Climate change in Southeast Asia: where are we and where are we going?


Last of 2 parts

Mental illness

Climate change and extreme weather events will also increase mental illness. Children, young people, women and the elderly are particularly at risk of developing anxiety and depression, as well as post-traumatic stress disorder associated with extreme weather events and the loss of homes and businesses. other goods.

A recent national survey conducted by Unicef ​​Malaysia in 2020 revealed that 92% of young people are already concerned about the climate crisis (eco-anxiety).

These predictions underscore the importance of GHG reductions and the preservation of vital ecosystem services. Unfortunately, progress on this front remains insufficient across the region. Between 2010 and 2019, the region experienced an average annual increase of 1.8% in carbon intensity and 5.1% in CO2 emissions from 2015 to 2019 in the energy sector.

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Southeast Asia also recorded the fastest per capita growth in transport emissions (4.6% per year) in the world and saw its forest cover decline by 13% between 1990 and 2015, the loss of forests of mangroves increasing by 0.39% per year between 2000 and 2012.

GHG reductions

According to the IPCC, a silver lining is that Southeast Asia has the potential to rapidly reduce GHG emissions by up to 43% by 2050 through reduced energy demand and energy efficiency. in the building sector, and that further GHG reductions would be possible with more investment and research on decarbonization.

It’s essential. If the world is to have a decent chance of limiting global warming to 1.5C, we must achieve at least net zero CO2 emissions by 2050. At present, however, policymakers and politicians are not taking the problem seriously enough or feel unable to break out of our reliance on fossil fuels, as indicated by an ASEAN report that shows a gap between countries’ current commitments and needed GHG reductions.

Likewise, the radical change required in the way we treat and use the land currently seems to be beyond society’s capabilities.

The latest UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow last year, which brought together 120 world leaders, saw some welcome commitments from governments. For example, Indonesia, as one of the largest carbon emitters in the world due to deforestation and land use change, has committed to the Glasgow Leaders Declaration on Forests and land use.

A number of countries (Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam) have signed the Global Methane Pledge to reduce methane by 30% by 2030, and some of the ASEAN countries (Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Philippines , Singapore and Vietnam) fully or partially signed the Global Declaration on the Transition from Coal to Clean Energy. These promises and commitments have yet to be translated into action. But even if they are, faster and more radical changes are needed.


Kwan Soo-Chen is a postdoctoral fellow and David McCoy is director of research at the United Nations University’s International Institute for Global Health (UNU-IIGH).


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