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Climate crisis could force Thailand to move capital Bangkok

Climate crisis could force Thailand to move capital Bangkok

Thailand may need to consider relocating its capital, Bangkok, due to rising sea levels, a senior official from the country’s climate change office told AFP on Wednesday (May 15).

Projections consistently indicate that low-lying Bangkok is at risk of being submerged by the ocean before the century’s end. The bustling capital already faces significant flooding during the rainy season.

Pavich Kesavawong, deputy director-general of the Department of Climate Change and Environment, warned that Bangkok might not adapt to the current global warming trajectory. “I think we are beyond the 1.5 (degrees Celsius) already,” he said, referring to the increase in global temperatures from pre-industrial levels. “Now we have to come back and think about adaptation. I imagine Bangkok will be underwater already if we stay in our current circumstances.”

Bangkok’s city government is exploring measures such as building dikes similar to those used in the Netherlands. However, Pavich mentioned that the idea of relocating the capital is also being considered, though discussions are still hypothetical and complex. “Personally, I think it’s a good choice, so we can separate the capital, the government areas, and business areas,” he said. “Bangkok would still be the government capital, but move the business.”

Indonesia is set to inaugurate its new capital, Nusantara, replacing the sinking and polluted Jakarta as the country’s political center. The move, estimated to cost between $32 billion and $35 billion, has been controversial and expensive.

Thailand is experiencing climate change impacts across various sectors, from farmers struggling with heat and drought to tourism businesses affected by coral bleaching and pollution. Several national parks have been closed due to recent coral bleaching, and further closures are possible. “We have to save our nature, so we will take any measure to protect our resources,” Pavich said.

However, efforts to tackle air pollution, particularly in Thailand’s north, have yet to yield significant results. The Cabinet approved a clean air bill this year, and national parks officials have intensified efforts to prevent and extinguish fires in protected areas. The agricultural sector, which contributes to seasonal haze through post-harvest burning, remains a challenge. Pavich noted that improvement in this area is unlikely for several years.

More immediately, his department is pushing for Thailand’s first climate change legislation, which has been in development since at least 2019 but was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation, which includes provisions on carbon pricing, mitigation, and adaptation measures, is expected to become law this year. Thailand aims to be carbon neutral by 2050 and achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2065.

photo credit Representational image of man standing on top of a skyscraper view of the Bangkok city skyline. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

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