BEFORE YEAR 2010, greenhouse gases (GHGs), climate change and low carbon were like alien words to Thai communities, said Vijai Amaralikit, chairman of the National Municipal League of Thailand’s environment sub-committee.
Awareness grew after education programmes by government environment units including the Thailand Greenhouse Gas Organisation (TGO). And now, 100 cities nationwide have been chosen as pilot projects, setting their sights to become low-carbon cities, he added. To achieve the goal, they are focusing on growing more trees, cutting down pollution, reducing energy consumption, and campaigning for sustainable consumption.
“Communities are the right choice to begin with as they are close to people. They can raise awareness among people.”
“We have learnt how to help the world in reducing GHGs,” he said, adding that these cities would in turn share their insights with others to increase the number of participating cities.
Vijai shared the information with the audience attending TGO’s event last month, hosted to announce the World Bank’s US$3 million grant (approx. Bt100 million) to help Thailand meet the national carbon emission reduction target. Thailand is among 30 countries becoming members of the bank’s Partnership for Market Readiness (PMR) – a global alliance to reduce GHG emissions and energy consumption in developing countries.
Advice is being sought to develop instruments to put a price on carbon, believed to be the most effective way to reduce energy consumption and channel financial gains to other social needs. At the UN Climate Change Conference or COP 21, Thailand, the world’s 22nd largest CO2 emitter, was committed to reducing GHG emissions by 20 per cent by 2030 from the business-as-usual level in 2010.
“There are instruments, but applying them poses political, economic and social challenges to each country,” admitted Waraporn Hirunwatsiri, the World Bank’s senior environment specialist.
The options can be implicit or explicit. Implicit carbon prices may equate to higher fuel taxes or feed-in-tariff on electricity prices. Explicit instruments may involve carbon taxes or emission trading or subsidy cuts.
“Our aim is to send a signal to economic actors that in every business decision, environmental costs must be factored in… Emission has a price and it’s not right to pass it on to others,” she said.
At the end of 2015, 13 countries have completed roadmaps for PMR activities and $53 million has been allocated to prepare for PMR initiatives. As a member of PMR, Thailand will hear and share lessons with other participating countries including China, Brazil, Mexico, India, Indonesia and Vietnam.
In 2013, China – the world’s largest producer of emissions, introduced a carbon trading system in 7 cities with the ambition of eventually imposing it across the nation in 2017.
In 2015, 525 types of business in 23 sectors in South Korea, which emit two thirds of total emission, joined a similar scheme, under the national aim to reduce carbon emission by 30 per cent within 2020.
Waraporn said that success required leadership from the government sector and participation from the private sector. Implicit or explicit approaches could somehow dent the business sector’s competitiveness, given differences in pricing levels in different countries, she noted. While the government must be clear in its policy direction, the business sector must be committed in participation.
Investment could be shifted towards countries with less stringent rules, she said, while trust in the government would remain if financial gains were geared towards the poor or tax adjustment or public transport projects that benefit a large number of people.
Different government agencies have worked to achieve the emission target. The Industry Ministry this year imposed car tax scales that are levied according to emission levels. Thailand also has carbon labels on electrical appliances.
According to Pongvipa Lohsomboon, the grant involves a process to prepare four areas by June 2018.
The first involves energy performance certificates to buildings and factories that ably reduce energy. This is in line with the plan of the Energy Ministry’s Alternative Energy and Development Department to reduce energy consumption of about 9,000 large-sized buildings across the nation. In sight are shopping malls, hospitals, hotels, office buildings and a variety of factories.
The second involves the low-carbon city programme.
Municipalities and local communities’ plans will be assessed for higher energy efficiency. Under this scheme, municipalities will be encouraged to include renewable energy in their plans, grow more trees and reduce methane generated by waste from the agricultural and farm sectors in their areas.
The funding will also help to lay down an emissions trading scheme and funding a project management unit.