The Latest on Southeast Asia: December 7, 2023

On November 30, 2023, the 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) kicked off in Dubai. With much at stake, underscored by an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report suggesting that the international community will not likely keep warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius, these climate discussions will be crucial, especially to developing regions like Southeast Asia. One of the most disaster-prone regions in the world, Southeast Asia is threatened by record-breaking floods, typhoons, and droughts, which will be further exacerbated by climate change. As many Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries are developing economies, their governments must toe a fine line: balancing energy needs with decarbonization goals. Fossil fuel use, especially coal, has grown throughout Southeast Asia and expanded as energy needs continue to rise.

Leading up to COP28, Indonesia on November 21 announced a Comprehensive Investment and Policy Plan to implement a $20 billion Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP) it negotiated last year with the International Partners Group, consisting of the United States, Japan, EU countries, and the United Kingdom. JETPs, which have also been negotiated with Vietnam, South Africa, and Senegal, aim to combine public and private sector financing to invest in green energy sources and accelerate recipient countries’ transition from fossil fuels. Though originally slated for release earlier in 2023, Indonesia’s Comprehensive Investment and Policy Plan will focus on improving its on-grid system to achieve 44 percent renewable power generation by 2030.

Vietnam followed suit at COP28 on December 1 when Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh announced a Resource Mobilization Plan to implement his country’s $15.5 billion JETP. Under the Resource Mobilization Plan, Vietnam intends to rely on renewable energy for 47 percent of its electricity generation and reach peak emissions by 2030.

Singapore is also set to build upon regional momentum and plans to announce a new Financing Asia’s Transition Partnerships (FAST-P) initiative at COP28. Aiming to raise up to $5 billion in funding to help finance green projects throughout Asia, Singapore is investing in its neighbors to overcome its own geographical bottlenecks. Singapore imports a significant percentage of its energy from its neighbors and can only meet its decarbonization goals if those imported energy resources are clean. By financing its neighbors’ green energy products, Singapore can bolster its own domestic green energy initiatives while aiding the region in its transition.

Though sparsely attended by Southeast Asian leaders, COP28 served as the backdrop for other key energy announcements from regional countries. On top of its JETP commitments, Indonesia and the Asian Development Bank brokered a deal to shut down a major coal-fired power plant seven years ahead of schedule. This deal was the first under the ADB’s Energy Transition Mechanism, which aims to accelerate the closure of coal plants in recipient countries. Similarly, a Rockefeller Foundation-led consortium, the Coal to Clean Initiative (CCCI) launched an effort in the Philippines to retire a coal plant using carbon credits. In collaboration with Philippine energy company ACEN and the Monetary Authority of Singapore, CCCI aims to shut down the South Luzon Thermal Energy Corporation plant a decade ahead of schedule, as soon as 2030.

Gregory B. Poling is a senior fellow and director for the Southeast Asia Program and the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C. Japhet Quitzon is a research associate with the Southeast Asia Program at CSIS.

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Gregory B. Poling
Senior Fellow and Director, Southeast Asia Program and Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative