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Pushing the Role of Civil Society Organizations in ASEAN Transformation

making energy green

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Jakarta, 16 Mei 2023 – Indonesia’s role in international diplomacy continued after successfully hosting the G20 meeting in November 2022. This year, Indonesia holds the ASEAN chairmanship. ASEAN itself is an important region as it accounts for the biggest economic growth. In terms of economic growth, ASEAN will have 4,3% of economic growth according to ADB. Challenges that linger around ASEAN currently are the effect of climate change and energy transition.

ASEAN countries other than Vietnam still have a high reliance on fossil fuels, especially coal in the energy system. It will take more effort as well as financing to transform the whole energy system in ASEAN into a low – carbon and sustainable one. 

Fabby Tumiwa, Executive Director at the Institute for Essential Services Reform (IESR), during the webinar titled “Making Energy Green and Low Carbon to Support Sustainable Growth” through Advancing the Role of Civil Society in Southeast Asia Energy Transition During Indonesia ASEAN Chairmanship 2023” mentioned that all stakeholders including the government and private sector need to work hand in hand to ensure that transformation toward a clean energy system is happening in ASEAN.

“We also need further collaboration at the grassroots level and the increasingly significant role of ASEAN’s CSO in the region and how ASEAN’s CSO either as an individual entity and group can contribute to “Making Energy Green and Low Carbon to Support Sustainable Growth” through Advancing the Role of Civil Society in Southeast Asia Energy Transition During Indonesia ASEAN Chairmanship 2023,” he said. 

Later on, Ridwan Budi Santoso, Investment and Electricity Cooperation Working Group Coordinator, Directorate General of Electricity MEMR explained that Indonesia ASEAN chairmanship will try to secure a deal on regional cooperation including power interconnectivity that is expected to boost the economic growth of the region. He said that his parties will have a joint declaration of 41tst Asean Ministers on Energy Meeting on sustainable energy through interconnectivity, and a joint statement for Brunei Darussalam – Indonesia – Malaysia – Philippines Power Integration Project (BIMP – PIP) as the deliverables.

“We expect the utilities (in those countries-ed) to sign the MoU for interconnectivity,” said Ridwan. 

In the policy-setting agenda, Indonesia aims to have a joint statement addressing the climate change impact in the region.

“Beside ASEAN joint statement on climate change, we will also have a study about ASEAN community-based climate action, which contains lessons learnt and best practices to be implemented at the community level,” Wisnu Murti, Directorate General of Climate Change Control, Ministry of Forest and Environment explained.

Responding to the explanation of Indonesia as ASEAN chair this year, Antony Tan, Executive Officer of the All-Party Parliamentary Group Malaysia on Sustainable Development Goals (APPGM-SDGs), highlighted that ASEAN’s presence in the international community is lacking. A little bit different from, for example, the European Union which has a special presence during international meetings.

“We see that for example, during the last COP 27. We (ASEAN) sit in a separate part and together only because of Loss and Damage,” he added.

In terms of renewable energy development in Malaysia, Antony said that currently, Malaysia focuses on solar PV and hydro. Malaysia aims to increase its renewables shares, excluding hydropower to 20% of the generation mix by 2025.

“We lifted the ban on renewable energy exports. This move is welcomed by Singapore, as it will benefit the neighboring country and boost the local renewable sector,” he concluded.

The previous ASEAN chair, Cambodia faced different challenges to bring decarbonization to the country. In overcoming the challenges, non-government organizations act as a bridge to make the vision clearer in accelerating the energy transition.

“When we talk about decarbonization, it means we need to talk about what kind of energy market reform, what enablers can be implemented, and we need to understand that the context between one place and another is quite different and we need to figure out a different approach,” explained Natharoun Ngo Son Executive Director, Energy Lab, Cambodia.

Chariya Senpong, Energy Transition Team Leader, Greenpeace Thailand highlighted the role of becoming a bridge for many stakeholders. Civil society organizations must empower people to move beyond the trans boundaries level.

“It is important to communicate the climate-related issue not only to people but also to the government, especially at the ASEAN level. On how we can get a quick policy shift to reach the net zero emissions level. CSO also needs to work in different levels of advocacy to influence and move the stakeholders to a more sustainable pathway,” she explained.

Aryanne De Ocampo, Advocacy, Networking, and Communications Officer, Center for Energy, Ecology and Development added that ASEAN is having the power to drive decarbonization globally.

“As ASEAN, we should be amongst the loudest of those who demand change from the governments and industries to commit to ambitious climate targets. For ASEAN to own up to its identity, it also needs to represent the most vulnerable parts of society, starting from its climate goals.”

Every year ASEAN puts out hundreds of joint statements and ASEAN needs to make sure that the statements related to climate change are manifested. This point is brought up by Esther Tamara, Director of the Climate Unit, Foreign Policy Community Indonesia.

“ASEAN needs to make sure that the joint statement regarding climate change does not stay only as statements. ASEAN community vision post-2025 has to be climate focused to create a green world. There are also words from the Cambodian government especially to create a Green Deal, but there has not been a lot of movement towards it,” she said.

Esther added that there should be an official mechanism for civil society organizations that allows a bottom-up discussion to happen in ASEAN.

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