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Indonesia's coal burden, and talking typhoons in the Philippines at a time of climate crisis
Indonesia knows coal, and the Philippines knows typhoons – this issue of our newsletter features stories about these topics.
Indonesia is among the world’s biggest exporters of coal, the largest exporter of thermal coal, and relies on the fossil fuel for over 60% of its electricity. But it also has very ambitious targets for phasing out coal, a core part of its target for reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2060.
Meantime, communities like the one in Rusunawa Marunda housing complex in North Jakarta are bearing the burden of coal - breathing air polluted with coal dust.
Our story about this highlights the balancing act that Indonesia’s energy transition is, against the backdrop of competing factors that play a role in it.
Over in the Philippines, it’s typhoon season.
Tropical cyclones are something that Filipinos are used to - indeed, the Philippines’ weather agency says more tropical cyclones enter the Philippine Area of Responsibility “than anywhere else in the world”. (Its typhoon names follow the English alphabet, and on 1 Sep, ‘Hanna’ - the eighth typhoon in 2023 - was reported by the weather bureau.)
In a podcast with FlipScience, we ask two scientists from the University of the Philippines if typhoon behaviour has been changing. Are there more, or more intense ones at a time of the climate crisis and extreme weather events around us? How can Filipinos live smarter with typhoons, discuss them with more science and less panic?
To round off our notes in the previous newsletter issue, August indeed brought in – coincidentally on the same day of 22 August – two new (or same same but not so different?) governments in Cambodia and Thailand. And yes, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra did return to Thailand as people continue to talk of a backroom deal behind the events of recent weeks.
After Cambodia’s Hun Sen stepped down, the National Assembly elected his son, Gen. Hun Manet, as prime minister on 22 August, on the heels of the July national vote. (For quite interesting information on new ministers, including those who are children or kin of previous officials, check out this piece in Kamnotra.)
On 22 August too, the same day Thaksin arrived in Bangkok on a private jet (he later heard his eight-year sentence for corruption in court and was moved to prison hospital), a joint sitting of Parliament voted for Thailand’s new prime minister, real estate tycoon Srettha Thavisin. He is from the Pheu Thai party (backed by Thaksin), getting the post after the party cobbled together a coalition with pro-military parties and dumped the Move Forward party. (Update: On 1 Sep afternoon, news broke that days after Thaksin’s appeal for pardon, filed a few days ago, his sentence has been commuted to one year by the King of Thailand.)
The PM vote took place more than three months after the May 14 national election, one where the party that won the most votes – Move Forward – ended up being the loser and is now the political opposition.
Editor/founder - Reporting Asean
1 S is for Sustainability
BY JOAN AURELIA RUMENGAN
To Jeani, it feels like all she did in 2022 was clean her home. The mother of four was changing her clothes and her family’s bedsheets two or more times a day. She washed dishes repeatedly, rinsed them multiple times. As for cooking, she did that as fast as possible to prevent the dust in her home from going into the food.
Jeani was not obsessing about cleanliness. She was trying to cope with the persistent coal dust that was coating her home, and that of her neighbours in a public housing complex in Marunda, North Jakarta. (Visual by Nadya Noor)
Full data viz in the story here | Coal in Indonesia and Southeast Asia (9 slides)
By MIKAEL ANGELO FRANCISCO
In the World Risk Index 2022, the Philippines has the “highest disaster risk” in the world, ahead of India and Indonesia. It ranks fourth globally in long-term climate risk (2000 to 2019), going by the 2021 Climate Risk Index.
At a time when we’re seeing extreme weather around the world and watching out for El Niño, Filipinos wonder if the changing climate may be exacerbating the already devastating effects of these weather phenomena. Listen to our podcast, or read the interview.
Click here to see full data viz in story | The Philippines and typhoons (11 slides)
Reporting Asean’s sustainability series is with the support of the Heinrich Boell Foundation Southeast Asia.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Manet brings in with him a fleet of ministers — many the children of previous cabinet members. This graphic presents the outgoing and new council of ministers and the familial relationships that bind many of the ministers.
It’s become the worst-kept secret in Jakarta that Indonesian President Joko Widodo increasingly sees advantage in having his defence minister, Prabowo Subianto, succeed him in 2024. - Liam Gammon in Channel NewsAsia, East Asia Forum
8 August is ASEAN Day, but not much centrality to discuss.
With ASEAN out of the picture and the entire future of the bloc in jeopardy because of its inability to handle the Myanmar crisis, China is securing its place as the dominant power not only in Myanmar but in Southeast Asia as a whole. When the West wakes up to that fact, possibly after the war in Ukraine is over, it may be too late. And it will be more difficult than ever to fulfill the dream of a democratic, federal Myanmar. - Bertil Lintner
The alignment of the original ASEAN-5 can bring a lot of diplomatic heft to the table. This is the way to reboot and recover ASEAN momentum. - Thitinan Pongsudhirak