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Cablegate: Thailand's Response to Global Climate Change

VZCZCXRO8708
RR RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHLN RUEHMA RUEHNH RUEHPB RUEHPOD
DE RUEHBK #4172/01 2140112
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 020112Z AUG 07
FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8628
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUEHZN/ENVIRONMENT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COLLECTIVE
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 4644
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU 7293
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 4604
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 7473
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 9573
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 3416
RUEHSV/AMEMBASSY SUVA 0290
RUEHCHI/AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI 3911
RUEHCN/AMCONSUL CHENGDU 0468
RUEHGZ/AMCONSUL GUANGZHOU 3644
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 3876
RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY 0609

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 BANGKOK 004172

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR OES/PCI/ACOVINGTON AND OES/EGC/TTALLEY

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV PGOV PREL SOCI EAID TH

SUBJECT: THAILAND'S RESPONSE TO GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE


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1. Summary: Thailand is vulnerable to the risks posed by global
climate change and is taking initial steps to respond to those
risks. The Royal Thai Government (RTG) participates in
international fora on climate change and is signatory to several
international agreements, including the United Nations Framework
Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol. In
addition to these commitments, Thailand has drafted national and
local strategies to reduce its green house gas (GHG) emissions and
mitigate the potential effects of rising sea levels. While the
national strategy is still on the bureaucratic back burner, the
Bangkok provincial government is moving forward with its own
strategy, taking the lead in Thailand's response to global climate
change. End summary.

Potential Impacts of Climate Change in Thailand
--------------------------------------------- --

2. In 2006, the Southeast Asian System for Research Analysis (SEA
START), a regional think tank dedicated to climate research,
produced a technical report that used several simulations to
determine the impacts of an increase in temperature of 1-2 degrees
Celsius in Thailand. The results predict that the hot season would
last longer and the cool season would be shorter. According to the
report, the duration of the rainy season would remain the same, but
the total amount of precipitation would increase.

3. Any increase in rainfall would further exacerbate Thailand's
seasonal flooding problem. According to the Department of Disaster
Mitigation and Prevention, Thailand's most frequent natural disaster
is flooding with an average of 60 of its 76 provinces affected every
year. Seasonal flooding has caused 135 deaths and 5.5 billion baht
(USD 166 million) in property damage on average during the years
2000-2004 (the most recent years for which this data is available).
Ironically, a separate agricultural simulation by SEA START
predicted that the increased precipitation resulting from climate
change would lead to a significant increase, three to six percent,
in Thai rice production.

Disaster Mitigation and Response
--------------------------------

4. According to Dr. Louis Lebel of the Unit for Social and
Environmental Research (USER) at Chiang Mai University, Thailand,
and Bangkok in particular, is under threat from rising sea levels.
Dr. Lebel notes the importance of conducting disaster response
exercises in order to respond effectively to natural disasters, such
as flooding. Bangkok is only 40 centimeters above sea level, and
sizeable communities live along the banks of the Chao Phraya River
that runs through the city. The Bangkok Post reported that 55
percent of Bangkok will be underwater if mean sea level rises by 50
centimeters and 72 percent if it rises 100 centimeters.

5. At a meeting with Ambassador Boyce on July 12, Bangkok Governor
Apirak Kosayothin acknowledged that communities along the Chao
Phraya River would be vulnerable to flooding from a rise in sea
level and requested points of contact in the U.S. with expertise in
'flood-proofing' cities, such as through the construction of a
series of dikes and levees. The Regional Environmental Officer
based in Embassy Bangkok has already coordinated with the OES Bureau
and USAID to identify appropriate individuals in response to the
Governor's request.

National Strategy to Respond to Climate Change
--------------------------------------------- -

6. Under Thailand's Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment,
the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and
Planning (ONEP) is developing a new draft strategy to respond to
climate change, titled "Thailand's Five-Year Strategies on Climate
Change, 2008-2012". The draft lists six broad strategies, the key
elements of which are the following:
- Reduce the vulnerability of Thailand to the impacts of climate
change by identifying 'hotspot' areas that are especially vulnerable
to the effects of climate change and by establishing early warning
systems and evacuation plans for natural disasters such as

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flooding.
- Reduce GHG emissions by improving energy efficiency in
transportation, industry and commercial and residential buildings
and by increasing green space in cities.
- Support research and development about the impacts of climate
change in Thailand.
- Raise public awareness of climate change.
- Build the capacity of scientists, engineers, technicians, public
officials and others involved with climate change issues through
training programs and the establishment of a national climate change
information center.
- Support international cooperation on issues of climate change,
especially cooperation among ASEAN countries.

7. ONEP's national plan still has several bureaucratic hurdles to
clear before it becomes operational. The draft plan is still being
written and is expected to be completed in August. Once the draft is
finished, a working committee consisting of representatives from
relevant ministries will use the strategy to develop a national
action plan. The newly-formed National Climate Change Committee will
then review the action plan and after it completes its revisions,
will pass the strategy and action plan to the full Cabinet for final
review and approval. An ONEP official told the Embassy's Regional
Environmental Office that she expects the entire process to be
completed by September.

