Building back safer, better and greener: ASEAN must get serious about greening and sustainable development by building upon good green indicators to realize its green objectives. 

(In picture, clockwise from top left) 
Tan Sri Dr Munir Majid (Chairman, CARI), Hon. Dato Seri Paduka Dr Haji Abdul Manaf bin Haji Metussin (Brunei Deputy Minister of Finance and Economy), Jukhee Hong (Executive Director, CARI), Mr Cedric Rimaud (Corporate Bonds and Green Finance Specialist, Climate Bonds Initiative), Dr San Oo (Chair, ASEAN Senior Officials on the Environment) and Ms. Duangjai Asawachintachit (Secretary-General, Board of Investment Thailand).

Kuala Lumpur, 24 May 2021 – CARI ASEAN Research and Advocacy (CARI), in collaboration with its supporting partners ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ASEAN BAC) and ASEAN BAC Malaysia, hosted the “Greening ASEAN: Towards Green Recovery in ASEAN Post Pandemic” to discuss the major concerns and requirements towards ASEAN recovery and its contribution to the overall global climate agenda.

The session featured a keynote presentation by the Hon. Dato Seri Paduka Dr Haji Abdul Manaf bin Haji Metussin, the Brunei Deputy Minister of Finance and Economy (Economy), Ms. Duangjai Asawachintachit, the Secretary-General of Thailand’s Board of Investment, Dr San Oo, Chair of ASEAN Senior Officials on the Environment (ASOEN), as well as Mr Cedrice Rimaud, a Corporate Bonds and Green Finance Specialist at Climate Bonds Initiative.

Moderated by Tan Sri Dr Munir Majid, Chairman of CARI and ASEAN BAC Malaysia, the webinar has been organised as a follow-up of the CARI Policy Brief on recommendations of climate aligned strategies relating to areas of stimulus spending, overseas investment, tax and other related measures, and the future of work social justice and equality.

(In picture) Hon. Dato Seri Paduka Dr Haji Abdul Manaf bin Haji Metussin, Deputy Minister of Finance and Economy (Economy) of Brunei

1. ASEAN is committed to long-term sustainable goal through public-private partnership and cross-sectoral collaboration

The Hon. Dato Seri Paduka Dr Haji Abdul Manaf Bin Haji Metussin (Dato’ Dr Manaf), Brunei Deputy Minister of Finance and Economy (Economy) remarked that despite the global unprecedented shock in the political, social and economic, and financial structures of the modern world, ASEAN has shown its solidarity and joined hands to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic, without losing sight of its integration efforts.

The ASEAN Economic Community, Brunei Darussalam has identified thirteen (13) Priority Economic Deliverables under three strategic thrusts, namely Recovery, Digitalisation and Sustainability. The deliverables are complementary to the work currently being carried out under the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework (ACRF).

Dato Dr Manaf emphasised, “To fully achieve true balance among development and conservation, both policymakers and private sector need to cooperate through joint cross-sectoral collaboration and work collectively to enable systemic change needed by the region for a sustainable and resilient future. Only through strong partnership and management can we progress and recover towards a greener ASEAN.”

(In picture) Jukhee Hong, Executive Director of CARI ASEAN Research and Advocacy

2. The pandemic has given ASEAN a window to rebuild towards a safer community and a better and greener economy

In a series of reports released by CARI examining ASEAN’s fiscal policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, climate-aligned measures were found to be lacking in various stimulus spending, national budgets, taxation policies as the emphasis was directed towards saving lives and livelihoods.

Jukhee Hong, the executive director of CARI, who presented the findings of the reports, highlighted that climate aligned and sustainability measures should be included in future state budgets while tax relief in the form of tax credits should be given to companies involved in climate change mitigation, green building practices, and green technologies in the short term.

“In the medium and long term, ASEAN should study the feasibility of carbon and environmental taxes, reform fossil fuel subsidy schemes and work towards a common minimum tax standard for corporate income tax in the region to increase fiscal space needed for the climate agenda. The pandemic has given ASEAN a window to build back safer, better and greener as ASEAN economies strive to boost economic growth once the pandemic is under control.”

She said ASEAN countries signalled a willingness to address climate change and embrace sustainability, however strong determination is needed to transition from fossil fuel economy. ASEAN should also take advantage of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership to establish greener and sustainable supply chains, which has been projected to boost investment in sustainable post-pandemic recovery.

(In picture) Ms. Duangjai Asawachintachit, Secretary-General of Board of Investment Thailand

3. Green recovery is the only way forward for ASEAN’s economic recovery

Madam Duangjai Asawachintachit observed that the pressure coming from trading partners to provide green supply chains and sustainability certification, coupled with obligations under international agreements and Sustainable Development Goals, are among several factors that have driven Thailand towards green investment.

