Southeast Asia's Resilience Must Match Rising Climate Risks

  • Vinod Thomas ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute


Southeast Asia is seeing record-breaking temperatures and unprecedented floods and storms, inflicting a severe blow to lives and livelihoods. As these disasters are the result of carbon accumulation in the air, which stays in place for decades, the priority for climate adaptation is patently clear. Adaptation needs to be multifaceted, ranging from spending on drainage systems to health. Higher funding allocations are needed for adaptation, and they ought to be approved ahead of disasters. Climate adaptation on its own will not keep up without climate mitigation. Southeast Asia has grown at some 5% a year over the past decade with most of its energy needs met unfortunately by fossil fuels. To contribute to global mitigation, the region needs to reverse its heavy reliance on coal, oil, and gas, and become a leading advocate and user of wind, solar and other renewables. Essential for decarbonization is carbon financing, which falls short of what is needed. Experiences with other events like COVID-19 suggest that financing is driven by public opinion and political pressure. Public opinion in Southeast Asia needs to support disaster relief and prevention, and political decisions will follow accordingly. 

Author Biography

Vinod Thomas, ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute

Vinod Thomas is currently Visiting Senior Fellow at the ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute (formerly Institute of Southeast Asian Studies), and previously Visiting Professor at National University of Singapore. He is a Distinguished Fellow in Development Management at the Asian Institute of Management, Previously, Thomas was Senior Vice-President of the Independent Evaluation Group at the World Bank Group (2006-2011), and Director General of Independent Evaluation at the Asian Development Bank (2011-2016). He has a PhD and MA in Economics from the University of Chicago and a BA from St. Stephen’s college, Delhi. He has authored 17 books including World Development Report 1991, The Quality of Growth, 2000, Climate Change and Natural Disasters, 2017, Economic Evaluation of Sustainable Development, 2019 (with Namrata Chindarkar), and Risk and Resilience in an Era of Climate Change (2023). His current work focuses on risk and resilience, the environment and climate economics, poverty, income distribution and sustainable development. E-mail:

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