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South-East Asian Climate Action, Mapped

By
Aliza Nafees
x

When analysing advocacy movements, it is easy to recognise Asia as a continent that is taking action against climate change gradually. In comparison to the global West, progress has been slow; however public perception is starting to shift. Let’s take a deeper look into specific countries and what is being done on a governmental and individual level:

Myanmar

In February of this year, the USD$7.9 million four-year project called “Addressing Climate Change Risk on Water Resources and Food Security in the Dry Zone of Myanmar” was launched. The project is to be funded jointly by Myanmar's Adaptation Fund and the UNDP. The Mandalay, Sagaing, and Magway Regional Governments, as well as the Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry and other relevant government bodies are also supporting it.

The project will take place in central, lowland Myanmar.  Environmental deterioration, exacerbated by global warming, has turned this territory into what is known as the Dry Zone, one of Myanmar's most climate-sensitive and resource-depleted regions. 34 percent of the country's population lives in said Dry Zone. The greatest threat to livelihood is water scarcity, which is caused by longer and more severe droughts. The majority of households devote the majority of their time and effort to obtaining water for drinking and other purposes, denying them the opportunity to earn money.

As part of this project, small-scale water management infrastructure, such as canals, community ponds, water pumps, and tube wells, will be installed in 280 villages. The project also intends to offer farmers with timely and accurate climate risk information to help them plan crop planting during the dry season. It is also a way to provide more climate awareness to rural communities, as one of the main reasons for slow progress in climate action is lack of information. This stems from significant regional differences in level of knowledge about these issues; in a recent survey, two-thirds (65%) in the Delta feel informed, while only one-third (35%) in the Coastal zone. Rural and low-income communities are far more inclined to feel unaware, indicating a need for more effective communication targeting to reach a broader range of audiences.

As such, I have found that there is a need for communication; initiatives to do this are still not reaching large parts of the population.

Indonesia

Within rural areas Indonesians believe climate change is contributing to falling crop yield and making fishing more difficult and risky. In large cities, extreme weather is prompting people to be particularly anxious about its impact, which is not only interrupting their lives today but also causing them to be concerned about the future.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) focuses on cooperation on carbon pricing, climate change and sustainability. This was signed on 21 March this year, following the Singapore-Indonesia Leaders’ Retreat in January. Using government finance, both countries plan to explore solutions for carbon credit projects, carbon capture and storage, and the development of renewable energy initiatives to support regional decarbonisation. Indonesia’s deputy minister for environment and forestry management, Nani Hendiarti, said “blended finance could be used to fund the country’s mangrove rehabilitation and restoration projects, and help it achieve its goal to partially retire its coal-fired power plants and replace them with renewable energy”.

Most individuals in Indonesia have access to television, thus there is a potential to disseminate information on a national scale in this way. Popular formats like plays and reality programmes appeal to audiences and allow for the exploration of difficult issues as well as the inspiration of instances of how communities like theirs might take action. People have faith in their local communities to deliver solutions. Local opinion-makers, such as religious, traditional, and elected leaders, are vital sources of information for communities.

Philippines

Filipinos self-report relatively low levels of knowledge of climate change. Although most Filipinos perceive natural hazards as a risk to themselves, only a third of Filipinos undertake measures to prepare for such disasters.

Membership in a community organisation is a strong predictor of disaster management actions. Whilst Filipinos' overall knowledge of climate change is poor (with significant regional variation), their understanding and experience with climate change is positively linked to activities taken to prepare for future calamities. The findings suggest that, while climate change adaptation and disaster preparedness present separate issues and necessitate different approaches, they are naturally linked and thus can be mutually reinforcing. A more unified intervention approach of policies and programmes that would integrate climate change adaptation and catastrophe preparedness would likely help.

CCC’s Communities for Resilience (CORE) Program runs workshops to increase climate awareness. A five-day mentoring program was conducted, with particular focus on the CORE Capacity Building Program, in collaboration with the government. The mentoring program required participants to bring their laptops, available climate-related data and maps of their respective municipalities, among others. This helps individuals understand what they can do in their daily lives against climate change, providing a one-on-one opportunity to increase awareness.

