After Rio +20, ASEAN now needs to uphold environmental responsibility

Reading Time: 2 minutes
Thai fishermen in front of smoking chimneys of an industrial complex in Rayong. Photo: UNEP

Resource-dependent economies and corporations of Southeast Asia have the opportunity to boost both the environment and their bottom lines after Brazil’s Rio +20 Earth Summit.

By Ashley Boncimino

In a rare move towards equal responsibility, state members at the 2012 Rio +20 Earth Summit empowered both corporations and government institutions to approach problems of climate change and sustainability within their respective regions. These issues hit home to Southeast Asian economies particularly hard, not only because many of these countries rely heavily on natural resources for economic development, but also because emerging markets can be particularly vulnerable to environmental shifts, decisions and policies. Decisions, pledges and conclusions of the 2012 summit reveal not only how important the natural environment is to the region, but reveal the economic potential in collaboration between states and the market.

Among the key sustainability topics discussed, issues like deforestation and energy sustainability topped the agenda, both of which play a significant part in the Southeast Asian arena. One of the most ambitious projects spearheaded by Rio +20 included the 400-company pledge to achieve zero net deforestation in their supply chains by 2020. Deforestation greatly affects the region, as the forest coverage in ASEAN nations is reported to be 48 per cent, 19 per cent higher than in the rest of Asia. Laos has the highest coverage with 67 per cent, while Singapore has the lowest with three per cent. Forests in Vietnam and Cambodia suffer from unchecked deforestation from illegal loggers, and are constantly vulnerable for forest fires.

Countries like Indonesia already show how well-planned agreements can benefit the country, its economy and its industry alike. In exchange for a competitive edge with European Union timber traders – Indonesia exports 15 per cent or $1.2 billion of Southeast Asia’s wood exports to the EU – Indonesia and the EU will only trade with loggers that can verify their timber’s legality. This landmark agreement limits carbon emissions from illegal logging practices, as well as prevents deforestation by controlling timber harvesting and promoting sustainable. Malaysia and Vietnam hope to sign similar voluntary agreements in the future, while Vietnam and Cambodia pledged to collaborate to conserve and protect the forest over their shared border.

Energy security and diversification are also key to the region’s future economic and ecological success. In Vietnam in particular, the government credits electricity availability to rural households – three per cent in 1976 to over 94 per cent in 2008 – with much of the success of Vietnamese government reforms. Thailand and Malaysia have proven attractive destinations for clean energy companies and investors from the US, Japan and Germany, due partly to incentives and subsidies. Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines are also on the fast track to sustainable wind energy, solar energy and hydropower. The trillions of dollars pouring into these countries for various plants and manufacturing bases have an added economic stimulus effect.

Sustainable business practices and environmental initiatives have proven efficient and cost effective both for corporations and countries, indicating corporate environmental responsibility can be self-serving and economically strategic.

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

Thai fishermen in front of smoking chimneys of an industrial complex in Rayong. Photo: UNEP

Resource-dependent economies and corporations of Southeast Asia have the opportunity to boost both the environment and their bottom lines after Brazil’s Rio +20 Earth Summit.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Thai fishermen in front of smoking chimneys of an industrial complex in Rayong. Photo: UNEP

Resource-dependent economies and corporations of Southeast Asia have the opportunity to boost both the environment and their bottom lines after Brazil’s Rio +20 Earth Summit.

By Ashley Boncimino

In a rare move towards equal responsibility, state members at the 2012 Rio +20 Earth Summit empowered both corporations and government institutions to approach problems of climate change and sustainability within their respective regions. These issues hit home to Southeast Asian economies particularly hard, not only because many of these countries rely heavily on natural resources for economic development, but also because emerging markets can be particularly vulnerable to environmental shifts, decisions and policies. Decisions, pledges and conclusions of the 2012 summit reveal not only how important the natural environment is to the region, but reveal the economic potential in collaboration between states and the market.

Among the key sustainability topics discussed, issues like deforestation and energy sustainability topped the agenda, both of which play a significant part in the Southeast Asian arena. One of the most ambitious projects spearheaded by Rio +20 included the 400-company pledge to achieve zero net deforestation in their supply chains by 2020. Deforestation greatly affects the region, as the forest coverage in ASEAN nations is reported to be 48 per cent, 19 per cent higher than in the rest of Asia. Laos has the highest coverage with 67 per cent, while Singapore has the lowest with three per cent. Forests in Vietnam and Cambodia suffer from unchecked deforestation from illegal loggers, and are constantly vulnerable for forest fires.

Countries like Indonesia already show how well-planned agreements can benefit the country, its economy and its industry alike. In exchange for a competitive edge with European Union timber traders – Indonesia exports 15 per cent or $1.2 billion of Southeast Asia’s wood exports to the EU – Indonesia and the EU will only trade with loggers that can verify their timber’s legality. This landmark agreement limits carbon emissions from illegal logging practices, as well as prevents deforestation by controlling timber harvesting and promoting sustainable. Malaysia and Vietnam hope to sign similar voluntary agreements in the future, while Vietnam and Cambodia pledged to collaborate to conserve and protect the forest over their shared border.

Energy security and diversification are also key to the region’s future economic and ecological success. In Vietnam in particular, the government credits electricity availability to rural households – three per cent in 1976 to over 94 per cent in 2008 – with much of the success of Vietnamese government reforms. Thailand and Malaysia have proven attractive destinations for clean energy companies and investors from the US, Japan and Germany, due partly to incentives and subsidies. Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines are also on the fast track to sustainable wind energy, solar energy and hydropower. The trillions of dollars pouring into these countries for various plants and manufacturing bases have an added economic stimulus effect.

Sustainable business practices and environmental initiatives have proven efficient and cost effective both for corporations and countries, indicating corporate environmental responsibility can be self-serving and economically strategic.

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