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Thailand is located at the center of Southeast Asia [1] and has a total area of 513,115 km². Thailand has territorial borders with Myanmar and Laos in the North, Laos and Cambodia in the East, Malaysia in the South, and Myanmar in the west. The country comprises the Northern high mountains, the Central plains, the Northeast plateau, and the Southern coastal plain [2]. The southern end of the country is a peninsula [1] with a total coastal length of 3,151.02 km, consisting of the Andaman Sea coast of 1,111.04 km in the west and the Gulf of Thailand coast of 2,039.97 km in the east [2]. Located in the tropical region, Thailand’s climate is relatively warm all year round [1]. The country is officially geographically divided into 6 distinct regions: North, Northeast, Central, East, West, and South [2], [3]. Bangkok is the capital of Thailand [2]

Thailand is divided into 76 provinces and the Bangkok Metropolitan Region, as a special administrative unit [2], [3]. The public administration is divided into 3 tiers: central, provincial, and local administration. The central administration comprises the ministries, bureaus, and departments; the provincial government consists of provinces, with each province divided into districts; and the local administration consists of Provincial Administrative Organization, Municipality, and Sub-district Administrative Organization. There are also 2 special local governments under local administration: Bangkok and Pattaya. While Pattaya is a part of Chonburi Province, Bangkok is governed by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA), unlike the other 76 provinces [2].

Important National Context

The total population of Thailand was registered as 66.17 million in 2021, making it the 20th most populated country in the world. Over the past decade, the average annual population growth rate has been around 0.4%. Thailand’s population is projected to continue to gradually increase up to 2030 [2], at which point it will reach about 71–77 million, with an increasing proportion of the population living in urban areas [1]. Following 2030, the country’s population is expected to start to decline [2], as the country advances towards a fully aged society. As of 2020, Thailand has become an “aging society” with at least 20% of the population aged 60 years and over, and the country is expected to become a “super aging society” by 2033, with at least 28% of the population aged 60 years and over [4]. This demographic transition translates into two challenges: 1) the development of a mechanism to support aging members of society, and 2) the development of national policies and plans to promote social and health services for mothers and newborns [2].

Thailand is undergoing rapid urbanization, with about half of the population currently living in urban areas [5]. By 2040, it is estimated that 74.3% of the country’s population will live in urban areas [2]. This rapid urbanization is mainly driven by increasing rates of domestic migration of people who are gravitating towards urban regions in the search of employment opportunities and services. The most densely populated regions in the country are found in the Bangkok Metropolitan, as well as other major urban centers. Urbanization is also contributing to a growing population of unregistered people – for example, Bangkok is home to approximately 2.04 million unregistered people, according to the National Statistical Office (2017), who may struggle to secure legal employment, or are unable to access services from schooling to healthcare due to their disposition [3].  

Over the last four decades, Thailand has made remarkable progress in social and economic development, moving from a low-income to an upper middle-income country. Thailand’s economy grew at an average annual rate of 7.5% between 1960 and 1996, and 5% during the period 1999 - 2005, following the Asian Financial Crisis [6]. As a result of this growth, Thailand was able to reduce poverty significantly, improving the education and health circumstances for millions of its population. However, economic growth has slowed in Thailand in recent decades [1].

Thailand has a mixed economic system, consisting of resource-based, service-based, and industrial-based economic activities. In 2021, the Thai economy grew by 1.6%, recovering from a decline of 6.2% in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic [2]. According to the World Bank’s Thailand Economic Monitor [7], Thailand’s economy is projected to recover to its pre-pandemic level in 2022, but the pace of growth will be slower-than-expected in 2023 owing to global headwinds. The economy is projected to expand by 3.4% in 2022 and 3.6% in 2023. Growth in 2023 has been revised down by 0.7 percentage points compared to earlier projections reflecting a faster-than-expected decline in global demand. Tourism sector recovery and private consumption will remain the major drivers of growth [6].

Thailand has achieved extensive and significant progress on poverty reduction [4]. Driven by high economic growth rates and structural transformation, the national poverty rate has fallen from 58% in 1990 to 6.8% in 2020. However, inequality in the country remains high. In 2020, the poverty rate was over 3 percentage points higher in rural areas than in urban zones and rural poor outnumbered urban poor by almost 2.3 million. Additionally, the distribution of poverty is also uneven across geographic regions with the poverty rate in the South and Northeast almost double the national level. Further, with an income Gini coefficient of 43.3% in 2019, Thailand had the highest income inequality level in East Asia [8].