China

GlobalScan has tracked public perceptions on the “seriousness of climate change” since 1998, finding that Americans' sense of seriousness has “rebounded after steadily declining in the aftermath of the 2007–2008 financial crisis” and “the trend is mirrored” in China. In this survey, the respondents are generally well-informed on climate change, including its origins and consequences at both the macro and micro levels. Climate change has been a top goal for China's central government since 2009, following the COP15 conference.

At the same time, severe environmental pollution emerged from rapid industrialisation that was entirely focused on GDP growth and largely reliant on fossil fuels. As Chinese citizens began to question the unsustainable development model, the central government responded by launching nationwide campaigns to address environmental issues, particularly air pollution. Premier Keqiang Li, for example, launched a statewide "Blue-Sky Protection Campaign" in 2018, promising to "make the sky blue again".

Shared bikes have also become very popular in cities, encouraging low-carbon modes of transportation. Increasingly, people have chosen to install solar rooftop systems because the surplus electricity can be sold to the State Grid, earning residents money. The financial incentive as well as consistent encouragement from the government is proving to be very effective.

Brunei

A country close to my heart (my hometown!), Brunei has been stigmatised as the ‘green jewel’ of Borneo. Although with newfound effects of climate change like air pollution and congestion being seen, the Bruneian population are slowly acknowledging Brunei’s contribution to these environmental issues. Brunei is the highest producer of solid food waste in the whole of SouthEast Asia, with each person generating an average of 1.4 kilograms of waste per day (Bakar, 2018). In ASEAN, Brunei also produces the most greenhouse gases per person (Bin Haji Mohd Hussein et al., 2019). The Minister of Energy, Manpower and Industry stated that the reason for this is a lack of knowledge, as well as a reluctance from the Bruneian population to make changes in their everyday lives, specifically within rural areas.

A major problem in Brunei is water pollution, specifically within the local water village Kampong Ayer. As a long-standing part of Brunei the village is a major tourist attraction. Accumulated garbage has been carried by the current from the coast, where residents on land have discarded their rubbish (Green Brunei, 2016). The rubbish is seen at the parking lot near the river, where most locals who reside within the water village park their cars. Recently, there has been a greater effort in removing the waste from the river by the locals in collaboration with the Fire Department. Locals have been organising weekly and monthly clean-ups in each section of the village. Also, local entrepreneur Dayangku Kemariah binti Pengiran Haji Durama upcycles waste found in the river, decorating her inherited water village home with her findings (aka Kunyit 7 Lodge).

Back in 2019, I conducted my own research on global perceptions of climate change in Brunei. As part of this, I created a survey and attended the various climate awareness activities available to me over the course of the year. ‘Green Leaders Camp’ is one example, held annually for the youth, where 150 participants signed up to learn more about climate change, as well as to be proactive in making their own ‘green projects’. In addition, the government has also made more of an effort to promote sustainability by funding organisations that promote environmentally friendly ideas (like BigBwnProject), as well as by banning plastic use and identifying environmental problems within Brunei. By doing this, the general public is able to see a change in the government’s objectives and can follow this. Overall, there is an increasing urgency and appreciation for environmental issues, which is driven by the youth. However, older generations are more knowledgeable in regards to the causation of climate change, specifically relating to political movements and the government.

Upcycled wooden door, taken by the author

A traditional view SEA individuals believe is that climate change is not human-made, but naturally caused and the way of life. However with increasing natural disasters and a new sense of urgency instilled in governments, many have progressively started to support action to address climate change. Individuals still mostly react to what they see (forest fires, extreme temperatures), but there is a general consensus that communities must be better-prepared for disasters, starting from changes within their own homes.

South-East Asian Climate Action, Mapped

By
Aliza Nafees
x

To some, climate displacement seems like a distant possibility — something that we could never experience directly.

