Myanmar – The transition to a low carbon economy?
/October 19, 2017
In 2013, the 5th assessment report on climate change released stated that ‘the world is warming and human activities are responsible’. Predicting increased impacts from flooding, drought, and wildfires etc. A range of estimates have all arrived at a similar conclusions – a scale of risks that will most likely impact the way society lives.
It been four years since the publication and the global community can be criticized for moving too slowly acting as if change is too difficult. However, there has been a strong sign of activity and creativity one of which has been the signing of the Paris Agreement. If all goes well from this point onwards it could be possible to accelerate the pace of change towards a low carbon resource rich economy. Or can it? Can a low carbon economy be applied to a least developed country such as Myanmar? Despite contributing the smallest amount to carbon dioxide levels they are the most vulnerable to the effects of global warming. The 2016 climate risk index stated that Myanmar is the second most vulnerable country in the world to the effects of climate change. This is further highlighted in extreme weather patterns resulting in an increase in the prevalence of drought events, intensity and frequency of cyclones, high temperatures, shorter rainy seasons, and longer dry seasons. All of which have put many farmers in particular under stress.
New climate modeling presented earlier this year by WWF and Columbia University indicate, under least conservative scenarios, the temperature in Myanmar will increase by between 1.3 and 2.7. Confirming the need to prepare for more floods, droughts, and heat waves. Earlier in 2013 the EU, UNEP, and UN Habitat initiated the Myanmar Climate Change Alliance to reinforce the message and impact of climate change among government representatives. In addition develop and lead a strategy and action plan with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation outlining specific actions required for stakeholders.
Despite climate modeling, workshops on climate adaptation, and dialogue among farmers and governments, one key stakeholder seems to be missing – business. Even though 75% of livelihoods depend on agriculture, tackling climate change is a group effort and will need the buy in and support of businesses to ensure a transition to a low carbon economy.
Early in 2017, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment in Myanmar and the Global Green Growth Institute signed a Memorandum of Understanding to promote and facilitate collaboration on programs, research, and joint activities that advance green growth. With the main purpose of establishing foundations for strong, low carbon economy that is sustainable and resilient to climate change.
It was only recently that I was made aware of Myanmar’s efforts to support climate change adaptation strategies in addition the transition to a green economy. The impacts of climate change cannot be overestimated. Effective coordination is key as well as capacity building and awareness on this issue. At the moment the country heavily relies on natural resources and the conversation on climate change adaptation and low carbon economy has primarily been held with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment as oppose to the Ministry of Electricity and Energy. Despite the countries strong interest in global reduction and renewable energies there are a number of offshore assets all in mid operation or commencing their drilling campaigns. There seems to be a gap or a lack of alignment of what the country is interested in and what is currently happening on the ground. Oil and coal are still very much part of Myanmar’s future. The interest to deal with climate change is evident. However, the knowledge to implement and mitigate effects seems to be lacking.
The question that remains is whether carbon pricing can be applied to businesses and whether businesses will be on board with this initiative given their lack of representation since these discussions have taken place. If there is a transition currently happening towards a low carbon economy then it would be beneficial to develop a clean energy act and related legislation that can be applied to the biggest carbon emitters. However, from a local business perspective, domestic companies especially in the extractive industry will find it challenging to understand the change required primarily due to a lack of awareness and capacity. The attitude to climate change is ‘business as usual’. Significant resources, tools, support, and policy will be needed to change this attitude and drive momentum towards a low carbon economy.