Electric buses for climate mitigation in Thailand

From the Paris Agreement to CO₂ reduction

In addition to the unconditional climate mitigation measures to which all countries have committed themselves under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), many countries, including Thailand, are seeking additional funding for climate mitigation. Energy Absolute, a Thai company, has succeeded in implementing an electric mobility programme that is leading the way in Asia. Its financial viability is ensured by the KliK Foundation’s climate mitigation commitment under Article 6.2 of the Paris Agreement (PA).

Energy Absolute Public Company Limited (Energy Absolute) aims to convert 100% of the existing and expanding bus fleet of privately operated bus lines in the Bangkok metropolitan area to electric mobility. The introduction of electric vehicles in public transport will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution in the region. Over 2,000 electric buses are expected to be in service by the end of 2023. The KliK Foundation secures the financing and implementation through the contractual purchase of Internationally Transferred Mitigation Outcomes (ITMOs). In February 2023, Switzerland and Thailand approved the Bangkok E-Bus Programme, marking a milestone in cooperative climate mitigation between two countries under the UNFCCC. It is the first programme approved in Asia under Article 6.2 of the Paris Agreement and the second in the world. 

Thailand is one of the first countries to approve the implementation of an Article 6.2 programme and, with financial support from abroad, will significantly reduce its greenhouse gas emissions on a large scale in addition to pursuing its own national climate target (Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC)). This achievement has a long history. One part of it is the inclusion of a paragraph on cooperative climate mitigation in the Paris Agreement. Switzerland also began early preparations for the implementation of Article 6.2 by developing pilot programmes, as the rules for the cooperative approach were scheduled to come into force in 2021. Another prerequisite was the revised Swiss CO₂ Act, which came into force on 1 January 2022 and obliges oil importers to offset part of their road transport emissions. Article 6.2 made it possible to offset with emission reductions abroad. One final element of the favourable developments was that Switzerland and Thailand signed a bilateral agreement on cooperative climate mitigation in June 2022.

International cooperations for climate mitigation
In 2015, the Paris Agreement (PA) was adopted at the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Article 6.2 of the Agreement calls for the creation of a regulated market for emission reductions, where countries can trade to achieve emission reductions that meet the highest human rights and environmental standards. This means that a country can sell emission reductions it achieves beyond its own climate targets (NDC) to another country where the cost of emission reductions is significantly higher. Countries with lower costs can benefit from the higher costs of other countries, while always focusing on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the additional emission reductions generated.

Since October 2005, the Climate Cent Foundation, the “older sister” of the Foundation for Climate Protection and Carbon Offset KliK, has been investing in national and international climate mitigation projects as part of the voluntary measures taken by the Swiss economy. The KliK Foundation was set up specifically to implement the carbon offset obligation introduced by the CO₂ Act and focuses on domestic offset programmes. The still active Climate Cent Foundation had to focus on the development of climate mitigation programmes abroad based on a successor mechanism to the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which had yet to be negotiated.

At the beginning of 2017, the Climate Cent Foundation launched a tender for international pilot programmes, which included gaining the first experiences in dealing with the Article 6.2 mechanism. Among the four concepts selected for further development was a solar energy programme for Thailand. Programme proposals for Mexico, Colombia and Peru also made the shortlist. The Climate Cent Foundation entered into the world’s first purchase agreement for international attestations with Tuki Wasi, the Article 6.2 pilot programme in Peru, which is currently in the implementation phase.

After the submission of the solar energy programme, the Thai government suggested that an electric mobility programme should be developed as a priority in terms of additionality to the Thai NDC (Nationally Determined Contribution), since it was considered unaffordable at national level. An initial project idea for electric rickshaws failed to take off. It was only in 2019 that a fortunate constellation of events led to a sense of excitement: the former Swiss Ambassador to Thailand (and today's State Secretary for Economic Affairs), Helene Budliger Artieda, showed a special commitment to cooperative climate mitigation; H.E. Varawut Silpa-archa became Thailand’s Minister of Environment and Natural Resources; and Somphote Ahunai, CEO of the previously mentioned company Energy Absolute, had an idea for a programme to electrify privately operated public transport in the Bangkok metropolitan region. Discussions began in the spring of 2021, and shortly afterwards the two countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding, which formed the basis of the bilateral Climate Mitigation Agreement signed in June 2022. The Electric Mobility Programme was launched on the same day with the signing of the contract between the KliK Foundation and Energy Absolute for the purchase of ITMOs.

Bangkok E-Bus Programme meets the eligibility criteria of the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (BAFU) for foreign funding, as well as the relevant Thai criteria. This is a prerequisite for approval by Switzerland and the partner country, in addition to the requirements of the relevant article in the Paris Agreement. It is essential that the Southeast Asian country confirms the additionality of the climate mitigation measure to its NDC and agrees to make corresponding adjustments to its national emissions register. The emission reductions achieved will not be claimed by Thailand, thus avoiding a double counting.    

Implementation of the programme began in October 2022. The technology of the buses, the efficiency of the production process and the user-friendly charging stations are of the highest quality. The KliK Foundation plans to purchase the first ITMOs from the Bangkok Electric Bus Programme by the end of 2023.

Bilateral emission reduction trading
By selling emission reductions achieved by a country beyond its own climate target under Article 6.2 of the Paris Agreement as Internationally Transferred Mitigation Outcomes (ITMOs) to another country, such as Switzerland, the buyer country – in our case Switzerland – can finance investments in projects that are difficult to finance in the partner country. At the same time, this approach promotes sustainable development and climate mitigation measures in general. By purchasing ITMOs, the KliK Foundation contributes to Switzerland achieving its climate targets in an effective and cost-efficient manner.