Thailand has made great progress in technological development and innovation. For example, high-speed internet infrastructure has been developed to cover all villages in Thailand, through 3 projects: the Net Pracharat Project; the Fringe Areas Internet project; and the Rural Internet project. Additionally, the Government has established the Eastern Economic Corridor of Innovation (EECi), which serves as an ecosystem to promote innovation research between private, government, academic and individual actors. The Government has also promulgated the Promotion of Use of Research and Innovation Act B.E. 2562 (2019) [4]. Further, the Government of Thailand has appointed the Thailand Science, Research, and Innovation (TSRI), an organization under the Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research, and Innovation (MHESI), to draft the Science, Research, and Innovation Plan (SRI Plan) 2023–2027. This Plan will support researchers to steer Thailand towards a more sustainable path [9] and aims at leveraging innovation capability and system reform to unleash the potential of higher education, science, research, and innovation in improving national competitiveness, and promoting multidisciplinary, cross-agency and cross-sector collaboration. The draft SRI Plan consists of four strategies: 1) develop the economy with a value-driven and creative economy, 2) enable sustainable social and environmental development, 3) develop cutting-edge science, technology, research and innovation, and 4) develop manpower and research institutes to drive a leapfrog and sustainable development [10]

The country’s Bio-Circular-Green Economy (BCG) model, introduced by the Thai government as a strategy for national development, also places emphasis on applying science, technology and innovation to turn Thailand’s comparative advantage in biological and cultural diversity into competitive advantage. It focuses on four strategic sectors, namely 1) agriculture and food, 2) wellness and medicine, 3) energy, materials and biochemicals, and 4) tourism and creative economy. It aims to promote sustainability of biological resources, strengthen communities and grassroots economy, enhance sustainable competitiveness of Thai BCG industries, and build resilience to global changes. The model is expected to create sustainability and inclusiveness to Thailand’s economy, society and the environment [11].

Additionally, a new initiative between the European Union and Thailand has been launched to encourage collaboration between leading Thai researchers and European Research Council (ERC) grantees and their teams. This joint scheme is the first of its kind targeting researchers in Thailand. With the signing of this new initiative, a positive step has been taken to strengthen collaboration between the EU and the ASEAN region in scientific research [12].

Environmental Governance

Thailand is in the process of developing its 13th National Economic and Social Development Plan (NESDP: 2023–2027), which provides the overall development direction for the country and is centred around four concepts: (i) the sufficiency economy philosophy; (ii) resilience; (iii) leaving no one behind; and (iv) the Bio-Circular-Green (BCG) economic model [13]. The BCG was introduced by the research community and promoted by the Thai government as a new economic model for inclusive and sustainable growth, conforming with the SDGs. The BCG model capitalizes the country’s strengths in biological diversity and cultural richness and employs technology and innovation to transform Thailand to a value-based and innovation-driven economy [14]. The country’s NESDP also sets out pathways for climate change adaptation and resilience, and decarbonization [13].

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE) has developed the Climate Change Master Plan (2015–2050) as a long-term national framework and mechanism for climate change mitigation and adaptation and sustainable low carbon growth by 2050. In addition to mitigation efforts, Thailand’s first National Adaptation Plan was developed in 2018 to provide the framework for developing a climate resilient society with the focus on human settlements, natural resources and water management, agriculture, and food security [13]Thailand has also developed several other policies, plans and strategies relevant to the protection of the environment, including the 5th strategy of the 20-Year National Strategy (2018-2037) and the 20-Year Strategic Plan for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (2017-2036) [2].

National context alignement with the EU Green Deal

Thailand is a key partner for the EU in Southeast Asia. Thailand shares the EU’s strong political commitment to sustainable development and has proven to be an important partner in implementing the UN 2030 Agenda. Thailand’s commitment to sustainable development is reflected in its international commitments and in its national policies. For instance, the Thai Chairmanship of ASEAN in 2019 was devoted to the theme of Sustainable development. Additionally, sustainable development is a cross-cutting theme in the country’s 20-Year National Strategy (2017-2036), which provides the overall long-term development direction for the country, as well as in the Thailand 4.0 strategy, a knowledge-based economic model driven by innovation, creativity, and technology. Early in 2021, the Royal Thai Government also launched the BCG strategy which stands for Bio-economy, Circular economy and Green economy, which builds upon the Thailand 4.0 strategy and is well aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) [15], as well as the EU Green Deal.

