The United Kingdom, which will be presiding the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow this year, is keen on leveraging the sultanate’s current chairmanship of ASEAN, in an effort to further mobilise ASEAN member states in the drive towards climate action. 

This was said by the British High Commissioner to Brunei Darussalam, John Virgoe during a press interview with Head of the British government’s Southeast Asia COP26 Strategy, Dr. Isabelle de Lovinfosse that was held recently. 

As the Head of Southeast Asia COP26 Strategy, Dr. Lovinfosse was in the sultanate to establish dialogues with the country’s public and private sector, including ministers and heads of industry, to discuss the country’s climate action plans as well as its role as the ASEAN Chair. 

“Our conversations have been about how we work with Brunei’s national climate change plans and also how we work with Brunei as ASEAN Chair, to encourage ambition around the ASEAN group,” he told the media. 

Image: Fazizul Haqimie

“Our job is to be an impartial presidency, to help all countries come together, so we have been listening very hard to what Brunei and what ASEAN wants through the COP26 (particularly) what Brunei’s concerns, interests and priorities are,” Virgoe added. 

“Hopefully, we can feed those to the negotiations that will be taking place in Glasgow,” the UK envoy continued, noting that the UK is keen on contributing to the sultanate’s efforts in declaring 2021 as Brunei’s year of climate action. 

According to Dr. Lovenfosse, they have identified a number of areas of collaboration and among them are youth engagement, energy, nature as well as capacity building across the region, one of which was a sustainable finance workshop with Brunei’s central bank, the Autoriti Monetari Brunei Darussalam (AMBD). 

“So we are working with Brunei as ASEAN Chair, the ASEAN Secretariat and other ASEAN centres that are working on energy and biodiversity (and) I can reassure you we have identified really concrete areas of collaboration,” she said. 

Touching on the sultanate’s national climate action plan, Dr. Lovenfosse commended Brunei’s political commitment towards tackling climate change, noting that the whole-of-nation approach taken by the Brunei Climate Change Secretariat (BCCS) and the Brunei Darussalam National Council on Climate Change (BDNCC) is “the best practice approach”. 

Image: Fazizul Haqimie

“The political will seems to be there. We talked to industry leaders (as well) and similarly, they recognise that there are commercial opportunities (in lowering carbon emissions and new green industries),” she added. 

Despite applauding Brunei for being on the right track in addressing the global climate change issue with the Brunei Darussalam National Climate Change Policy (BDNCCP) that was introduced in July 2020 and submitting their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) last December, she noted that a pressing challenge for the sultanate will be controlling industrial emissions, especially with recent industrial investments staying within the fossil fuel sector. 

“I believe that priority should be protecting the forest, it’s a win-win situation for a lot of policy areas, for Brunei reputationally and for quality of life. We need to protect the forest even if there could be economic pressure,” she went on to say. 

“On the other side, (Brunei should be) thinking of transitioning some of the industrial investments into lower carbon ones and phasing out oil as well and replacing it with lower emission fuels and solar,” added Dr. Lovenfosse. 

Under the BDNCCP, the Brunei government has committed to ten key strategies with 2035 as a general target year, including reducing overall emissions in the industrial sector through zero routine flaring, increasing the total share of renewable energy to 30 per cent of total capacity in the power generation mix, amongst others. 

Image: Fazizul Haqimie

Meanwhile, within the sultanate’s NDC, Brunei Darussalam is committed to a reduction in GHG emissions by 20% relative to Business-As-Usual levels by 2030.

“All of this is very difficult, it is difficult for every country and every country has its own challenges in making changes,” said British envoy, Virgoe.

“I think what Brunei has been doing well is it has set itself target and identified changes that need to be made incrementally, so we are committed to helping Brunei along that path as well,” he added. 

This article was first published on February 13, 2021 in our Weekly E-Paper issue 128

The Bruneian | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

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