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Ambition gap

What is Thailandʼs pathway to limit global warming to 1.5°C?

1.5°C compatible pathways

Thailand resubmitted its 2015 NDC target in October 2020. It has an unconditional target of reducing GHG emissions by 20% below business-as-usual (BAU) levels by 2030. With international support, this target is increased from 20% to 25%.1 The target excludes its LULUCF sink.

The NDC is equivalent to 444 MtCO₂e/yr (unconditional), and 416 MtCO₂e/yr (conditional), equating to 2-8% below 2015 emission levels when excluding LULUCF.2 A 1.5°C compatible pathway would require domestic GHG emissions to peak immediately, and reach 222 MtCO₂e/yr by 2030, or a 42-55% reduction below 2015 levels, excluding LULUCF. Currently, BAU levels would see emissions of 555 MtCO₂e/yr by 2030.1

Under the Paris Agreement, international support, including finance, technology transfer and capacity building will be needed for Thailand to close the emissions gap between its fair share and its domestic emissions pathway.

Long term pathway

Thailand released its Long-term Low Emissions Development Strategy (LT-LEDS) in October 2021. The strategy sets out its ambition to move towards net zero as soon as possible within the second half of the century, and carbon neutrality by 2065.3

A 1.5°C compatible pathway would require Thailand to reduce its GHG emissions by 81-86% by 2050 below 2015 levels when excluding LULUCF, or 66-85 MtCO₂e/yr by 2050.27 On the road to net zero, the country will need to balance its remaining GHG emissions through the use of carbon dioxide removal approaches such as land sinks.

Emissions remain in all sectors by 2050, with the exception of one scenario where the industrial process and energy sectors have negative emissions in the 2050s due to carbon dioxide removal (CDR) technology (BECCS – bioenergy and carbon capture and storage and CCS – carbon capture and storage).

Decarbonising the energy sector will drive down emission levels, as it accounts for 75% of total GHG emissions (mainly CO₂).

1 Government of the Kingdom of Thailand. Thailand’s Updated First Nationally Determined Contribution. (2020).

2 Climate Action Tracker. Thailand. Climate Action Tracker. (2021).

3 Thailand Government. Mid-century, Long-term Low Greenhouse Gas Emission Development Strategy Thailand. (2021).

4 Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. Thailand Third Biennial Update Report. (2020).

5 International Energy Agency. Thailand – Countries & Regions – IEA. (2021).

6 Ministry of Energy. Power Development Plan Revision 1.(2018).

7 The Diplomat. Thailand’s Renewable Energy Transitions: A Pathway to Realize Thailand 4.0. (2019).

8 IEA. Thailand. International Energy Agency. (2021).

9 Kahintapongs, S. Renewable Energy Policy Development in Thailand. Int. J. Multidiscip. Manag. Tour. 4, 148–155 (2020).

10 Luangchosiri, N., Ogawa, T., Okumura, H. & Ishihara, K. N. Success Factors for the Implementation of Community Renewable Energy in Thailand. Energies 2021, Vol. 14, Page 4203 14, 4203 (2021).

11 Campbell, I. & Barlow, C. Hydropower Development and the Loss of Fisheries in the Mekong River Basin. Front. Environ. Sci. 8, 200 (2020).

12 Ministry of Energy. Alternative Energy Development Plan (AEDP) 2018. (2018).

13 IEA. Putting a price on carbon – an efficient way for Thailand to meet its bold emission target. International Energy Agency. (2020).

14 APERC. Compendium Of Energy Efficiency Policies in APEC Economies: Thailand. (2017).

15 Nama Facility. Thailand – Thai Rice NAMA. Nama Facility.

16 Electrive. Thailand to only allow BEV sales from 2035 – electrive.com. Electrive. (2021).

17 Wongsapai, W. Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Target. (2017).

18 EPPO. Energy Conservation Promotion Act. (2007).

19 Greenpeace. Southeast Asia Power Sector Scorecard. (2020).

20 Climate Action Tracker. Thailand. Climate Action Tracker. (2021).

21 EGAT. EGAT Overview. (2020).

22 EGAT. Why does EGAT plan to build more coal-fired power plants when other Asian countries like China and India suspend new ones? Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (2020).

23 Kusumadewi, T. V., Winyuchakrit, P., Misila, P. & Limmeechokchai, B. GHG Mitigation in Power Sector: Analyzes of Renewable Energy Potential for Thailand’s NDC Roadmap in 2030. Energy Procedia 138, 69–74 (2017).

24 Smuthkalin, C., Murayama, T. & Nishikizawa, S. Evaluation of The Wind Energy Potential of Thailand considering its Environmental and Social Impacts using Geographic Information Systems. Int. J. Renew. Energy Res. 8, 575–584 (2018).

25 Manomaiphiboon, K. et al. Wind energy potential analysis for Thailand: Uncertainty from wind maps and sensitivity to turbine technology. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15435075.2017.1305963 14, 528–539 (2017).

26 Kompor, W., Ekkawatpanit, C. & Kositgittiwong, D. Assessment of ocean wave energy resource potential in Thailand. Ocean Coast. Manag. 160, 64–74 (2018).

