From Policy to Practice: How Thailand is Reducing GHG Emissions

To ensure a habitable planet, it is imperative for every country to reduce emissions. In this article, we examine the current state of emissions in Thailand, highlighting the government's initiatives and business strategies aimed at reducing the country's carbon footprint.

Scientific evidence indicates that to avoid the most severe impacts of climate change and maintain a habitable planet, global temperature rise must be capped at 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

Presently, the Earth’s temperature is already about 1.1°C higher than it was in the late 19th century, with emissions continuing to escalate. To achieve the 1.5°C target set by the Paris Agreement, global emissions must be slashed by 45% by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050.

Achieving net-zero emissions represents one of humanity’s most formidable challenges, necessitating a fundamental overhaul of our production, consumption and transportation systems.

The energy sector, responsible for approximately 75% of current greenhouse gas emissions, is pivotal in mitigating climate change. Transitioning from polluting fossil fuels like coal, gas and oil to renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power is crucial for significantly reducing carbon emissions (1).

In August 2023, Thailand established the Department of Climate Change and Environment to address the detrimental effects of climate change and uphold the nation’s climate commitments.

The country’s updated nationally determined contribution (NDC) set an unconditional goal of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 30% by 2030.

Additionally, there is a conditional target of a 40% reduction below ‘business-as-usual’ levels, contingent upon support from other countries and the The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The ultimate goal, however, is for Thailand to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 and net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2065.

Understanding Emissions

Emissions are categorised into scopes, defined by the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, to help organisations measure and manage their GHG emissions.

Scope 1 Emissions:

Scope 1 emissions are direct emissions from sources that are owned or controlled by an organisation. This includes emissions from activities such as burning fuel in company-owned vehicles (except electric vehicles) and other onsite combustion processes.

Scope 2 Emissions:

Scope 2 emissions are indirect emissions from the generation of purchased energy that an organisation consumes. These emissions occur at the facilities where the energy, such as electricity or steam, is produced, not at the location where it is used. For example, the emissions from the power plants that generate the electricity used in an organisation’s buildings are Scope 2 emissions.

Scope 3 Emissions

Scope 3 emissions are all other indirect emissions that occur in the value chain of the organisation, both upstream and downstream. These are not directly produced by the organisation nor the result of its direct energy consumption. Instead, they include emissions from activities such as the production and disposal of products used by the organisation, business travel and transportation of goods. Essentially, Scope 3 encompasses all sources not covered by Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions (2).

scope-123-emissions-infographic
Image source: nationalgrid

How Thailand Compares with the Rest of the World

The top five greenhouse gas emitters—China, the United States, India, the European Union, and Russia—are responsible for approximately 60% of global emissions.

The G20 nations, which include Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union, collectively account for around 76% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.

Thailand ranks 25th in the Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI), an improvement of 17 places from 2023 and among the countries with a medium level of performance. Despite this progress, The CCPI has stated that Thailand’s targets need more ambition (3).

Being more ambitious is positive, but the reality is more complicated. As a developing country, Thailand faces a huge challenge in meeting international emissions standards. The IMF suggests that public adaptation costs will reach around 0.25 percent of global gross domestic product per year in coming decades, which, while manageable at the global level, is not representative of the scale of the challenge faced by many developing countries (4).

The graph below shows  Thailand’s CO2 emissions produced from fossil fuels and industry from 1931-2022. This upward trend isn’t unusual. Emissions rise as a population and its economy grows, and the majority of countries display a similar curve when analysing historical data.

thailand cumulative emissions

 

The graph below shows that Thailand’s share of global emissions from fossil fuels and industry has fallen, as reflected by its movement in the CCPI chart.

thailand share global emissions

 

The graph below shows Thailand’s CO2 emissions by fuel/industry type, with oil and gas being the main contributors.

thailand emissions by fuel

Graph data source: Our World in Data

More than 60% of greenhouse gases come from the energy sector, according to Thailand’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory* for the year 2018, calculated from five sectors**, the energy sector accounted for 69.06%, agriculture sector 15.69%, industrial processes and product use sector 10.77%, and waste sector 4.88% of greenhouse gas emissions (5).

Voluntary Emission Reduction Programme (T-VER)

The Thailand Voluntary Emission Reduction Programme (T-VER), developed by the Greenhouse Gas Management Organisation (TGO), aims to reduce emissions across all sectors, with a strong focus on industry, transport and agriculture.

For industries and the transportation sector, the program encourages the adoption of various measures and technologies to significantly cut down greenhouse gas emissions. In agriculture, the focus is on the adoption of low-carbon technologies to both reduce emissions and enhance farming practices.

