Senior Fellow | Nord University

The ASEAN Climate and Energy Paradox

This article deals with the unique paradox of ASEAN countries: On the one hand, they are extremely vulnerable to climate change, probably more than anyone else in terms of regions, but on the other hand, their efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change have been very limited.

Research informing summary:
Journal article: The ASEAN Climate and Energy Paradox (2021)
Peer Reviewed


This research used a qualitative approach and multisectoral qualitative analysis method.

We approached this article from the point of view of multi-sectoral qualitative analysis on one hand, and policy integration on the other. We've taken a look at all 10 ASEAN countries and looked at their characteristics based on multiple sectors, in terms of how they develop on their own but also how they relate to other policy areas. As for policy integration, we looked at to what extent environmental climate policies are combined with energy policies.

The main limitation of this study is the lack of availability of high quality, reliable data in ASEAN countries (to the exception of Singapore for instance). Our analysis is not speculative, but it would have benefited from better data and more concrete numbers.



This research was independently conducted and did not receive funding from outside of the university.

Key points

  • The main takeaway from this research is that the ASEAN countries are missing enormous opportunities to adapt and mitigate climate change, and should start viewing energy transition as an opportunity and not a burden on short term economic growth.

The purpose of this article was to look at ASEAN countries (we looked at all of them and then highlighted 6 of them more psecifically) and show concrete cases where one can find this paradox. We also wanted to explain the paradox and propose solutions to it, in order to help the mitigation and adaptation efforts to climate change of the region.


  • Since 2006, the rate of investments in renewable energies and climate change policies in ASEAN countries has largely remained the same, to the exception of Vietnam, which is now seen as a success story in the region.

What it means

Our first finding is that ASEAN countries see energy transition as a zero sum game, in the sense, for instance, that they view their efforts to cut fossil fuels as detrimental to their economic growth in the short term, and are therefore reluctant to operate the transition. We advocate precisely the opposite of that, and argue that ASEAN countries should view energy transition as an opportunity to ensure sustainable growth in the short and long-term. Energy transition and investments in renewable energies can be an even more important source of financial support and investment than keeping fossil fuels in their energy mix.

Another finding is that currently, governments of ASEAN countries subsidise fossil fuels and cover most of the cost (50 to 70%) for the consumers. This scheme keeps prices affordable, but it is quite unsustainable because it makes it much harder to phase out fossil fuels. ASEAN countries should make concrete pledges and put in the effort to attract investments and international aid, so that they can phase out fossil fuels and mitigate and adapt to climate change.

How to use

  • ASEAN countries currently view energy transition as a zero-sum game, as a burden on short-term economic growth: They should start viewing it a an opportunity, because it can help achieve sustainable long-term economic growth but can also have tremendous benefits in the short term, in terms of financing and aid.
  • ASEAN countries should start making concrete environmental pledges and put effort into attracting investments and development aid, so that they can implement policies to adapt to and mitigate climate change
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Vakulchuk, Roman. 'The ASEAN Climate and Energy Paradox'. Acume.