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Talking About Climate Activism (and How ASEAN Participate)

 There is no doubt that CO2 emissions cause global warming. Since the early 1800, scientists have found that greenhouse gases in the atmosphere trap heat. That is why Professor Johan Rockstrom stated that by 2020, we need to bend the global curve of emissions. Then, by 2030, we are required to cut emissions in the world by half. "That is the way to land Earth on a safe trajectory for the future in ten years," he said as the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research director at Davos.

Global warming leads to climate change, and we only have ten years. In other words, there is not much time left. Khishigjargal from United Nations Major Group for Children and Youth even stated, "We are the last generation that can end climate change," However, she added that we could and would do that. That is why climate activism is important to be answered—because climate change endangers us, and we urge to continue our lives safely. 

Climate activism can be distinguished into two types: the one with direct effects on climate change and another one with indirect effects. 

An example of the first type is encouraging people to adopt a lifestyle that reduces individual carbon footprints. These efforts focus on changing consumer behaviors, such as reducing car use, eating less dairy or meat, and shifting to nonfossil fuel-based sources of electricity. However, there are only several studies that measure these activisms' direct effect on climate outcomes. More research is needed to prove that these movements directly affect consumption patterns beyond single case studies. However, measuring the direct effects of these efforts in a way that scales up is highly challenging, particularly when crossing institutional and cultural contexts.

Nevertheless, most activism does not have direct effects on climate change. Instead, they pressure political and economic actors to change people's behaviors through policies to accelerate their efforts to reduce emissions. This is how the second type of climate activism works. It can be done by litigating, targeting business actors, and working either inside or outside an economic and political system.

One of the areas from all over the world that are highly vulnerable to climate change is Southeast Asia. According to McKinsey, the business and economic research arm of a consulting firm, Southeast Asia will face more critical consequences of climate change than other parts of the world. Furthermore, the Philippines, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Lao PDR, and Indonesia are identified as climate change hotspots. In 2010, they collectively accounted for 90% of greenhouse gas emissions in Southeast Asia.

To avoid these significant disadvantages Southeast Asia may have—including losses on agriculture, energy demand, tourism, labor productivity, health, catastrophic risks, and ecosystems—countries in the region should help lead the way in climate movement by transitioning toward low-carbon development. 

Fortunately, Southeast Asia can perform climate movements, such as mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, reducing deforestation, improving energy efficiency, and escalating renewable energy. According to Asian Development Bank, it can be accomplished by applying economy–energy–environment strategy. Institutional infrastructure and long-term investments in knowledge are needed. One of the benefits is reducing damage from climate change. More importantly, all countries in the region are required to have the same important plans and goals.

Evidently, prospects of the climate movement in Southeast Asia appertain to the second type of climate activism. By economic and political pressure through policy as a weapon, its effect is indirect but powerful.

That strategy has been done too by ASEAN. In the global community, ASEAN plays an active and leadership role in addressing climate change. ASEAN Heads of State and Government themselves become the stewardship. At the regional level, ASEAN has issued Statements related to climate change to express ASEAN's common position and aspiration towards a global solution. Because climate activism needs to be done together, ASEAN Members State (AMS) also urges developed countries to show leadership and increase commitments regarding assistance to developing and least developed countries. Collectively, ASEAN has done climate activism by implementing relevant actions in the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) Blueprint 2009-2021.

In addition, ASEAN also has proven its commitment to contribute to climate activism by playing its role in taking voluntary and appropriate mitigation actions and adaptation measures enabled by the provision of concessionary financial assistance, technology transfer, and capacity building to address climate change issues proactively and responsibly.

In conclusion, there are undoubtedly various ways to do climate activism. However, we can do all of them together by fulfilling our responsibilities. ASEAN, too, has performed many programs in tackling climate change, especially in Southeast Asia.

  ASEAN. (n.d.). ASEAN Cooperation on Climate Change. Retrieved August 10, 2021, from
  Asian Development Bank. (2015). Southeast Asia and the economics of global climate stabilization.
  Choudhury, S. R. (2020, August 17). Southeast Asia faces more severe effects of climate change than the rest of the world, McKinsey says. Retrieved August 10, 2021, from
  Committee on Climate Change. (2019, October 24). What is causing climate change? Retrieved August 10, 2021, from Fisher, D. R., & Nasrin, S. (2020). Climate activism and its effects. WIREs Climate Change, 12(1).
  Guvenc, O. (2020, February). Global warming and effects on underground water. Hasan Kalyoncu University.
  Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. (2014). Climate change 2014: Mitigation of climate change. New York: Cambridge University Press
  Letchumanan, R. (2016). Is there an ASEAN policy on climate change? SNRD Newsletter, (2), 50–62.
  Shankar, R. (2020, March 1). Apocalypse now: The Earth has only ten years to reverse climate change blowback. Retrieved August 10, 2021, from
  UNICEF. (n.d.). Youth for climate action. Retrieved August 10, 2021, from
   Yuen, B., Kong, L., & Mainguy, G. (2009). Climate Change and Urban Planning in Southeast Asia. SAPIENS, 2(3). Retrieved from
  Yusuf A. A. & Francisco, H. (2009). Climate Change Vulnerability Mapping for Southeast Asia. IDRC.
  SDGF. (2017, March 7). Southeast Asia and the economics of global climate stabilization. Retrieved August 10, 2021, from

Notes: This is my first-week commentary paper for AYIEP 2021.


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