Thai farm­ers feel­ing the heat of cli­mate de­bate

Bangkok Post - - FRONT PAGE - PARITTA WANGKIAT

>> Am­pai Mee­lap, 43, a durian farmer on the front­lines of cli­mate change wit­nesses the threats of un­pre­dictable weather ev­ery year.

Her durian plan­ta­tion in Ray­ong’s Wang Chan dis­trict in eastern Thai­land has lost yields in re­cent years af­ter fac­ing drought and chang­ing rain­fall pat­terns.

‘‘The rainy pe­riod is sup­posed to end in Septem­ber each year. Then cold weather will help the durian flow­ers bloom and de­velop into ma­ture fruits,” she says.

‘‘But the rainy pe­riod has dragged longer, until Oc­to­ber or Novem­ber in re­cent years. So flow­ers fall off with­out any fruit form­ing.’’

Ir­reg­u­lar weather also brings in­sects and plant dis­eases to her 16-rai durian plan­ta­tion, which cre­ates new main­te­nance ex­penses for her.

In nor­mal weather, her crops pro­duce at least 35 tonnes of durian a year. But re­cent years’ yields have been un­pre­dictable due to the ir­reg­u­lar weather. In 2015, 2016 and 2017, Ms Am­pai’s crops pro­duced 12, 40 and 24 tonnes of durian fruits re­spec­tively.

‘‘I don’t think one gov­ern­ment can solve crop losses. It can’t con­trol the weather,’’ she told the Bangkok Post.

Ms Am­pai is not the only farmer to be af­fected by global weather changes in re­cent years. Many other farm­ers across Thai­land are also af­fected.

Many of them have re­ported los­ing crops to ir­reg­u­lar weather pat­terns and un­ex­pected dis­as­ters such as drought and flood­ing. Some even fall into debt due to their in­come losses.

The topic is among the im­pacts of cli­mate change ex­pected to be dis­cussed by world lead­ers at the 24th Con­fer­ence of the Par­ties to the United Na­tions Frame­work Con­ven­tion on Cli­mate Change (UNFCCC), or Cop24, in Ka­tow­ice, Poland this week.

The world lead­ers will also dis­cuss how to fully im­ple­ment the Paris Agree­ment in the post-2020 frame­work for global cli­mate ac­tion.

Coun­tries are likely to at­tach their plans to achieve post-2020 com­mit­ments to the in­ter­na­tional agree­ment made at this time.

Tack­ling cli­mate change is nec­es­sary. The fail­ure to limit global tem­per­a­tures means the world will face se­vere im­pacts of cli­mate change in sev­eral ways — from ex­treme weather and food in­se­cu­rity, to se­vere poverty and rises in sea level.

Thai­land and South­east Asia are part of the world’s vul­ner­a­ble ar­eas which are ex­posed to ex­treme weather con­di­tions.

Dur­ing the Cop24 held dur­ing Dec 2-14, in­ter­na­tional rules, guide­lines and mon­i­tor­ing of green­house gas emis­sions re­duc­tions will also be ne­go­ti­ated.

Minister of Nat­u­ral Re­sources and En­vi­ron­ment Surasak Karn­ja­narat is lead­ing the Thai del­e­ga­tion and will give an up­date on the coun­try’s progress in the fight against cli­mate change.

Ac­cord­ing to the Of­fice of Nat­u­ral Re­sources and En­vi­ron­men­tal Pol­icy and Plan­ning (Onep) which over­sees cli­mate change pol­icy, the Thai en­ergy sec­tor suc­cess­fully re­duced

green­house gas emis­sions by 45.72 mil­lion tonnes of car­bon diox­ide equiv­a­lent be­tween 2013 and 2016, ac­count­ing for a 12% emis­sions re­duc­tion.

