BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – The ASEAN Centre for Climate Change is slated to launch in Brunei sometime in September, pending approval from other countries in the regional bloc, said the head of Brunei Climate Change Secretariat.

Ahmad Zaiemaddien Pehin Dato Hj Halbi said the centre — a Brunei initiative as part of its 2021 ASEAN chairmanship — will enable the sultanate to become a regional knowledge and research hub on climate change.

Discussions are ongoing with other ASEAN countries to develop the modalities and structure of the organisation, he told The Scoop on the sidelines of the Climate Action Week at the Brunei Mid-Year Conference and Exhibition on Wednesday.

An agreement on the establishment of the centre is being drafted and options on the location of the centre are being studied, he added.

The ASEAN Centre for Climate Change is expected to become a hub for research, scientific data, and capacity building.

“At the moment within ASEAN, we are working independently in developing our nationally determined contributions and we are building our own mitigation and adaptation plans.

“When we put our data together and work holistically as one ASEAN, this centre can bring all that together and export the knowledge and research, not just in ASEAN but [also] outside of ASEAN,” he continued.

Head of Brunei Climate Change Secretariat Ahmad Zaiemaddien Pehin Dato Hj Halbi delivers his presentation as part of the Climate Action Week at the Brunei Mid-Year Conference and Exhibition. Photo: Rasidah Hj Abu Bakar

However, he noted that the different priorities of each member country may pose challenges.

“We know climate change is important for everyone, but each country has their own national priorities. So the direction and speed may be different for each ASEAN member state.

“Climate change is still quite niche, so for example if we want climate change researchers, it’s very difficult to say what specific niche skills you are looking for in that individual. This ASEAN centre hopefully can [develop] more researchers who have the right skills and capabilities,” he added.

It is hoped that the centre will serve the role of a think tank and issue research publications that could potentially shape climate change policies in ASEAN.

“One of the things that we are proposing this year is to conduct an analysis on the impact of COP26 pledges made by ASEAN member states.

“[Since] it will be an ASEAN centre, it will benefit not just Brunei, but every member of ASEAN, regardless of the advancement of their economy or technology,” he added.

Southeast Asia is one of the regions susceptible to climate change, with a study stating that ASEAN is at risk of losing over 35 percent of its GDP by 2050 from climate change and natural disasters.

Ahmad Zaiemaddien said they want the centre to start operations by September, provided that they have secured a location.

“One option is it will still be remote and virtual until a structure has been built. The other would be renting a facility [or] maybe can we have our own brick and mortar,”  he said.

He added that New Zealand has pledged a NZ$500,000 donation towards the centre.