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Climate And Environmental Governance: Stopping fires and transboundary haze in Southeast Asia



Large-scale land and forest fires regularly impact 30 million to 50 million hectares of land in Southeast Asia. These fires can generate smoke clouds covering hundreds of millions of hectares for months at a time, resulting in transboundary smoke haze that has severely impacted parts of all 10 ASEAN member states (AMS). As a result, over the past 25 years, the ASEAN region has experienced economic losses of hundreds of billions of US dollars together with immense social cost and environmental impacts. Furthermore, fires and the associated ecosystem degradation in Asean are one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the land-use sector globally. The degradation is also linked to severe loss of biodiversity and critical ecosystems in the region.


The main drivers of land degradation, fires and GHG emissions vary among the subregions of Asean. In southern Asean, large-scale drainage of peatlands for tree crop and palm oil production as well as timber extraction have caused more than 15 million hectares of peatland to become vulnerable, with more than five million hectares repeatedly burnt over the last 20 years. Additionally, up to 90% of the transboundary smoke haze in southern Asean is thought to come from peatland fires. In northern Asean, fires and emissions are driven by land clearing for cultivating rice, sugar cane, and maize crops as well as burning of related agriculture residuals (waste).


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