This progress has in­volved sev­eral mea­sures, in­clud­ing pro­mot­ing en­ergy-sav­ing light bulbs and elec­tri­cal ap­pli­ances among in­di­vid­ual con­sumers, ex­pan­sion of pub­lic trans­porta­tion, up­grad­ing en­ergy sys­tems in gov­ern­ment and of­fice build­ings, and ex­pand­ing re­new­able en­ergy, es­pe­cially so­lar power, biomass and bio­gas.

‘‘Thai­land is mov­ing in a good di­rec­tion as we can achieve the min­i­mum tar­get of emis­sions re­duc­tion,’’ said Onep sec­re­tarygen­eral Rawee­wan Bhuridej.

‘‘But even with a pos­i­tive out­come, we won’t stop tak­ing ac­tion to re­duce emis­sions,’’ she said.

In 2014, Thai­land pledged to cut green­house gas emis­sions in the en­ergy and trans­porta­tion sec­tors by seven to 20% by 2020 un­der Na­tion­ally Ap­pro­pri­ate Mit­i­ga­tion Ac­tions, a UNFCCC mech­a­nism to re­duce emis­sions in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries while pro­mot­ing sus­tain­able growth.

Dur­ing Cop21 in Paris in 2015, the Thai gov­ern­ment pledged an­other tar­get, which is to cut emis­sions by 20 to 25% by 2030, or cut at least 115.6 mil­lion tonnes of car­bon diox­ide equiv­a­lent in sec­tors in­clud­ing en­ergy, trans­port, in­dus­try and waste.

To ful­fil these pledges, a na­tional com­mit­tee on cli­mate change pol­icy re­cently ap­proved the draft ac­tion plan on cli­mate mit­i­ga­tion (2021-2030) and the coun­try’s first draft of its na­tional adap­ta­tion plan, which pro­vides a frame­work for agencies to in­te­grate cli­mate ac­tion into their plans.

Si­mul­ta­ne­ously, Onep, with sup­port from the Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment is de­vel­op­ing a green­house gas emis­sion in­ven­tory sys­tem.

It’s ex­pected that the Thai gov­ern­ment will be able to track data of green­house gas emis­sions in some sec­tors be­yond en­ergy, es­pe­cially the trans­port sec­tor, by next year.

‘‘But we’re aware that this is not enough,’’ said Ms Rawee­wan.

“We must set a more am­bi­tious tar­get. We must do more. How­ever, we must cut emis­sions in bal­ance with eco­nomic growth,’’ she in­sisted.

In Oc­to­ber, the In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Panel on Cli­mate Change (IPCC) re­leased a spe­cial re­port on “Global Warm­ing of 1.5 °C”, say­ing the tar­gets of car­bon emis­sion re­duc­tion pledged by world­wide gov­ern­ments in the Paris Agree­ment are no longer enough to limit global warm­ing to 1.5C.

To meet a 1.5C tar­get would re­quire “deep emis­sions re­duc­tions” and “rapid, far-reach­ing and un­prece­dented changes in all as­pects of so­ci­ety”, says the re­port. Even Thai­land is able to re­duce emis­sions in its en­ergy sec­tor.

The En­ergy Pol­icy and Plan­ning Of­fice’s data shows that car­bon emis­sions per capita have in­creased from 3.21 to 3.90 tonnes per Thai per­son be­tween 2008 and 2017.

The num­bers in­di­cate that in­di­vid­ual con­sump­tion is ris­ing, es­pe­cially in the en­ergy sec­tor.

Sim­i­lar to the trend of ma­jor in­dus­trial coun­tries in South­east Asia, the grow­ing mid­dle-class with more pur­chas­ing power has raised the con­sump­tion de­mand.

Arpa Wangkiat, a Rangsit Univer­sity aca­demic who is part of Thai­land’s fos­sil fuel phase-out move­ment and civil so­ci­ety group join­ing Cop24, said the coun­try needs en­ergy re­form.

“Ev­ery coun­try must work to­gether to cre­ate clear-cut poli­cies and prac­ti­cal work pro­grammes to cut emis­sions,’’ she said.

“This is ur­gent. We are near­ing a crit­i­cal point.”

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