In Paris for Climate Talks, Burmese Activists Urge Govt to Follow Through on Action Plan

By Yen Saning 3 December 2015

PARIS, France — Burmese environmental activists in Paris for a 195-nation UN climate conference that began on Monday have urged for cross-sector cooperation to implement the mitigation proposals outlined in Burma’s climate action plan.

Burma is among 157 countries to submit an Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) action plan ahead of the conference, outlining commitments to help prevent average global temperatures rising above 2 degrees Celsius as the basis of a new international agreement.

In Burma’s INDC, the country specifies proposed actions in the forestry and energy sectors to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The government has targeted to maintain 30 percent of total national land area as “Reserved Forest” and “Protected Public Forest,” alongside 10 percent of total national land area as “Protected Area Systems.”

To decrease the rate of deforestation would provide a “significant mitigation contribution,” according to Burma’s submission.

In the energy sector, the country forecast an increase in the share of hydroelectric generation to 9.4GW by 2030; pledged to provide electricity to rural areas at least 30 percent of which would utilize clean energy sources; and targeted improving energy efficiency and savings potential in line with an “Improvement of Industrial Energy Efficiency” project being pursued in cooperation with the UN Industrial Development Organization.

In Paris for the conference, Thar Zin Oo, chairman ofenvironmental group Gaiha Hita, said he was supportive of Burma’s INDCs as it reflected the concept of climate justice. The bigger issue, he said, was implementation.

“We will have a new government soon and changes in ministries. People are very excited and happy for change. But in our youths’ view, change should lead not only to development but development that is sustainable,” he said.

Aung Myint, general secretary of the Renewable Energy Association Myanmar, concurred that ensuring implementation of the government’s proposed mitigation actions would be crucial and necessarily require collaboration across the board.

“The state has beautifully drawn the laws and procedures. But in reality, there are so many difficulties to implement them practically, especially on environmental issues… It not only concernsthe environment ministry but also mining, water, electricity. Coordination between ministries is very important,” he said, adding that the public must play a part in ensuring pledges were realized.

Thar Zin Oowas hopeful that the space for civil society input on environmental issues would broaden under a new National League for Democracy (NLD)-led government in 2016.

When asked what environment-related challenges the new government would face, the green activist highlighted issues over land, investment and new agricultural methods.

“There are lots of companies who are interested in providing[new agricultural] techniques. We don’t know what kind of companies will come. Are they organic or chemical or GM companies? Will companies with a bad history come?” he said.

Ei Khin Khin, co-founder of Mya Chemical Free, an outlet providing organic fruit and vegetables based in Rangoon, said businesses should not view civil society organizations (CSOs) as the enemy.

“Businessesshould work together with CSOs,” she said, highlighting the need to collaborate on corporate social responsibility (CSR) concerns.

Delegates of 195 countries that have signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change are attending the conference in Paris, which is scheduled to run until Dec. 11 and herald a new global pact on combating climate change.

According to the “Global Climate Risk Index 2015,” issued by Germanwatch, Burma ranked as one of three countries around the world most affected by extreme weather events for the period 1994 to 2013.

For Thar Zin Oo,responding to climate change is every citizen’s duty.

“We already have a national-level climate change strategy and action plan. Everyone just needs to be dutiful,” he said.