Energy Shift Southeast Asia

Statement of Southeast Asian Civil Society on the UN Climate Ambition Summit and NYC Climate Week 2023

Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development | Climate Action Network Southeast Asia | EarthRights International | KRuHA

In the opening weekend of the New York City Climate Week and days ahead of the United Nations Climate Ambition Summit, hundreds of thousands around the world mobilized with a clarion call for a fast, fair, and permanent phaseout of all fossil fuels. We, Southeast Asian civil society, join the collective call, and urge for a global leapfrog towards just and clean energy.

The reality of an intensifying climate crisis again confronted the world this year, with record-breaking heat, more destructive typhoons and floods, raging wildfires, and other impacts that claimed the lives and livelihoods of many. In 2022, Southeast Asia figured as the region with the highest disaster risk in the whole continent, and at least four Southeast Asian countries are among the 15 most at-risk nations in the world. Science is clear: failure to end fossil fuel expansion, halt new coal, gas, and oil extractions, and roll-out a managed, urgent phaseout of all fossil fuels will bring us to a catastrophic point of no return.

Even still, trillions of dollars continue to be poured to the fossil fuel industry in the aftermath of the Paris Agreement, and fossil fuel use and extraction are expanding to this day. 

In SEA, where the false notion of the need for more gas in the energy transition is strongly touted, planned gas capacities amount to over 158 GW, with 53 LNG import terminals also being proposed. This expansion is emboldened by at least USD 52.15 billion in loans and bonds channeled to gas-related projects across SEA since 2016 — among the top sources of which include Japan Bank for International Cooperation, Malayan Banking, and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group. US-based banks such as Citi, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase, and European banks such as ING, Standard Chartered, HSBC, BNP Paribas, also occupied significant roles in this climate-destructive endeavor. Meanwhile, at least 19 new fields with estimated reserves of over 540 billion cubic meters of gas in Southeast Asia reached or are expected to reach final investment decisions between 2022 and 2025 — throwing the 1.5 ambition out the window.

Local communities in Batangas, Bali, Chana, and other gas-affected sites stand at the forefront of the fight against gas expansion, which imperils their lives, livelihoods, and adverse impacts on food security. These projects also disrupt ecosystems that are of global significance, especially as the region houses the Coral Triangle. Meanwhile, in Vietnam, climate activists championing a just energy transition are unjustly silenced and detained.

Gone are the days when any government leader, corporate, or finance actor could purport fossil fuel dependence under the guise of development and get away with it. The State of California made a dent days ago with a lawsuit filed against major fossil fuel corporations including Exxon Mobil, Shell, BP, ConocoPhillips, and the American Petroleum Institute for decades of deliberately deceiving the public about the risks from fossil fuel-driven climate change that their businesses are causing.

The convenings of leaders in the G7 and G20 this year rejected the opportunity to work towards alignment to the 1.5°C goal. As world leaders in the government, corporate, and finance sectors alike gather for the UN Climate Ambition Summit, the demand for bold climate action to end fossil fuels and for the delivery of reparations, finance, technologies, and capacities for most vulnerable countries echoes clear. We urge them not to test the people’s patience any further, and deliver the climate leadership required of them.

The unyielding determination of communities and civic movements to a more sustainable future endures. The Southeast Asian region, endowed with its abundant renewable energy resources, holds the potential of steering towards a just, equitable, managed transition to renewable energy — and the peoples of SEA will make it happen.