Thailand has plenty of sunshine. Source: Wikimedia
There are signs that the Thai economy is moving away from its dependency on fossil fuels but while the country is still modernising fast, sustainable development remains a distant hope.
In the decade until 2010, the use of fossils fuels grew by almost 70 per cent, the United Nations reported.
Petroleum, natural gas and coal, the biggest CO2 producers, supplied 76 per cent of the country’s energy needs, government figures suggest.
But alternative and renewable sources are accelerating rapidly.
Solar, the fastest growing sector, has expanded by more than 2,000 per cent in four years and benefited from public and private investment.
Climate talks in Paris have led to the traditional disagreement between the developed world asking the developing world not to follow it down the road of carbon dependency and the those nations claiming such a hypocritical approach will hamper their path to economic growth.
Thailand says it is planning to reduce its emissions by 20 per cent over the next 15 years and double renewable energy production by 2040.
Responsible for starting this switch to solar power is a businesswoman being described as Thailand’s Solar Queen.
Solar Power Company Group CEO Wandee Khunchornyakon secured the initial investment from the “green” Kasikorn Bank and now lights 24,000 homes from her field of panels.
“It is very important that we try to help stop global warming,” she said. “We have to have create a green world for the next generation.”
Reinforcing the image of a country in recovery, Thai ambassador to the USA, Pisan Manawapat, argued that the fundamentals of the Thai economy were still strong.
In response to a New York Times comment piece entitled, “Thai economy and spirits are sagging,” the envoy wrote to the paper to defend the nation.
Pisan wrote: “The Fitch Ratings last month said the Thai economy had ‘shown resilience’. The country’s foreign reserves are US$157 billion, while short-term foreign debt is only US$55 billion and the public debt to gross domestic product ratio is 43 per cent: much lower than that of the United States, Britain and Japan.
“Inflation is negligible and the unemployment rate is 0.9 per cent, much lower than the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development average,” Pisan argued.
“The Thai economy is fast recovering with a steady growth trajectory despite a weak global environment. Consumer and industrial confidence indexes are picking up, thanks to the stimulus measures by the government. The growth rate for the third quarter this year is 2.9 percent, a significant improvement from 0.9 percent in the third quarter of 2014. Various international and domestic agencies have forecast 3 to 4 percent growth in 2016.
“Major reforms are underway to rebalance the Thai economy to make it more competitive as the country moves toward more sustainable and inclusive growth. The American Chamber of Commerce in Thailand has voiced support for these reforms and maintained its confidence in Thailand as an attractive investment destination.”