Tuesday, December 18, 2007

An issue that affects us all

General News - Tuesday December 18, 2007


An issue that affects us all

Another huge United Nations conference has just wound up on the Indonesian island of Bali. Thailand was not deeply involved in the UN climate change conference, and stayed under the radar in all of the discussions about global and local programmes which may result.

The Bali conference began work on a so-called roadmap which probably will result in new world agreement to follow and replace the Kyoto Treaty. A great debate continues on how the industrialised nations and developing world will contribute.

This should concern everyone.

One Asian nation has managed to surpass even China and India in per capita carbon emissions, the current global pollution measurement standard. That country is currently tossing 4.2 tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere per person per year. The Chinese, by contrast, emit 3.8 tonnes, while Indians discharge 1.2 tonnes. Yet neither current nor would-be leaders of that Asian country have shown much interest in mitigating the excessive carbon pollution. Citizens are even less concerned, if that is possible, and display virtually no interest in improving or changing their constantly increasing use of polluting material and technology.

That Asian country is Thailand. This nation is the ninth largest (and currently slowest growing) economy in East Asia. But sometimes it seems that the government and citizens are more pleased than humble about their ''achievement'' of being home to the region's largest carbon footprint.

Certainly there is no shame to 30 solid years of national development in almost all fields. But it is past time for the country to reflect on its undoubted economic success. One undeniably urgent task is to adapt.

It is time for Thailand to change the wasteful, harmful and nationally expensive activities which destroy environment, harm the ecology and probably contribute to climate change. It is not necessary to accept the still controversial mantra which sparks global warming debates. The fact is that changes in the Earth's weather will have a heavy impact on future Thai generations. It is also a fact that the ever-increasing use of fossil-based fuel to generate more electricity, drive more automotive engines and fly more people around the country and the world affects the environment, both locally and globally.

So far, Thailand's contribution on the issue of climate change and conservation has been unsatisfactory. When it thinks globally, the Thai government, diplomats and non-governmental organisations have been largely missing. At last week's Bali conference, one had to search deep into the speeches and conferences to find any Thai contribution. No meaningful Thai speech could be found, let alone an imaginative approach to the problems on the Bali agenda.

More troubling, however, is the response in Thailand to the necessity to act locally. The most dramatic action has been an order by the military government to begin a feasibility study into the use of nuclear power. This unique action has brought little more than yawns from the political parties who will be running the country after the Dec 23 election. During the election campaign, there have been passing references to the need to support bio-fuel _ sparked mostly by comments by His Majesty the King. No party and no prominent politician has come up with any comprehensive policy on climate change, global warming, energy conservation or use of alternative fuels.

Many government officials appear to believe that it is in Thailand's interest to try to avoid direct participation in global conservation efforts such as the Kyoto Treaty. This is a short-sighted view with no long-range advantage. Certainly it would be unfair for industrialised nations and the UN to force heavy restrictions on Thailand. Thirty years of hard work and success in raising the Thai standard of living cannot be punished.

But it is not fair for the Thai government, industry and business to ignore the very real harm of the over-use of energy in a world where the temperature is rising. That is, it is not fair to Thailand. Thai officials and, particularly, business leaders must move to adopt measures that will help the country. Alternative, clean energy is available, and must be adopted as a national policy.

Bangkok Post

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