizational attempt to envision and address CCA and CCM alongside DRR [16,17,35,37] ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response (AADMER) is a legally binding agreement that serves as a regional policy backbone for disaster management. The ASEAN Committee on Disaster Management (ACDM) oversights the implementation of the Work Programme. ...
... The initiatives mentioned above suggest that ASEAN has made significant progress in putting in place broader framework agreements among the member states, owing to differing national priorities and interests on climate change issues. In addition to developing strong regional policies and proficient legal regime, challenges remain to inform, capacitate and empower individual, institutional, community; to assess regional risks and vulnerability; to foster cooperation on transboundary river basin, climate and energy issues and; to secure and allocate innovative funding schemes and affordable technologies to establish synergies between DRR, CCA and CCM [35,37,[46][47][48][49][50][51]. In a joint ASEAN statement released prior to COP25, member states, therefore, reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris Agreement and continuing efforts to promote collaboration with ASEAN dialogue, sectoral dialogue, development partners and other external parties to enhance climate action in the ASEAN region. ...
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