Coal consumption in Southeast Asia records drastic jump last 20 years: UNCC


New Delhi: As coal consumption in Southeast Asia has increased by 150 percent, a group of UN agencies working to accelerate coal phase-out is on the way, with a key focus on clean energy transition in Asia and the Pacific region.

“In Southeast Asia, coal consumption has risen by 150 percent over the last 20 years, with the share of coal in the electricity mix increasing from 27% in 2010 to 43% in 2019” according to UN Climate Change (UNCC)

The six-member working group was announced by the Secretary General António Guterres on April 1 to develop stronger and clearer standards for net-zero emissions pledges by non-state entities such as businesses, investors, cities, and regions.

During the COP 26 submit at Glasgow in November last year all governments agreed to a phase-down of coal.

Coal is the fossil fuel most responsible for heat-trapping emissions which are causing global heating. 30 per cent of the primary energy of G20 members and 50 per cent in Asia still comes from coal.

“Unless coal is phased out and global greenhouse emissions are halved by 2030, there will be no chance of the world staying below a 1.5 degrees global average temperature rise” said UNCC in a statement, adding that already at global warming of just over 1 degree Celsius, Asia is experiencing unprecedented heatwaves, droughts and floods”.

Last month, along the sidelines of the 78th Commission of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), ILO along with ESCAP, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and UN Climate Change Secretariat came together to coordinate their efforts and discuss next steps.

Panudda Boonpala, Deputy Regional Director, Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, ILO said that “An energy transition that focuses only on solving the financial losses for the capital asset owners of coal power plants or mining, but not the issues for the workers and the communities, will not be successful.

“The potential for nature-based employment to offer green jobs for these workers needs to be maximised” she said.

Experts also warned that job losses due to mine closures in coal-dependent regions can have a profound negative effect on the labor markets, economies and livelihoods of local communities in these countries.

Drawing on a recent publication “A just energy transition in Southeast Asia: The impact of coal phase-out on jobs,” the discussions at this event specifically focused on steps needed to ensure that any phase-out of coal in Indonesia, the Philippines and Viet Nam is indeed just.

Coal phase-out also provides opportunities. “It is anticipated that 2.7 million jobs will be lost due to phase-out and phase-down of fossil fuel-based power plants by 2030 under current commitments, but 13 million new jobs will be created through clean energy transition, and it needs to be about 30 million for a net-zero target by 2050”, said Sonja Leighton-Kone, Acting Deputy Executive Director at UNEP.

Talking about the challenges , UNCC said , “Coal producing regions are often isolated and the opportunities unfolding in the clean energy sector may not match the existing skills or geographic locations of impacted workers”.

“Ensuring that everyone benefits from the energy transition requires interventions such as strong labor market policies, social protection and new skills development. Maintaining a dialogue between workers, government and employers throughout this process is also instrumental” emphasized Kaveh Zahedi, Deputy Executive Secretary for Sustainable Development, UNESCAP.

“Besides aspects of technical feasibility, policy options, RCC Bangkok and the UN Climate Change Secretariat plan to support this Working Group in gathering information and data regarding the impact of response measures and in delivering regionally focused capacity building activities” it said.

These include the recently concluded SB56 event on policies related to just transition; regional workshops; national policy dialogues; and more outreach on just transition at COP27.


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