Expressing concern about climate change is one thing. Doing something about it is much more challenging and Thailand is rising to the challenge.
As the 2019 Chairman of ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Thailand is rallying support for a raft of initiatives to promote better stewardship of our planet and its resources. That commitment starts with the approach to organising ASEAN meetings.
Thailand will host over 250 meetings among the ten ASEAN Member States and its Dialogue Partners. In driving “Advancing Partnership for Sustainability”- the theme for Thailand’s Chairmanship of ASEAN – Thailand will apply sustainable practices wherever and whenever possible.
In selecting appropriate meeting venue, the host has chosen venues rated high for sustainable practices by the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau. It also means eliminating single-use plastics, promoting the use of recycled materials, piloting new bio-materials, and taking measures to reduce carbon footprints.
“We won’t accept plastic bottles for water, only glass,’’ Tharit Charungvat of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs says. Tharit, a former ambassador, heads the ASEAN Task Force overseeing the organisation of the seven most important ASEAN meetings, including last week’s 34th ASEAN Summit, and is determined to set new standards for sustainability. The task force also provides advice to other ministries on how to make their meetings green.
Observing last week’s Summit, the meeting venue exhibited an array of items designed for “Green Meeting.” All the meeting, secretariat and delegate rooms as well as media centre were equipped with waste segregation bins, recycle bins, badge returning boxes where lanyards will be recycled for the upcoming meetings, and pull rings collection boxes for prostheses production. Notebooks and chairs in the Press Conference are made from recycled papers. Delegates’ souvenirs are made from recycled plastic waste combined with Thai silk and the media handbook is only available in electronic format to reduce the use of paper.
While in some cases it is unavoidable to use materials that are not environmentally friendly, the ministry is striving to reduce their use as much as possible. Mirroring a trend in Thai business and society, the task force is applying the 3Rs concept of the “circular economy” to their approach: reduce, recycle, and reuse.
To achieve its goals, the ministry has garnered private-sector support. PTT Global Chemical is providing utensils made from biodegradable plastics as well as using recycled plastics to weave fabrics for abovementioned delegates’ bags.
Most paper products at the meetings, such as notebooks, are made from recycled paper courtesy of SCG, Thailand’s building materials conglomerate. SCG has also made many of the chairs, podiums, and other furniture from recycled paper that will be donated to schools when the meetings conclude.
To reduce the plastic debris even further, MQDC, a research-oriented global property developer, transforms vinyl signboards, unavoidably used in some conferences, into fashionable shopping bags.
Tech developers have helped design downloadable applications to deliver all documents, presentations, and materials to attendees through online channels instead of the printed page.
And the efforts don’t end with the Summit itself. Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB) will monitor and evaluate the results, and provide recommendations for improvement on how future conferences can be hosted in Thailand. They can also be used as benchmarks to measure progress.
Bringing the public on board is also essential. Retail giant Central Group is publicising ASEAN’s steps towards sustainability to consumers. The Government Savings Bank is developing media to teach children in remote schools how they can adopt sustainable practices in their communities.
As Chair of ASEAN in 2019, Thailand is committed to forging a true spirit of partnership to create a sustainable world.