Prayut Chan-o-cha greets "new style" with Boris Johnson, the British bird (Photo: UNFCCC)

“WTF?” – Greenpeace director’s reaction to Prime Minister of Thailand’s new numbers

“WTF? How did this figure come about?” reaction from Tara Buakhamsri, Director of Greenpeace Thailand to the Prime Minister’s new greenhouse gas reduction statement at COP26. Wanan Permpiboon, Climate Watch Thailand also questioned the new numbers.

“Let me speak in the local language, ‘Eiyangwa’ (WTF). The minister did not mention the 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions at the press conference in Thailand. But when he went to Glasgow, this number appeared,” said Tara Buakhamsri , director of Greenpeace Thailand in a live broadcast

“Noon Update on COP26” organized by GreenNews to follow the progress of climate negotiations in the United Kingdom.

Tara said that as a long-time follower of Thailand’s role in climate change, he was “surprised” by the new two-minute statement by Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday at a senior leaders’ meeting, where countries declared their positions.

The leader of the Thai government revealed that Thailand has set its GHGs emission reduction goal in its NDCs at 20-25% from the BAU based in 2005 in the energy and transportation sector. (25% with the international support). This goal was announced since 2015 and hasn’t been updated for 6 years until this COP. The PM declared during the high-level meeting that Thailand will raise its NDCs to 40% (aka 2 times the previous pledge), if they receive international support. A decision that is just now a speech and not necessarily documented as a proper an NDC and the new long-term strategy that Thailand submitted just before the COP.

The Greenpeace Director noted that the number 40 has never been mentioned before. When the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment held a press conference last week, it was not mentioned. In addition, the climate plan that Thailand submitted to the United Nations in writing has not yet been updated.

The Prime Minister also stated that Thailand has been successful in reducing its emissions in the past five years. Thailand had previously aimed to cut emissions by 7%, but achieved 17% in 2019, more than double the amount and one year earlier than planned. 

“We’ve heard agencies say that Thailand can do a lot for a long time. But why not change the numbers in the UN submissions?”

GreenNews has reviewed documents on greenhouse gas reduction plans submitted by Thailand to the United Nations Convention on Global Warming (UNFCCC), namely the National Goals to Reduce Greenhouse Gas (NDCs) documents, which Thailand submitted the latest revised version on October 26, 2020. The Third   Biennial Progress Report (BUR 3) 25 December 2020 and the Long-Term Strategy for Low Emissions Development (LT-LEDS), a new document submitted by Thailand on 30 October 2021 and launched as a mitigation mechanism. New global warming at this round of COP meetings found that no document has shown the figure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40%. 

How will Thailand reduce its emissions? It was the second question that Thai climate activists asked when expressing concern. Wanan pointed out that the Thai plan stated that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20-25% in the energy and transport sectors, but the new number is still unclear and may come from the “forest sector”, where Thailand plans to increase the proportion of forests. It hopes to be a source to absorb greenhouse gases and use it to buy-sell carbon credits with foreigners.

Thailand aims to increase forested area to 55%. According to the national forest policy and the 20-year national development strategy, another new figure adjusted from the plan to increase forested area by 40%.

The Assembly of Poor People, a working group on land rights in Thailand, said the policy to increase land to meet global warming has led to cases of demolishing communities from lands near forests.

Tha Koey River Estuary Community 
Surat Thani, which was demolished because of the national forest reclaimation policy (Photo: Poor People’s Assembly)

Wanan stressed that the forest sector is an important aspect to consider at this two-week meeting, because the mechanism of carbon trading through various forest sectors at the international level will continue to influence the direction of forest policy. which may be the development of “false hopes” because instead of the country focusing on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it will focusing on gas absorption potential. 

It is also a development direction that brings natural resources to market value. Giving more weight to the private sector than the public especially vulnerable groups, like farmers. Seen from what the Prime Minister said in his final statement, the Bio-Circular-Green Economy (BCG) model, which Thailand is pushing for and will implement in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), hosted by Thailand. meeting next year

“Thailand may be acting like Brazil,” said Greenpeace director. Noting another country that surprised him. Brazil announced it would cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent, including using the Amazon forest to absorb gas, like “selling forests to businesses”.

Right now, there is no detailed information about the aforementioned greenhouse gas emissions targets from the Thai authorities. 

“I challenge the Office of Environmental Plans and Policy to pull back the global warming mitigation plan sent to the United Nations and amend it to be 40 % clear,” two global warming activists challenged.

The prime minister is scheduled to continue meeting with global warming leaders today and return to Thailand on November 3, while the Environment Minister and a panel of experts will continue negotiations.

This story was originally published on Green News, with the support of Climate Tracker.

Nicha Wachpanich
Bangkok-based journalist covering environmental stories from policymaking table to the the river bank communities. Nicha believes everybody deserves to know what’s going on with their life and how the changing climate is affecting us all. She sees that it’s time people know about the global negotiations and how they will impact on the local scale.