The Worsening Transboundary Haze Problem in Southeast Asia: A Result of El Nino and Climate Change

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The Threat of Transboundary Haze in Southeast Asia

Introduction

A Growing Concern: Haze and Climate Change

Peatlands and Climate Change

A Persistent Problem: Transboundary Haze

Challenges in Addressing the Haze Issue

The Role of Peatlands

The Need for Sustainable Palm Oil

Efforts Towards Accountability and Sustainability

More Work to Be Done

The Threat of Transboundary Haze in Southeast Asia

Introduction

With El Nino in full force, officials are bracing for the worst transboundary haze in southern Southeast Asia since before the pandemic in 2019. This article explores the concerns surrounding climate change and its impact on the haze situation in the region.

A Growing Concern: Haze and Climate Change

As climate change poses an existential threat to human beings, the fear is that seasonal haze situations will worsen due to intensifying global warming. Southeast Asia, home to about 40% of the world’s total peatlands, is facing the consequences of fires and toxic haze, which are turning out to be a serious driver of climate change.

Peatlands and Climate Change

The presence of peatlands in Southeast Asia further complicates the transboundary haze problem. These peatlands, when dried out for the sake of plantations, become highly susceptible to fires. The release of greenhouse gases during these fires accelerates global warming, exacerbating the haze issue.

A Persistent Problem: Transboundary Haze

For half a century, Southeast Asia has been troubled by the recurring issue of transboundary haze during dry seasons. This haze has caused respiratory and health problems, fatalities, and economic losses in the region. However, the haze is often seen as a separate issue from climate change, hindering effective action.

Challenges in Addressing the Haze Issue

Despite agreements and commitments made by Southeast Asian nations, the haze problem persists. Lack of enforcement mechanisms and bickering among affected countries have hindered progress. Denials and disputes over the origin of the haze have only added to the complexity of finding a solution.

The Role of Peatlands

Peatlands are essential in the fight against climate change. These carbon-rich environments serve as natural carbon sinks, storing nearly 550 billion tons of carbon. By conserving and restoring peatlands globally, emissions can be reduced, and an important ecosystem can be revived.

The Need for Sustainable Palm Oil

Addressing the root issues of peatland fires in Indonesia is crucial. However, as the world’s largest palm oil producer, this poses challenges. Sustainable palm oil practices and the market’s demand for accountability have pushed big companies towards more responsible practices. Efforts to develop a legal framework to hold companies accountable and promote sustainable palm oil are underway.

Efforts Towards Accountability and Sustainability

Several large global consumer companies have committed to using only sustainable palm oil, certified by organizations such as the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. Indonesia has also developed its own Sustainable Palm Oil Platform, bringing stakeholders together to address challenges in the development of sustainable palm oil.

More Work to Be Done

While progress has been made, there is still much work to be done to combat the transboundary haze issue. Governments need to acknowledge the connection between climate change and the haze problem and make decisions accordingly. Only through collaboration and a unified approach can societies tackle these intertwined challenges and secure a better future.

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