Webinar on “Finance, Energy and Food Intersections in Southeast Asia’s Green Transition”

In this webinar, Dr Prapimphan Chiengkul, Dr Giulia Dal Maso and Dr Siwage Dharma Negara discussed energy transition in Southeast Asia.


Tuesday, 11 April 2023 – Dr. Prapimphan Chiengkul, Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Political Science at Thammasat University and Associate Fellow with the Climate Change in Southeast Asia Programme at the ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore, along with Dr. Giulia Dal Maso, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow at the Department of Asian and North African Studies, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice and the Asia Research Institute at the National University of Singapore, and Dr. Siwage Dharma Negara, Senior Fellow and co-coordinator Indonesia Studies Programme at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute (ISEAS), spoke about the importance of investing in renewable energy to promote a climate-resilient economy, while highlighting the potential adverse effects on food security and people’s livelihoods that may arise from the rapid expansion of renewable energy projects. The session was moderated by Ms. Sharon Seah, Senior Fellow and Coordinator of the Climate Change in Southeast Asia Programme (CCSEAP) and the ASEAN Studies Centre at the ISEAS.

Clockwise from top left: Dr Prapimphan Chiengkul, Ms Sharon Seah (moderator), Dr Giulia Dal Maso, and Dr Siwage Dharma Negara. (Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)

Ms. Seah began the session by highlighting the results of The Southeast Asia Climate Outlook Survey, which showed that more than 68% of respondents from Southeast Asia believe their governments should direct climate recovery spending towards a green transition. She further explained that the region experiences typhoons, cyclones, flooding, and the risk of sea-level rise every year, making it imperative for governments to act now. Southeast Asia is collaborating with major powers such as the US, EU, and China to increase green finance and regional investments. There is also interest from different multilateral groupings, including the G7, G20 with initiatives like the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment and Just Energy Transition Partnerships.

Dr. Prapimphan Chiengkul presented her research on the interconnections between climate change, energy transition, and food systems in Southeast Asia. She argued that geopolitical rivalry and competing infrastructure initiatives had increased the marketing power of smaller countries, including those in Southeast Asia, where development opportunities have increased. However, it is uncertain whether Southeast Asian governments will take full advantage of this opportunity to promote a green transition, as this ultimately depends on the strength of civil society groups and political movements to put pressure on governments. Apart from attracting external finance and support for renewable energy investment, she proposed that Southeast Asians be more proactive in framing discussions around just transitions and green economies. She highlighted that transitions in the energy and agriculture sectors were not merely technical issues or goals, and policymakers should consider social justice and the distribution of economic benefits when promoting renewable energy transition.

Dr. Giulia Dal Maso presented initial findings from her fieldwork in Thailand, which was part of a larger project that examined the deployment of Chinese-led green finance along the Belt and Road Initiative. China has emerged as a leader in green finance, investing more funds in the energy transition, and promoting green lending practices and renewable energy technology. Dr. Dal Maso explored how Chinese influence and investments intersected with Thailand’s new restructuring policy under Thailand 4.0, a new economic model that aimed to boost its economic status. The Thailand 4.0 vision focused on green finance, smart investment and renewable technologies, including an institutionalised feed-in tariff regime. Through the case studies of the Sino-Rayong Industrial Park and Sirindhorn Dam, she posited that green finance and renewable energy development could perpetuate existing geopolitical and geo-economic rivalries; suggesting that despite the promise of clean energy and sustainable income streams, the political neutrality of financial instruments can silence past injustices and local struggles related to energy production. Consequently, she emphasised the need to reflect on the messy and complex nature of energy production and the importance of addressing past injustices.

Dr. Siwage Dharma Negara discussed Indonesia’s energy transition programme and outlined the government’s plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase the share of renewable energy. Indonesia aimed to achieve a 29% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and net-zero carbon emissions by 2060 while increasing the share of renewable energy to 23% by 2025, 32% by 2030, and 69% by 2060. The government has implemented policies to support the energy transition, such as allowing foreign direct investment in renewable power generation and distribution up to 100% and offering more subsidies for renewable energy to fulfil local content requirements. The draft Renewable Energy Law will be the foundation for the programme for renewable energy under the Just Energy Transition Partnership.

However, he explained there were implementation challenges, such as the high initial investment costs of renewable energy infrastructure and the relatively low public perception of renewable energy. Addressing these challenges will require raising awareness about the benefits of renewable energy. Despite these challenges, Indonesia has abundant renewable energy sources and can partner with the private sector to invest in renewable energy infrastructure. With the right policies, investments, and public awareness, Indonesia can achieve its goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing the share of renewable energy in its energy mix.

The webinar closed with a Q&A session, which touched upon relevant issues related to just energy transition, renewable energy development, the need to or harmonise renewable energy laws with other laws, and the role of monopolies in developing renewable energy. The webinar drew an audience of over 60 participants.

A recording of the webinar is available here.