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Stronger Together: Key Climate Opportunities for Australia and Southeast Asia

By

Anna Skarbek

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4 minutes read

This decade to 2030 is critical for accelerated climate action. The scale and pace of emissions reductions needed means that action cannot occur sequentially but must instead be undertaken in tandem, across countries and economic sectors.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres summarised it as the need to ‘massively fast-track climate efforts by every country and every sector and on every timeframe’.

Climateworks Centre, working across Australia and Southeast Asia, focuses on four systems ‘transformations’ needed to secure net zero emissions in our region. The impact of this approach is already showing: 

  1. Governance for 1.5°C 

National targets and policies, as well as corporate and financial sector regulations, align with the Paris Agreement’s commitment to limit global warming to 1.5°C. These whole-of-economy settings enable the remaining three transformations.

  1. Near zero emissions energy supply

Countries develop renewable energy sources at scale to electrify the economy and phase out fossil fuels.

  1. Efficient demand and production for net zero

Energy efficiency solutions optimise and reduce energy use. Supply chains decarbonise as demand for low-carbon products shifts production from emissions-intensive processes to clean alternatives.

  1. Nature as a climate solution

Countries protect and grow resilient carbon sinks to optimise nature-based solutions while enhancing our natural environment.

 

Opportunities to transform the region 

Climate action in Southeast Asia is essential for limiting global warming to 1.5°C. As one of the most disaster-prone regions in the world, meaningful decarbonisation is critical for the well-being and future prosperity of many Southeast Asian communities. 

While clean energy uptake is growing, many Southeast Asian economies and communities remain largely dependent on fossil fuels. Rapid adoption of renewable energy, financed by affordable capital, is urgently needed in the region. An enabling policy environment can attract private investment and lower the cost of renewable energy development. But policy-makers first need confidence that substituting fossil fuels with renewables will produce desirable economic and social outcomes.

Southeast Asia stands at a crossroads in the global economic and energy transition, and while its raised climate ambition has been partially translated into action, support is urgently required to keep 1.5°C alignment within reach. Now is the time for Australia to strengthen its strategic relationship with Southeast Asia and the Pacific – quick, cooperative work would allow the region to take full advantage of the opportunities and benefits that come from working together in the global race to net zero emissions.

In Australia, the federal government recently announced a timetable and process for developing its 2035 emissions reduction target as part of its next nationally determined contribution (NDC). Climateworks’ latest decarbonisation modelling shows that a 2035 emissions reduction target of 85 per cent below 2005 levels could get Australia on track to meet its commitment to the Paris Agreement. 

The Australian Government also announced the development of sectoral plans regarding energy and electricity; industry; resources; transport; built environment; and land and agriculture to underpin how the NDC will be met. Together, an ambitious (1.5°C-aligned) updated NDC and set of sectoral plans could allow Australia to start ‘walking the talk’ and lay a strong foundation for the potential co-host the 31st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 2026, otherwise known as COP31.

Working towards a high ambition COP31

With support from the Myer Foundation, Climateworks is building a coalition of civil society groups, sharing high-ambition mitigation ideas that would enable Australia and its Pacific neighbours to show leadership on a global stage. 

Climateworks is working closely with its networks in the Australian Government to ensure high-ambition ideas for a potential COP31 are seen in a regional context. Having a COP in this region presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to unlock higher ambition in the Southeast Asia region with significant mitigation potential.

Strengthening regional relationships 

Climateworks recently co-convened the Australia–Vietnam Green Economy Summit in Ho Chi Minh City, with Asialink, bringing together Australia and Vietnam’s governments and hundreds of businesses from both countries to discuss opportunities and obstacles to the energy transition. This work builds on Climateworks’ policy convening during Indonesia’s G20 and ASEAN chair years in 2022 and 2023 respectively. This summit was an opportunity to accelerate Australia’s engagement in Vietnam’s green economy, which is crucial given Vietnam is poised to play a significant role in the region’s decarbonisation. 

Given that many countries in the region have an annual GDP per capita of less than USD 5,000, solutions that keep the regions’ energy transition on track also need to maintain or grow economic competitiveness. Policies that foster a clean manufacturing sector would help achieve both.

Favourable trade terms between ASEAN member states lay the foundation for an intra-regional ecosystem that could facilitate the large-scale manufacture of decarbonisation technologies. 

The transition to renewable energy will underpin green manufacturing in the region as well as enable achieving climate goals more broadly. 

Climateworks’s Southeast Asia Just Energy Transition Program aims to build an understanding of how places can successfully navigate the transition away from fossil fuels. A supportive regional network of government authorities, planning agencies, trade unions, think tanks and research organisations is already working to find ways to speed the transition to renewable energy and unlock the affordable capital that will enable it. 

Like many of climate change’s most pressing challenges, energy transition and industry transition benefit from a systems approach – finding solutions that can transform and elevate many players at once rather than companies or countries going it alone. 

If you’re interested in Climateworks’ works, please get in touch with Dianna Moodley.

References

A. Environmental Stewardship
To protect the environment, we organize programmes like mangrove nursery and Reforestation, Coastal and River Clean-Up, Community Based Environmental Solid Waste Management, Environmental IEC Campaign and Eco-Academy

B. Food Security and Sustainable Livelihood
To ensure a sustainable livelihood for the community, eco-tourism include Buhatan River Cruise Visitor Center Buhatan River Mangrove Boardwalk are run by the community. Others include Organic Vegetable and Root crops Farming, Vegetable and Root crops Chips and by-products Processing and establishing a Zero waste store.

C. Empowered Communities
To empower the community, we provide product and Agri-Enterprise Development Training, Immersion and Learnings Exchange Program, Earth Warrior Training and Community Based Social Entrepreneurship Training

Author

Anna Skarbek

CEO at Climateworks Centre

Anna Skarbek is CEO of Climateworks Centre, working to develop the low carbon economy. A former banker and green policy adviser, Anna has led Climateworks since its creation in 2009, analysing emissions reduction opportunities, setting the ambition and unblocking barriers to implementation. Climateworks’ independent and non-partisan approach, co-founded by The Myer Foundation and Monash University, sees Anna working with multiple federal government departments as well as state governments and large corporations along with other stakeholders including investors, and business, environment and civil society leaders. Anna was a founding board director of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Carbon Market Institute, and is currently a director of the Green Building Council of Australia, the Centre for New Energy Technologies and Sentient Impact Group. She is a member of the Blueprint Institute’s strategic advisory council and the Grattan Institute’s energy program reference panel, and was the 2020 Mission Innovation Champion for Australia.

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