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Climate change on the agenda at ASEAN

Published on 21 May 2014 Southeast Asia

“The science of climate change is complex. But we all are aware that it is really happening and approaching with a faster speed than we may have expected,” he said on May 11.

 U Thein Sein made no direct reference to the current disputes in the South China Sea that were the focus of the first day of the Summit and looked to remain so.

U Thein Sein laid out a three-point framework that he said could stem the impact of climate change on the region. The plan begins by bolstering the ASEAN Humanitarian Assistance Centre (AHA), which he described as unable to adequately respond to natural disasters in its current form.

The AHA headquarters in Jakarta opened in 2012 but it has relatively little capacity despite being in a region increasingly prone to natural disasters.

U Thein Sein also called for the establishment of a network of research centres to study crops that would be more resilient to climate change and in turn promote regional food security. He also identified the rehabilitation of mangrove forests to protect coastline areas from storm surges as another priority.

The Asian Development Bank has identified Southeast Asia as a region that is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change due to a number of factors, including its high population concentrations and level of agricultural activity.

“Climate change is already affecting the region, as shown by the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as heat waves, droughts, floods and tropical cyclones in recent decades,” the group said in a 2009 study assessing the impacts of climate change in Southeast Asia.

“It is exacerbating water shortages, constraining agricultural production and threatening food security, causing forest fires and coastal degradation, and increasing health risks.”

Domestically, climate change has not been a high focus for U Thein Sein’s administration, with Nay Pyi Taw more focused on navigating the difficult process of economic liberalisation and democratic transition.

However, Myanmar has recently begun rehabilitating its mangrove forests, many of which were destroyed by 2008’s Cyclone Nargis.

Last week state media announced that the Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry and the Japan International Cooperation

Agency would begin work on a 3000-acre mangrove forest plantation in the Ayeyarwady delta.

U Thein Sein’s comments come the same week as United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon urged global leaders to take a more active role in combating climate change in an address at a climate change conference in Abu Dhabi.

“Climate change is the defining issue of our time. If we do not take urgent action, all our plans for increased global prosperity and security will be undone," he said.

Source: Myanmar Times | 12 May 2014