Forest restoration and preservation is another key objective. The program seeks to enhance efforts in restoring forests to sequester greenhouse gases and maintain biodiversity, thereby contributing to a more sustainable environment.

The generation of carbon credits is an important component of the strategy, as it enables organisations, individuals and event organisers to offset their emissions by generating carbon credits through various activities. This not only helps in reducing overall emissions but also promotes accountability and sustainable practices.

Carbon footprint labeling is also a major objective of T-VER, with over 10,000 items approved to date. These labels ensure that Thai products meet global standards for carbon footprint reduction, covering all aspects from material procurement to waste management.

Initiatives

Supporting emission reduction technologies is a significant initiative under T-VER. This includes promoting the adoption of carbon capture and storage technology. The program advocates for government support to facilitate the implementation of these costly technologies.

Skills development is another important aspect, focusing on training both the business and public sectors in greenhouse gas reduction techniques. Enhancing policy and operational networking at regional and global levels is also important for promoting knowledge exchange and building a cohesive approach to emission reduction.

Promoting green financing is essential to increase liquidity in the carbon market and support the development of green businesses. T-VER engages financial institutions and capital markets to develop green financial products like ESG funds and green bonds, which can help reduce the costs associated with adopting sustainable practices.

Challenges and Future Directions

TGO Chairman, Pongpanu Svetarundra, has highlighted several challenges, including the small and inefficient carbon market in Thailand. He emphasised the importance of carbon pricing to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 and net-zero emissions by 2065.

To address these challenges, TGO aims to enhance cross-border carbon trading and international cooperation, promote investment and research in low-carbon technologies and develop Thailand into a carbon trading hub (6).

Alternative Energy Development Plan (AEDP) & Energy Efficiency Plan (EEP)

In 2024, the Department of Alternative Energy Development and Efficiency (DEDE) announced two draft plans: the Alternative Energy Development Plan (AEDP) and the Energy Efficiency Plan (EEP).

Both in the public hearing phase at the time of writing, these plans will be part of the National Energy Plan (2024), which also includes the Power Development Plan (PDP), Gas Plan, and Oil Plan.

The new energy plan aims to increase electricity production from renewable sources—solar, wind and biomass—to over 50%. Although renewable energy is more expensive than fossil fuels, Thai industry must adopt it to comply with global trade regulations like the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM).

The Department of Alternative Energy Development and Efficiency (DEDE) is evaluating existing renewable energy projects, including hydropower and energy efficiency initiatives, to see if they can be enhanced to meet these requirements. CBAM’s transitional phase ends next year, requiring importers in six carbon-intensive sectors to report their emissions. Starting in 2026, they will pay a border carbon tax based on European Union Emissions Trading System prices.

Helping Thai Consumers

To facilitate access to renewable energy, the government is easing regulations and offering tax deductions for households installing solar panels. The Energy Ministry is also improving regulations and has appointed the Energy Regulatory Commission to provide a one-stop service for renewable energy advice.

Under the new Power Development Plan, the ministry aims to procure 77,407 megawatts (MW) of electricity to meet Thailand’s forecasted peak of 56,133 MW in 2037, while accounting for a drop in production capacity to 34,984 MW as existing power plants expire. This includes sourcing 47,251 MW of new electricity, with 34,851 MW coming from renewable sources and the rest from combined-cycle power plants, nuclear power plants, overseas procurement, and other sources.

The 2024 plan will increase the share of renewable energy in total electricity production to 51%, up from 36% under PDP 2018. The electricity price is expected to decrease from 3.94 THB per unit to 3.87 THB.

To reduce reliance on gas imports, the ministry plans to increase procurement of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the Gulf of Thailand and Myanmar to meet the country’s daily demand of around 4.8 billion cubic feet. The ministry is also considering additional infrastructure to support LNG import, storage and distribution to boost liquidity and support electricity production (7).

Business Sector Emissions Reduction Initiatives

Net zero by 2065 is a tall task, and given that industries and large-scale commercial activities are the primary and biggest emitter of carbon emissions, what is Thailand’s business sector doing to reduce its impact on the planet?

Let’s take a look at two of Thailand’s biggest companies: one the largest convenience store retailer, and the other one of the biggest energy providers.

CP ALL (7-Eleven)

CP ALL, part of the Charoen Pokphand Group, which operates convenience stores in Thailand under the 7-Eleven trademark, has established a Sustainability Development Subcommittee to oversee climate change management. The company has specialised teams focused on energy efficiency, conservation, solar energy installation and environmentally friendly packaging development.

Within the company’s strategy, efforts are centered on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from business operations to meet the goal of carbon neutrality by 2030 and achieving net zero emissions by 2050. This includes initiatives across all scopes, including enhancing energy efficiency, increasing renewable energy use, minimising single-use packaging and implementing environmentally friendly materials throughout the value chain.

