The Southeast Asia region is facing rising sea levels, heatwaves, droughts and increasingly intense rainstorms.
"Recent studies estimate that up to 96% of the ASEAN region is likely to be affected by drought, and up to 64% affected by extreme drought," Benjamin P. Horton, director of the Earth Observatory of Singapore at Nanyang Technological University, explained. "Future sea-level rise will affect populations, economies and infrastructure of every coastal nation," he added.
During last year alone, almost 5 million people were affected when Typhoon Vamco battered the Philippines and Vietnam in November 2020 while 289 people died in the floods caused by tropical storm Linfa in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam just a month earlier.
While climate change has repeatedly been identified at ASEAN summits and meetings as a critical regional challenge, concrete action is still lacking.
Indonesia, Southeast Asia's largest economy and the world's eighth-biggest greenhouse gas emitter, aims to attain net-zero emissions by 2060. Though the country — the world's top exporter of thermal or steam coal, used to generate electricity — has plans to phase out fossil fuel for electricity generation by 2056 and has pledged not to commission any additional coal power plants, it is still 60% powered by coal.
Thailand pledged in 2015 to reduce its emissions by 20% by 2030 with newly announced proposals to achieve carbon neutrality by 2065 to 2070. But even if it achieves those targets, the country would still be 15 to 20 years behind the timeline set by the UN, including reaching zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
Vietnam has not yet set a net-zero target, but it is looking at boosting its sources of renewable energy and increasing legislation restricting use of coal to reduce emissions.
Singapore has also not set a target date for achieving net-zero emissions.
Climate Action Tracker has said that while Southeast Asian countries have varying degrees of commitment to tackle global warming, none are sufficiently acting on pledges made under the Paris climate deal.
"The Climate Action Tracker ranked Indonesia's and Vietnam's overall NDC update as highly insufficient. Meanwhile, Singapore is critically inadequate," said Martinus. "Clearly, those countries should have raised more ambitious targets to help the world limit global heating to well below 2 degrees Celsius," she added.