President U Thein Sein has warned Southeast Asian leaders gathered in Nay Pyi Taw of the growing threat posed by climate change during his opening remarks at the ASEAN Summit and urged the regional bloc to take increased measures to address the issue.
“The science of climate change is complex. But we all are aware that it is really happening and approaching with a faster speed than we may have expected,” he said on May 11.
U Thein Sein made no direct reference to the current disputes in the South China Sea that were the focus of the first day of the Summit and looked to remain so.
U Thein Sein laid out a three-point framework that he said could stem the impact of climate change on the region. The plan begins by bolstering the ASEAN Humanitarian Assistance Centre (AHA), which he described as unable to adequately respond to natural disasters in its current form.
The AHA headquarters in Jakarta opened in 2012 but it has relatively little capacity despite being in a region increasingly prone to natural disasters.
U Thein Sein also called for the establishment of a network of research centres to study crops that would be more resilient to climate change and in turn promote regional food security. He also identified the rehabilitation of mangrove forests to protect coastline areas from storm surges as another priority.
The Asian Development Bank has identified Southeast Asia as a region that is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change due to a number of factors, including its high population concentrations and level of agricultural activity.
“Climate change is already affecting the region, as shown by the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as heat waves, droughts, floods and tropical cyclones in recent decades,” the group said in a 2009 study assessing the impacts of climate change
in Southeast Asia.
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