A key milestone has recently been made by Indonesia, the fourth largest coal producer in the world, which announced the cessation of new-build coal power plants from 2023. This announcement is an encouraging sign that sustainable development and growth are underway in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and that countries should collectively build on the momentum in driving the low-carbon transition sooner.
According to a report by the International Energy Agency (IEA), energy demand in Southeast Asia will grow by 60% over the next two decades. The power sector will be responsible for just under half of the region’s carbon dioxide emissions in 2040, up from 42% in 2019.
Climate change is a huge concern for ASEAN as the Philippines, Myanmar, and Vietnam are ranked in the top 10 globally in terms of how badly they will be affected by climate change. In many ASEAN nations, rising sea-levels pose worrisome threats to low-lying coastal cities, and extensive agricultural lands are at risk of floods.
As ASEAN urbanizes, governments should implement the concept of smart city development to optimize outcomes – limiting carbon footprints through the efficient use of resources. Sustainability has become a key feature of urbanization and masterplans for ASEAN’s major cities, incorporating features such as green spaces, renewable energy, smart energy management, and district cooling.
For instance, Thailand’s smart cities masterplan aims to address the high cost of energy by transitioning towards incorporating renewable energy into the supply, while implementing policies to reduce and reuse waste, as well as deploying other smart solutions like smart grids, district cooling systems, and promoting co-generation facilities.