“Green recovery for ASEAN is not a luxury but a necessity. In Thailand, there is growing awareness and pressure in the business community as Thai businesses have to embrace green practices to remain competitive in the international markets, such as the need to migrate to renewable energy and implement eco-packaging,” she said.

Thailand’s Bio-economy, Circular economy and Green economy (BCG) strategy is a national agenda and underpins the Thailand 4.0 policy. There are ample investment opportunities in the green industries and according to the International Finance Corporation (IFC), investment opportunities in East Asia and the Pacific are estimated to be US$5.1 trillion and would create 98.8 million jobs while reducing 2 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.

Headed by her, the Board of Investments (BOI) Thailand offers tax incentives to encourage renewable energy production and utilisation; as well as reducing the environmental impacts and achieve international sustainability standards.

(In picture) Dr San Oo, Chair of ASEAN Senior Officials on the Environment

4. ASEAN unity is key to a regional green recovery

Dr San Oo presented on the Vision of ASEAN’s Cooperation on Environment 2025, given that the region is endowed with rich natural resources, and shared with the audience on the various ongoing ASEAN Greening Projects under the ASEAN Working Group on Climate Change (AWGCC) such as the Regional Dialogue on Carbon Pricing (REdiCAP) and ASEAN Low Carbon Energy Programme (LCEP). He also highlighted Myanmar has seen rising investments and development of the country’s natural resources for the energy and power sector, gas, hydropower, mining, agriculture and forestry sectors. The AWGCC will release a joint statement at the COP 26 Summit later this year.

“Regional cooperation and ASEAN play a crucial role towards Green Recovery. ASEAN has strong aspirations for partnership and has a clear focus on a climate aligned agenda. Unity is strength and I firmly believe that ASEAN can cope well with its green recovery,” said Dr San Oo.

(In picture) Mr Cedric Rimaud, Corporate Bonds and Green Finance Specialist at Climate Bonds Initiative

5. Ample capital available for climate-resilient projects in ASEAN to reset economy due to pandemic

Corporate Bonds and Green Finance Specialist Cedric Rimaud remarked that climate change impact cannot be reversed overnight and the next decade is critical in changing the direction of governments’ injection of large capital in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is imperative that these capitals are invested appropriately to take account of the shifting risks happening in the region.

“There is ample capital available to be invested into projects towards climate resilience. Since the Paris agreement signed in 2015 has identified financial flows to redirect capital towards climate-resilient projects, there has been an explosive growth of thematic finance,” observed Cedric who is optimistic about the capital market as a tool for climate-resilient investment.

The outstanding bond market is valued at US$130 trillion, of which the size of the green bond market is estimated at US$1 trillion as of the end of 2020 while issued social and sustainability bonds added another US$700 million to that value and are growing. To date, the amount of green-, social and sustainability- bonds that have been issued in more advanced ASEAN markets amounted to US$29 billion, with 73% of issuers are from the corporate sector.

(In picture) Tan Sri Dr. Munir Majid, Chairman of CARI ASEAN Research and Advocacy and
Chairman of ASEAN Business Advisory Council Malaysia

6. ASEAN needs to be serious about greening and sustainable development

Tan Sri Munir, the Chairman of CARI emphasised that “We must be honestly serious about greening and sustainable development – and not just pay lip service to it. Climate change is a real threat”. He calls for development in ways that protect people and the environment. He also stressed that the foundation is to let people see how sustainable development goals (SDGs) are not distant and abstract terms but have real relevance to the lives of the people – good health, clean water, efficient and cheap energy, good transportation, no pollution, a green environment, secure jobs and social support.

Tan Sri Munir acknowledged that there are some “green shoots” of recognition of the need for green recovery and development in the Southeast Asia region, with Singapore leading the way with many sustainable approaches, and Malaysia through the central bank has come out with a guidance document CCPT (Climate Change and Principle-based Taxonomy).

“There are good indicators. They have to be built upon and the green objectives have to be fully realized. Advanced countries ahead of the curve can, through regional thought intermediaries such as CARI, introduce ways and means towards green recovery, to those below it. The best recommendation is to show how those advanced countries have benefited their economies and peoples through green development and mindset” said Tan Sri Munir.

About CARI
CARI ASEAN Research and Advocacy (CARI) is an independent, transnational research institute dedicated solely to the advancement and acceleration of ASEAN integration. 

For more information, kindly contact:
Jukhee Hong, Executive Director

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