Energy Shift Southeast Asia

Southeast Asian civil society welcomes Biden’s pause on LNG export approvals

Energy Shift Southeast Asia, a network of civic organizations advocating for just energy transition in the region, lauded U.S. President Joe Biden’s recent decision to temporarily halt pending authorizations for the export of liquefied natural gas (LNG). 

The White House said the pause would assess and update current economic and environmental analyses of the U.S. Department of Energy for LNG export approvals to reflect “perilous” methane emissions and health impacts of LNG. 

Southeast Asia is at the cusp of becoming a hub for fossil gas, with U.S. exports taking a significant share in proposed LNG supply in the region.

Gerry Arances, executive director of Philippine think tank Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED), stressed how the region is already enduring destructive impacts from the continued expansion of LNG projects. 

“Asia does not need any new LNG. The region is already suffering from the impacts of unsustainable LNG buildout, and continued expansion will only cause further ecological and economic damage,” Arances said. 

“The Verde Island Passage (VIP) in the Philippines is already seeing a decline in biodiversity, water contamination, and the loss of livelihoods due to the build-up of import infrastructure and gas plants,” he added.

The VIP is a marine corridor south of the Philippine capital, which houses more than 300 coral species and at least 1,700 shorefish species. It is considered the most biodiverse marine habitat in the world, comparable to the “Amazon” of the oceans. 

Arances also called on the U.S. government to walk the talk and urgently act on its ambitious climate goals. 

“Biden’s decision is a welcome first step for the U.S. to rethink the climate, economic, and environmental havoc it is causing to its own LNG-affected communities and the rest of the world. It is high time for the U.S. to deliver the climate leadership it owes, end its contributions to fossil fuel proliferation, and make way for a 100% renewable energy transition globally.”

Reza Muhammad, national coordinator of the People’s Coalition for the Rights to Water (KRuHA) in Indonesia said, “The Biden administration’s decision acknowledges the detrimental impact of LNG projects on communities and the environment, placing the well-being of people and the planet at the forefront.”

Indonesia currently has no fossil gas phaseout policies. LNG terminals in pre-construction stages at tourism hotspot Bali also threatens coral reef ecosystems and shrinks mangrove areas, degrading the quality of the province’s environment and disaster mitigation.

“Moreover, it aligns with the reality that Asia does not need new LNG supply. This decision signals that the United States can lead the way in spearheading a transition towards renewable energy, setting a global example for others to follow,” Muhammad said.

“Governments, energy players, and financiers behind gas in Southeast Asia should also take this announcement as a cue to rethink their insistence on LNG expansion in the region. Having a country that is one of the world’s biggest backers of LNG pull its brakes on exports is a sign that the gas business is not as unstoppable as they like to claim,” Arances added.