The EU has been supporting Thailand to enhance progress towards its SDGs and become more resilient to climate change. Key EU-supported projects include: 1) Strengthening urban climate governance for inclusive, resilient, and sustainable societies in Thailand (SUCCESS), which aimed to enhance the adaptive capacity of local urban communities through improved urban climate governance, state-of-the-art knowledge, and shared learning, and strengthen local institutional mechanisms and practices for inclusive, climate-resilient and sustainable urban development; 2) Climate-resilient Agriculture for Disaster Risk Reduction (CRADR), a collaborative project between the Disaster Mitigation Working Group (DMWG) and the Agriculture Working Group (AgWG), under the Asia-Pacific Advanced or APAN network which links members of research agencies and educational institutions from all over the world. This project aims to study climate change’s effects on agriculture in a small-scale case study (Phrae Province) [2].

As the country enters the next phase of its development, it seeks to balance progress across economic, environmental, and social dimensions, notably by tackling outstanding environmental challenges. Through the EU-Thailand Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, multilateral agreements, and a possible Free Trade Agreement, cooperation between the EU and Thailand on specific issues will be pursued, such as on deforestation, including through the possible continuation of the current negotiations of a Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade Voluntary Partnership Agreement (FLEGT VPA) as well as through the development of a forest partnership [15].

Key Environmental-Development Challenges

Climate Change

Thailand is highly vulnerable to climate change impacts [2], due to its exposure to increasing natural hazards, such as heavy rainfall, floods, and droughts, as well as sea level rise impacts to the country’s coasts [1]. According to the Global Climate Risk Index 2021, Thailand was ranked as the ninth most affected country in terms of human impacts and direct economic losses from weather-related loss events during the period 2000-2019 [2]. Floods are by far the greatest natural hazard facing Thailand in terms of economic and human impacts, with Thailand being cited as one of the 10 most flood-affected countries in the world. According to the UNISDR, the average annual loss associated with flooding in Thailand is approximately US$2.6 billion. Further, the devastating floods of 2011 serve as an example of the country’s vulnerability to climate-related disaster. The floods caused 815 deaths, affected 13.6 million people and damaged 20,000 km² of farmland. Economically, the flood amounted to $45 billion in damages and resulted in the most expensive insurance loss recorded in global history from a flood at $15 billion [1].

Several key sectors in Thailand are highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, including agriculture, water management, food security, health, tourism, natural resource management, and human settlement and security. As such, climate change is one of the key challenges in Thailand affecting communities’ lives and livelihoods, economic growth, and the achievement of sustainable development [16]. In fact, Thailand was ranked among the top 5 countries expected to have the largest decline in GDP due to climate change by 2048 [8]. According to Swiss Re Institute, under a severe scenario, in which temperatures rise by 3.2°C by mid-century with society doing nothing to combat climate change, Thailand could lose up to 45% of its GDP [17].


[1] Climate Risk Country Profile: Thailand (2021): The World Bank Group and the Asian Development Bank.

[2] Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, The Kingdom of Thailand (2022). Thailand’s Fourth Biennial Update Report.

[3] UNDRR (2020). Disaster Risk Reduction in Thailand: Status Report 2020. Bangkok, Thailand, United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific.

[4] Department of International Organizations, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand (2021). Thailand’s Voluntary National Review on the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development 2021.

[5] IURC Programme (2021). Thailand. [Online]. Available:

[6] The World Bank Group (2023). The World Bank In Thailand: Overview. [Online]. Available:

[7] World Bank Group. 2022. Thailand Economic Monitor: Fiscal Policy for a Resilient and Equitable Future. World Bank, Bangkok. License: Creative Commons Attribution CC BY 3.0 IGO.

[8] World Bank Group. 2022. Thailand Rural Income Diagnostic: Challenges and opportunities for Rural farmers. World Bank, Bangkok.

[9] Phanthuwongpakdee, N.; Intaprasert, P.; Gongkaew, C.; Bunnag, C.; Wichachai, S.; Soontornthum, T. Localizing SDGs in Thailand: Towards a More Inclusive National Science, Research, and Innovation (SRI) Plan. Environ. Sci. Proc. 2022, 15, 15.    

[10] (2022). Cabinet approves the 2023-2027 Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation Policy and Strategy, Higher Education Plan, and Science, Research and Innovation Plan. [Online]. Available:

[11] National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA) (2022). BCG Concept: Background. [Online]. Available:

[12] European Research Council (2022). EU and Thailand signs partnership for collaboration in frontier research. [Online]. Available:

[13] International Labour Organization (2023). Policy Brief: Green jobs and just transition policy readiness assessment in Thailand.

[14] The Global Green Growth Institute (2022). Thailand Country Planning Framework (CPF) 2022-2026.

[15] The European Commission (2022). KINDGOM OF THAILAND Multi-annual Indicative Programme 2021-2027.

[16] Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, The Kingdom of Thailand (2020). Thailand’s Updated Nationally Determined Contribution.

[17] Swiss Re Institute (2021). The economics of climate change: no action not an option.

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