Civil society organizations (CSOs) across Southeast Asia (SEA) called on Asean leaders to establish structured platforms for meaningful engagement on sustainable and equitable energy with multi-stakeholders in the region.
At the same time, the groups also highlighted the importance of establishing robust mechanisms for transparency, accountability, and governance that encompass both public and private sectors in a joint statement by 19 CSOs following the Regional Convening of CSOs on Just Energy Transition during the ASEAN summit in Jakarta, Indonesia from August 29 to 31.
Around 70 climate and energy thought leaders, policymakers, and experts from Indonesia, Philippines, Timor Leste, Malaysia, Cambodia, and Laos gathered in Jakarta for critical dialogues and collaborative endeavors aimed at driving a sustainable and equitable energy transition across SEA.
With Indonesia taking on the role of hosting the Asean Summit, the year 2023 could be a turning point in terms of the energy transition efforts within the region.
Asean has already committed to addressing climate change through the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and the increase of renewable energy use. However, the pursuit of a just energy transition in the region continues to be riddled with challenges. According to the Asean Centre for Energy, at least 47 million of the Asean population still has no access to electricity.
“Commitments so far have focused more on the technocratic aspects of reducing the use of fossil fuel energy and accelerating the development of renewable energy. The question arises: Where is the equity? Where is justice in the energy transition declaration from the Asean ministries?” said Publish What You Pay (PWYP) Indonesia National Coordinator Aryanto Nugroho.
The Oxfam in Asia Regional Director John Samuel explained, “When we talk about decarbonizing energy transition, it involves technology and it involves money. On top of securing access to these resources is the need to ensure that these fairly reach the poorest and marginalized sectors of the society.”
They also urged leaders to promote the development and adoption of appropriate and sustainable technologies and integrate gender-responsive and socially inclusive policies into every facet of energy transition planning and implementation.
The groups also pushed for implementing robust capacity-building programs and assurance that “justice is at the heart of transition.”
SEA is at the forefront of climate risk (Global Climate Risk Index, 2021). With increasing average temperature by 2.3 degrees Celsius, the McKinsley Global Institute estimates that 600 million people in Asia could be affected by heat waves in a year. Extreme rainfall in Asian regions could increase by three or four times.
The 2022 Oxfam report states that these frequent and intense climate disasters disproportionally affect marginalized communities and social groups.
However, an energy transition alone does not ensure that vulnerable groups benefit from the transition.
Asean possesses a significant abundance of renewable energy sources, including solar, wind, and hydro, although their distribution across the region is not uniform. As per the Sustainable Development Scenario outlined by the International Energy Agency (IEA), Southeast Asia necessitates an annual investment of approximately $180 billion in clean energy by 2030 to ensure alignment with the region’s climate objectives.
The availability of affordable financing for a just energy transition, however, remains a distant reality in the Asean context.
“With the broader aim of a fossil-free future that ensures no one is left behind, the convening compelled us to reevaluate our direction. There are so many opportunities for action, but how can we recalibrate our efforts to align with this overarching goal, maximize our impact in the spheres of influence, and minimize inefficiencies along the way?” Climate Action Network Southeast Asia (CANSEA) Policy and Administrative Officer Pree Bharadwaj said.
Numerous ASEAN nations house indigenous groups and vulnerable communities whose well-being and traditional ways of life face jeopardy from coal mining and electricity generation. In this context, a just energy transition mandates the shielding of these communities and their traditional lands.
The SEA regional convening on just energy transition aims to address these complex issues head on by fostering robust multi-stakeholder collaboration and bringing country-level JET narratives into a cohesive regional perspective.