27 While global cost-effective pathways assessed by the IPCC Special Report 1.5°C provide useful guidance for an upper-limit of emissions trajectories for developed countries, they underestimate the feasible space for such countries to reach net zero earlier. The current generation of models tend to depend strongly on land-use sinks outside of currently developed countries and include fossil fuel use well beyond the time at which these could be phased out, compared to what is understood from bottom-up approaches. The scientific teams which provide these global pathways constantly improve the technologies represented in their models – and novel CDR technologies are now being included in new studies focused on deep mitigation scenarios meeting the Paris Agreement. A wide assessment database of these new scenarios is not yet available; thus, we rely on available scenarios which focus particularly on BECCS as a net-negative emission technology. Accordingly, we do not yet consider land-sector emissions (LULUCF) and other CDR approaches.

28 Assuming LULUCF levels of -91 MtCO₂e as reported for 2016 in Thailand’s Biennial Report 3.

29 Liberalisation of Thailand’s power sector will help it achieve the planned 50% total production capacity. Ideally, efforts that introduce enabling regulations and unbundle utilities, further supported by a competitive wholesale and retail market, could be an important trigger for much-needed investment that allows the country to adopt renewable energy technologies more rapidly and comprehensively. See article for further discussion.

Methodology

Thailandʼs total GHG emissions

excl. LULUCF MtCO₂e/yr

Displayed values
Reference year
−100%−50%0%50%19902010203020502070
Reference year
2015
1.5°C emissions level
−49%
NDC (conditional)
+22%
NDC (unconditional)
+30%
Ambition gap
−71%
  • 1.5°C compatible pathways
  • Middle of the 1.5°C compatible range
  • Current policy projections
  • 1.5°C emissions range
  • Historical emissions
2030 emissions levels
Current policy projections
NDC (conditional)
1.5°C emissions level
Ref. year 2015
341MtCO₂e/yr

Energy system transformation

A transformation of the energy system is required to reduce Thailand’s emissions. Ramping up renewable energy in the power sector, coupled with the electrification of industry and transport would set Thailand on a path towards decarbonisation. In 2018, energy consumption was mainly from the transport (39%), industry (36%) and buildings (21%) sectors.4 Thailand needs to transition its economy away from fossil fuels.

Thailand has implemented several policies in the transport sector to reduce emissions, including an electric vehicle roadmap and a goal for 100% of new vehicles sales to be EVs by 2035.16 In addition, to promote EVs and more fuel-efficient vehicles, Thailand has a manufacture tax on new vehicles based on CO₂ emissions intensity, and is supportive of battery manufacturing and supplies. The Transport Infrastructure Development Strategy (2015-2022) supports rail, public transport and water transport development, and is complimentary to the Transit-Orientated Development Policy aimed at growing the rail system.2

There are several policies covering the industry sector. The Energy Efficiency Plan (2015-2036) has a target to achieve a 30% energy intensity reduction by 2036.17 The Energy Conservation Promotion Act stipulates energy audits are required in “designated” factories and buildings.18 The Thailand 4.0 initiative intends to develop 10 key industries including low carbon automotive, smart electronics, and biofuels but does not set clear target or a timeline.2

Thailand has a Voluntary Emission Reduction Programme with 191 projects registered in 2020 from the industrial sector, aiming to reduce 5.28 MtCO₂e per year. The programme was launched in 2015 and has undergone a pilot trial and set a framework for an emissions trading scheme, and in further supported by corporate tax exemptions for participants.13

Thailand’s move from coal to natural gas in its Power Development Plan lowers emissions but still locks in fossil fuels over seeking full decarbonisation with high renewable shares.

Methodology

Thailandʼs primary energy mix

petajoule per year

Scaling
SSP1 Low CDR reliance
20192030204020504 0006 0008 000
SSP1 High CDR reliance
20192030204020504 0006 0008 000
Low Energy Demand
20192030204020504 0006 0008 000
High Energy Demand - Low CDR reliance
20192030204020504 0006 0008 000
  • Negative emissions technologies via BECCS
  • Unabated fossil
  • Renewables incl. Biomass
  • Nuclear and/or fossil with CCS

Thailandʼs total CO₂ emissions

excl. LULUCF MtCO₂/yr

−100010020030019902010203020502070
  • 1.5°C compatible pathways
  • 1.5°C emissions range
  • Middle of the 1.5°C compatible range
  • Historical emissions

1.5°C compatible emissions benchmarks

Key emissions benchmarks of Paris compatible Pathways for Thailand. The 1.5°C compatible range is based on the Paris Agreement compatible pathways from the IPCC SR1.5 filtered with sustainability criteria. The median (50th percentile) to 5th percentile and middle of the range are provided here. Relative reductions are provided based on the reference year.

Reference year
Indicator
2015
Reference year
2019
2030
2040
2050
Year of net zero GHG
incl. BECCS excl. LULUCF and novel CDR
Total GHG
Megatonnes CO₂ equivalent per year
341
370
175
155 to 215
99
87 to 107
67
58 to 75
2068
Relative to reference year in %
−49%
−55 to −37%
−71%
−75 to −69%
−80%
−83 to −78%
Total CO₂
MtCO₂/yr
240
258
118
103 to 142
58
20 to 67
13
4 to 31
2061
2052
Relative to reference year in %
−51%
−57 to −41%
−76%
−92 to −72%
−95%
−99 to −87%

Footnotes