In February, Laos' deputy minister of energy and mines, Daovong Phoneke, announced that two new coal-fired energy plants, with investments worth up to $4 billion, will open by the end of the year, mostly to export energy to neighboring countries.
According to a study published in November in the journal of Energy and Climate Change, coal-fired energy will overtake natural gas as the main power source in the ASEAN region by 2030. And by 2040 it could account for almost 50% of the region's projected CO2 emissions.
Is the EU ignoring coal in Southeast Asia?
However, coal-fired power production is rarely, if ever, mentioned by the EU in its climate policy in Southeast Asia.
After the second EU-ASEAN High-Level Dialogue on Environment and Climate Change in November, a post-dialogue statement by the two blocs did not reference coal-fired energy.
Neither is coal mentioned in detail in the Blue Book 2020, a 47-page guide that lays out EU-ASEAN partnership.
"The mix of a strong research base, policy advice, feasibilities for collaboration, and access to finance should help them to cope with the transition," said Driesmans, the EU ambassador, referring to the ASEAN bloc's climate change activity.
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"As part of the forthcoming dialogue on Clean Energy between the EU and ASEAN, we hope to be able to support ASEAN in its energy transition, including all relevant aspects: renewable energy, energy efficiency, grid integration, climate finance and coal phase out.," he added.
The EU tends to take a more subtle approach. The EU-Vietnam free trade agreement, which came into effect last year, commits Vietnam to making efforts towards renewable energy production but there is no explicit mention of limiting its coal-fired energy consumption.