From 2019 to the second quarter of 2021, CP ALL’s sustainability initiative reduced over 33,137 tonnes of plastic waste and 94,294 tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions—equivalent to planting 2,192,884 trees (8).

Cpall-emissions

CP ALL is also planting physical trees. Starting in 2020, 7-Eleven Thailand introduced the 7 Go Green strategy, aimed at increasing green spaces and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This initiative set a target to plant one million trees by the end of 2025. By the end of 2023, they had successfully planted 558,787 trees and are on target to far exceed their goal.

Alongside 7-Eleven, Appsynth helped develop an innovative strategy using the 7-Eleven mobile app that involves customers in supporting its community goals. Each time a customer declines a plastic bag they earn points, or “water droplets,” in the app to nurture virtual trees. Once enough “water droplets” are collected through five growth stages, the virtual tree fully matures and a real tree is planted in the community. CP All also employs local residents to plant the seedlings, creating jobs and enhancing green spaces nationwide.

The initiative is a poignant reminder of the deforestation that has occurred in Thailand over the past 100 years (9).

Trees are of huge importance to the environment because they are exceptional at capturing and storing carbon. Forests are essentially massive carbon sinks, absorbing atmospheric carbon and sequestering it for centuries through the process of photosynthesis.

Interestingly, Thailand’s Land-Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) sector absorbs more greenhouse gases than it emits.

Gulf Energy Development Public Company Limited

Gulf Energy Development, one of the leading energy producers in Thailand, has pledged to boost its renewable energy generating capacity to 40% of the total installed capacity by 2035. The company is also on course to meet its target of reducing Scope 1 greenhouse gas emissions intensity by 25% by 2030, compared to 2019 levels (10).

In May 2024, Gulf Energy disclosed its plans to bolster Thailand’s renewable energy sector through subsidiary Saengdee Clean Energy. The company has agreed a significant deal with the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT). The deal involves a 25-year Power Purchase Agreement for the development of solar farms with battery energy storage systems (BESS) projects. These projects boast a combined capacity of 59 megawatts, with a commercial operation date expected in 2026.

Gulf Energy Development’s portfolio already includes 25 solar power projects in Thailand, with a total contracted capacity of 1,353.1 megawatts. These projects feature traditional solar farms as well as those integrated with battery energy storage systems, and are anticipated to become operational between 2024 and 2029, significantly boosting Thailand’s renewable energy capacity.

The solar farms and BESS projects will benefit from a favorable Feed-in Tariff (FiT) rate, ensuring stable and predictable electricity pricing throughout the contract term. The goal is to use renewable energy to reduce fuel price volatility and lessen the electricity cost burden on both households and industrial sectors. (11).

Siam Commercial Bank (SCB)

The imperative for sustainable business practices encompasses all sectors, including finance. Siam Commercial Bank (SCB) is championing sustainability  by improving its internal operations and extending eco-friendly practices to its customers and partners.

In alignment with its Net Zero mission for internal operations by 2030, SCB is set to transition to using 100% recycled plastic bottles (rPET )for corporate activities, totaling over 1.3 million bottles annually.

This initiative positions SCB as the first bank in Thailand to utilise bottles made from recycled plastic resins that are certified for quality, safety and cleanliness by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of Thailand, the U.S. FDA and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

scb-bank-water-botle-sustainability

Collaborating with PTT Global Chemical Public Company Limited (GC), the bank will collect plastic bottles to recycle into new packaging bottles. This initiative aims to repurpose plastic waste, aligning with circular economy principles (12).

SCB is part of the SCBX Group, which has devised both short- and long-term plans under the pillars of ‘Growing Economic Resilience’ and ‘Achieving Climate Neutrality’ to meet its commitment to reduce operational GHG emissions by 50% by 2027 and achieve operational net zero by 2030.

In 2023, SCBX Group provided over 84 billion Baht in sustainable financial solutions to help clients transition to a low-carbon economy.  The company reduced greenhouse gas emissions from their operations by 7% through initiatives such as procuring renewable electricity, transitioning to electric vehicles and installing solar panels (13).

In Summary

By global standards, Thailand is considered a moderate emission polluter. However, as we have discussed the country is making notable progress, driven by strong government vision and strategic initiatives, alongside significant efforts from major businesses.

While developing nations often face criticism for not meeting international climate standards, it is essential to consider the broader context. This includes the prohibitive costs of green technology, the funding required to educate businesses and the challenge of raising public awareness.

Share the Article:

We use cookies and similar technologies to understand how you interact with our website and improve your browsing experience. By using this website, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn more.