Myanmar to fight climate change by protecting forests

About 20 Myanmar government officials are already in Paris or are on their way to make the government’s case to the United Nations Climate Conference, said U Nay Aye, director general of the Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry’s Environmental Conservation Department.

Myanmar will tell the international community that while its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will almost certainly increase in the coming decades, it plans to undertake a number of steps to minimise the increase, and prepare for the effects of climate change. In particular, it will maintain its forests so it remains a net GHG emissions “sink”.

The Paris conference, which started on November 23, will run to December 11. “The first delegates left on November 23. U Win Tun, minister for environmental conservation and forestry, will lead the delegation until December 5. Deputy minister Daw Thet Thet Zin will make the presentation on the Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) of Myanmar, which includes the country’s plan for climate change mitigation and adaption,” he said.

The government submitted its plan to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in September, and will present it to the conference between December 7 and 11.

“With the largest standing forests on mainland Southeast Asia, Myanmar currently absorbs more greenhouse gases than it emits, thereby already making a significant contribution to global efforts to tackle climate change,” the plan says.

“However, we are currently in the process of rapid industrialisation and increasing urbanisation, which will lead to an increase in our emissions of greenhouse gases.

“We therefore intend to implement a series of policies and actions to maintain the harmony between growth and mitigating climate change.”

U Nay Aye said that 54.3 percent of GHG emissions from Myanmar are from the forestry sector, while agriculture and livestock released 30.7pc of total carbon emissions. Another 10.6pc of emissions came from the energy sector, while solid waste and industry accounted for only 3.8pc and 0.6pc respectively.

He said Myanmar would commit to minimising emissions growth by prioritising the forestry, agriculture and energy sectors.

“Reserved and protected public forest area will expand to 20.29 million hectares, 30pc of total land area in 2030 from the current 16.23 million hectares [24pc]. Protected areas will also increase to 10pc of national land area in 2030 from 6.6pc,” he said.

While Myanmar’s forestry sector tends to get attention for illegal logging of valuable hardwoods for export, the felling of trees for firewood and charcoal production is also a major driver of deforestation and carbon emissions.

U Nay Aye said one measure to reduce firewood and charcoal use is fuel-efficient stoves. From 2001 to 2014-15, about 286,000 were distributed, with another 260,000 fuel-efficient stoves to be distributed across the county by 2030.

U Nay Aye said increased hydroelectric generation and renewable energy to light up villages would also reduce emissions, and hoped for technical assistance, funding and capacity-building for human resources from the international community.

However, the generation of electricity will be a contributor to GHG emissions growth. In particular, Myanmar plans to source about one-third of its electricity from coal by 2030 in order to increase the electrification rate to 80pc. However, 38pc is forecast to come from hydropower, while 30pc of electricity provided to rural areas under a development plan targeting an estimated 6 million people will come from renewable sources.

Green Lotus, a French NGO promoting sustainable development in Myanmar, stated that the country is one of the smaller emitters, with 300kg of carbon dioxide emitted per person per year. This is far below the regional level, with Vietnam emitting 1.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide per person, and Thailand 4.7 tonnes.

Myanmar is more affected by the consequences of climate change than its neighbours. According to the Global Climate Risk Index 2015, published by German Watch, Myanmar is the second-most-affected country by climatic events in the world.

Green Lotus listed some of the proposals made by civil society organisations as follows: forming a climate change committee at the national level; establishing a national fund to support CSOs and activities related to climate change mitigation and adaptation; prioritising decentralised renewable energy solutions and increasing the share of renewable energy in energy development planning; improving farmers’ technical capacity-building in “climate-smart” agriculture, prioritising public transportation over cars; encouraging the construction sector to promote energy efficiency and conservation in design and construction; and protecting and conserving biodiversity and encouraging community forestry management.

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