Climate change has already hit the Thai psyche. Almost every public opinion polls and surveys in the past years have been pointing in the same direction saying climate change and global warming are high on the Thai mindset , whether or not it is associated with sense of urgency, awareness or simply riding on a trend driven by corporate advertisements. Apart from that Thai people are increasingly aware of the possible affects of climate-change related events such as floods, , sea-level rise leading to coastal erosion in Bangkhuntien area, high incidence of infectious diseases such as dengue fever and Letrospirosis.
In May 2007, over 36 organizations representing almost all sectors – government, media, private sector, entrepreneurs, NGOs and other civil society groups endorsed the Declaration on the Cooperation for Alleviating Global Warming’ in Bangkok. The declaration was supposed to kick start the implementation of the 5-year Action Plan for Global Warming Alleviation (2007-2012). The action plan set a bold target to reduce carbon emissions of Bangkok city by 15% by 2012 with different approaches ranging from improvement of transportation system, promotion of alternative energies, energy conservation , building retrofit, solid waste and wastewater management to expansion of green area.
Now it is time for Bangkokians to cast their votes again to elect a new Bangkok governor and all the candidates are busy showing off their green credentials. And as expected, when the Thai society of environmental journalists organized a conference on “New Bangkok Governor’s Environmental Management Vision”, climate change was high on the agenda of all the major candidates.
Bangkok metropolis like other megacities of Toronto, London and New York is one of the major source of carbon emissions, all of which have started implementing its climate action plan last year. If the current governor of Bangkok-Mr Apirak Kosayothin- is able to retain his post, Bangkok Climate Action Plan should not only be continued but also has to be realigned to gain momentum in order to achieve the targets and practical outcomes. What is going to happen with the climate action plan if we get new political leader is a question that everyone should be asking. It might be changed, re-prioritized, improved or scrapped. That is really depending on political will of the one who is elected, given the fact that environmental policies of other major candidates are not very different.
Since the Nobel Peace Prize-wining Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) put the final nail in the coffin of global warming skeptics last year (2007) as Ban Ki-moon Secretary-General of the United Nations has put it, new scientific findings pointed it out that the climate system seems to be more sensitive to the effects of increasing greenhouse gas concentrations that previously estimated. Climate scientists worldwide are calling for urgent action : global carbon emissions has to peak by 2015 and cut by far more than half by 2050 in order to prevent disastrous climate change from happening. Last but not least, climate change conference in Bali has set the road for a new agreement to be concluded in Copenhagen in December 2009. If we want to avoid disastrous climate change to happen, we will need a very strong and very ambitious agreement to be made by all countries.
In this context, Bangkok Climate Action Plan, if we do it right, will set a good practice in helping world community to combat climate change. The next Bangkok governor, regardless of who it is , will have to exercise the leadership by placing ecological imperatives at the heart of city’s social and economic policy and development. The aim should be to not increase inequity but instead reduce the gap between political elites, consuming class and urban poor, as well as, ensuring participation of impacted communities in decision making processes on mitigation and adaptation options and assist these communities in funding and implementing climate adaptation measures.
In the run up to the election of the new Bangkok governor, all citizens must remember that casting vote is to endorse not only the best political will but defining the future of our Bangkok in the warming world. Collective action is the only way out of the imminent crisis facing us.