But the climate crisis has already knocked on our doors in the UK and the US, forcing at-risk communities to confront how climate change devalues and destroys land, disperses communities and erases parts of our identity and history.

When analysing advocacy movements, it is easy to recognise Asia as a continent that is taking action against climate change gradually. In comparison to the global West, progress has been slow; however public perception is starting to shift. Let’s take a deeper look into specific countries and what is being done on a governmental and individual level:

Myanmar

In February of this year, the USD$7.9 million four-year project called “Addressing Climate Change Risk on Water Resources and Food Security in the Dry Zone of Myanmar” was launched. The project is to be funded jointly by Myanmar's Adaptation Fund and the UNDP. The Mandalay, Sagaing, and Magway Regional Governments, as well as the Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry and other relevant government bodies are also supporting it.

The project will take place in central, lowland Myanmar.  Environmental deterioration, exacerbated by global warming, has turned this territory into what is known as the Dry Zone, one of Myanmar's most climate-sensitive and resource-depleted regions. 34 percent of the country's population lives in said Dry Zone. The greatest threat to livelihood is water scarcity, which is caused by longer and more severe droughts. The majority of households devote the majority of their time and effort to obtaining water for drinking and other purposes, denying them the opportunity to earn money.

As part of this project, small-scale water management infrastructure, such as canals, community ponds, water pumps, and tube wells, will be installed in 280 villages. The project also intends to offer farmers with timely and accurate climate risk information to help them plan crop planting during the dry season. It is also a way to provide more climate awareness to rural communities, as one of the main reasons for slow progress in climate action is lack of information. This stems from significant regional differences in level of knowledge about these issues; in a recent survey, two-thirds (65%) in the Delta feel informed, while only one-third (35%) in the Coastal zone. Rural and low-income communities are far more inclined to feel unaware, indicating a need for more effective communication targeting to reach a broader range of audiences.

As such, I have found that there is a need for communication; initiatives to do this are still not reaching large parts of the population.

Indonesia

Within rural areas Indonesians believe climate change is contributing to falling crop yield and making fishing more difficult and risky. In large cities, extreme weather is prompting people to be particularly anxious about its impact, which is not only interrupting their lives today but also causing them to be concerned about the future.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) focuses on cooperation on carbon pricing, climate change and sustainability. This was signed on 21 March this year, following the Singapore-Indonesia Leaders’ Retreat in January. Using government finance, both countries plan to explore solutions for carbon credit projects, carbon capture and storage, and the development of renewable energy initiatives to support regional decarbonisation. Indonesia’s deputy minister for environment and forestry management, Nani Hendiarti, said “blended finance could be used to fund the country’s mangrove rehabilitation and restoration projects, and help it achieve its goal to partially retire its coal-fired power plants and replace them with renewable energy”.

Most individuals in Indonesia have access to television, thus there is a potential to disseminate information on a national scale in this way. Popular formats like plays and reality programmes appeal to audiences and allow for the exploration of difficult issues as well as the inspiration of instances of how communities like theirs might take action. People have faith in their local communities to deliver solutions. Local opinion-makers, such as religious, traditional, and elected leaders, are vital sources of information for communities.

Philippines

Filipinos self-report relatively low levels of knowledge of climate change. Although most Filipinos perceive natural hazards as a risk to themselves, only a third of Filipinos undertake measures to prepare for such disasters.

Membership in a community organisation is a strong predictor of disaster management actions. Whilst Filipinos' overall knowledge of climate change is poor (with significant regional variation), their understanding and experience with climate change is positively linked to activities taken to prepare for future calamities. The findings suggest that, while climate change adaptation and disaster preparedness present separate issues and necessitate different approaches, they are naturally linked and thus can be mutually reinforcing. A more unified intervention approach of policies and programmes that would integrate climate change adaptation and catastrophe preparedness would likely help.