Bangkok Takes the Lead
----------------------

8. Bangkok is home to just over 10% of Thailand's population of 65
million, but is estimated to produce up to 40 percent of Thailand's
total carbon dioxide emissions, which was 181,310 metric tons in
2000. The two largest producers of CO2 emissions are the energy
production sector and the transportation sector, which produced 38%
and 33% of Thailand's total CO2 emissions in 1999. Any program to
reduce Thailand's greenhouse gas emissions will require Bangkok to
play a leading role.

9. Fortunately, Governor Apirak has traditionally championed
environmental issues, and his recent campaign to confront global
warming has become the flagship issue for his last year in office.
Under his leadership, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA)
is moving forward with an array of projects aimed at reducing GHG
emissions. The BMA has issued a five-year plan outlining several
projects to reduce Bangkok's GHG emissions by 15 percent by 2012.
The plan is currently undergoing a mandatory 60-day period of public
hearings prior to implementation. The hearings are expected to be
completed by August 12.

10. In the meeting with Ambassador Boyce, Governor Apirak described
the BMA strategy for reducing GHG emissions as a multi-faceted
approach that includes, but is not limited to, promoting sustainable
building, reducing energy consumption, improving waste removal and
recycling, switching to cleaner burning fuel, reducing vehicle
emissions, and conducting public awareness campaigns.

11. Sustainable Building: While at the Large Cities Climate Summit
in New York from May 14-17, 2007, Governor Apirak committed Bangkok
to the list of cities willing to retro-fit existing buildings with
technology that will help reduce energy consumption. In addition to
retro-fitting existing buildings, Apirak is encouraging architects
and planners to develop sustainable building models, which for
example, would include more windows to let in natural light and
improved insulation to reduce the loss of cool air.

12. Reducing Energy Consumption: At his meeting with Ambassador
Boyce, Governor Apirak discussed his campaign to promote the use of
energy-saving compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) by city
businesses and residents. Ambassador Boyce noted that USAID's
Environmental Cooperation-Asia Clean Development and Climate Program
(ECO-Asia CDCP), in partnership with private companies such as
Philips Lighting and OSRAM, recently launched a regional initiative
to certify the quality of compact fluorescent lights sold in markets
in Asia. The Governor was receptive to the Ambassador's suggestion
that the BMA and ECO-Asia CDCP could work together to both promote

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the use and ensure the quality of CFLs in the region.

13. Recycling and Cleaner Burning Fuel: The BMA, in conjunction
with Bang Chak Petroleum, a private Thai company, has instituted a
program in Bangkok's Pra Khanong District to buy used cooking oil
from households to make biofuel. In addition to producing cleaner
burning fuel, this program recycles waste that would otherwise be
dumped into the city's drains and sewers, clogging them, and
reducing their ability to drain surface runoff of seasonal rainwater
and prevent flooding in the city.

14. Reducing Vehicle Emissions: In order to reduce GHG emissions
from vehicles, the BMA plans to enhance public transportation
through the extension of the subway and elevated train lines,
introduction of a rapid bus system powered by natural gas, and the
levying of congestion charges for traffic within certain districts
in Bangkok. Governor Apirak, however, stressed the impossibility of
imposing congestion charges until the public transportation system
is improved and expanded.

15. Public Awareness: The BMA has initiated monthly energy
conservation awareness campaigns each with a different theme. At
7:00 p.m. on May 9, the BMA turned off the lights in city
administered buildings and encouraged businesses and residents to
turn off their lights for 15 minutes, to demonstrate that small
deeds by many people can conserve significant amounts of energy. In
June, the BMA distributed 44,000 compact fluorescent bulbs to
vendors at 200 wet markets located in the city as a gesture to
encourage businesses and residents to use energy efficient
fluorescent lighting. The theme for July is to be aware of
emissions from idling cars.

Cooperation with International Organizations
--------------------------------------------


16. Following the New York Summit, Governor Apirak met with World
Bank (WB) officials in New York and Bangkok to confirm the WB's
support for the BMA's efforts in urban planning, including mass
transit. They also discussed environmental stewardship, including
developing and promoting renewable energy, recycling solid wastes,
and reducing water and air pollution.

17. Governor Apirak also met with the UN Environmental Program's
(UNEP) Regional Office in Bangkok to discuss the retrofitting
project and his plans to reduce Bangkok's GHG emissions. UNEP
pledged support for BMA's plan to publish and distribute public
awareness tips on how citizens can personally help to reduce GHG
emissions.


Comment
-------

18. Nationally, ONEP is advancing its strategy to respond to
climate change, but the projected date of September for the plan to
become operational is probably unrealistic. The municipal
leadership in Bangkok, however is moving forward without waiting for
the national bureaucracy. It has already begun acting on its plan
to reduce GHG emissions, and it is looking ahead to seek ways to
mitigate the impact of future rising sea levels. Embassy's Regional
Environmental Office is following up with the BMA as well as with
ONEP to assist Thailand in its response to global climate change.

Entwistle

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