CCC’s Communities for Resilience (CORE) Program runs workshops to increase climate awareness. A five-day mentoring program was conducted, with particular focus on the CORE Capacity Building Program, in collaboration with the government. The mentoring program required participants to bring their laptops, available climate-related data and maps of their respective municipalities, among others. This helps individuals understand what they can do in their daily lives against climate change, providing a one-on-one opportunity to increase awareness.

China

GlobalScan has tracked public perceptions on the “seriousness of climate change” since 1998, finding that Americans' sense of seriousness has “rebounded after steadily declining in the aftermath of the 2007–2008 financial crisis” and “the trend is mirrored” in China. In this survey, the respondents are generally well-informed on climate change, including its origins and consequences at both the macro and micro levels. Climate change has been a top goal for China's central government since 2009, following the COP15 conference.

At the same time, severe environmental pollution emerged from rapid industrialisation that was entirely focused on GDP growth and largely reliant on fossil fuels. As Chinese citizens began to question the unsustainable development model, the central government responded by launching nationwide campaigns to address environmental issues, particularly air pollution. Premier Keqiang Li, for example, launched a statewide "Blue-Sky Protection Campaign" in 2018, promising to "make the sky blue again".

Shared bikes have also become very popular in cities, encouraging low-carbon modes of transportation. Increasingly, people have chosen to install solar rooftop systems because the surplus electricity can be sold to the State Grid, earning residents money. The financial incentive as well as consistent encouragement from the government is proving to be very effective.

Brunei

A country close to my heart (my hometown!), Brunei has been stigmatised as the ‘green jewel’ of Borneo. Although with newfound effects of climate change like air pollution and congestion being seen, the Bruneian population are slowly acknowledging Brunei’s contribution to these environmental issues. Brunei is the highest producer of solid food waste in the whole of SouthEast Asia, with each person generating an average of 1.4 kilograms of waste per day (Bakar, 2018). In ASEAN, Brunei also produces the most greenhouse gases per person (Bin Haji Mohd Hussein et al., 2019). The Minister of Energy, Manpower and Industry stated that the reason for this is a lack of knowledge, as well as a reluctance from the Bruneian population to make changes in their everyday lives, specifically within rural areas.

A major problem in Brunei is water pollution, specifically within the local water village Kampong Ayer. As a long-standing part of Brunei the village is a major tourist attraction. Accumulated garbage has been carried by the current from the coast, where residents on land have discarded their rubbish (Green Brunei, 2016). The rubbish is seen at the parking lot near the river, where most locals who reside within the water village park their cars. Recently, there has been a greater effort in removing the waste from the river by the locals in collaboration with the Fire Department. Locals have been organising weekly and monthly clean-ups in each section of the village. Also, local entrepreneur Dayangku Kemariah binti Pengiran Haji Durama upcycles waste found in the river, decorating her inherited water village home with her findings (aka Kunyit 7 Lodge).

Back in 2019, I conducted my own research on global perceptions of climate change in Brunei. As part of this, I created a survey and attended the various climate awareness activities available to me over the course of the year. ‘Green Leaders Camp’ is one example, held annually for the youth, where 150 participants signed up to learn more about climate change, as well as to be proactive in making their own ‘green projects’. In addition, the government has also made more of an effort to promote sustainability by funding organisations that promote environmentally friendly ideas (like BigBwnProject), as well as by banning plastic use and identifying environmental problems within Brunei. By doing this, the general public is able to see a change in the government’s objectives and can follow this. Overall, there is an increasing urgency and appreciation for environmental issues, which is driven by the youth. However, older generations are more knowledgeable in regards to the causation of climate change, specifically relating to political movements and the government.

Upcycled wooden door, taken by the author

A traditional view SEA individuals believe is that climate change is not human-made, but naturally caused and the way of life. However with increasing natural disasters and a new sense of urgency instilled in governments, many have progressively started to support action to address climate change. Individuals still mostly react to what they see (forest fires, extreme temperatures), but there is a general consensus that communities must be better-prepared for disasters, starting from changes within their own homes.

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