Thailand's new government is in the process of drafting a plan that will require major industrial companies to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 15-20% in the near future, prompted by extreme weather conditions, rising sea levels and health problems potentially related to environmental pollution.

The plan, which should be completed in the next few months but still lacks a firm timeline for implementation, focuses on power producers, refineries, petrochemical firms and transportation companies, according to Tawarath Sutabutr, Director of the Energy Ministry's policy and strategy coordination office.

“There is a new emphasis on reducing emissions as global warming has become a major issue. We must step up our energy efficiency to the top tier,” Tarawath said.

Growing concerns over the adverse effects of climate change in Thailand have prompted the government and private sector in this middle-income, manufacturing-based country to reinforce efforts to reduce emissions.

The first major efforts to restrict emissions, after decades of industrialisation, occurred last year when the government took a tougher line on new petrochemical projects in one of the country's largest industrial estates, Map Ta Phut, in Rayong Province. The investments were given the green light only after the country's two major petrochemical players - PTT and Siam Cement - agreed to make drastic cuts in nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide emissions.

Besides trying to reduce emissions, Thai efforts to prepare for the real consequences of climate change are still in their infancy. Researchers say extreme weather and changing rainfall patterns pose the greatest risk, as more than half of its workforce is still employed in agriculture. The country is also concerned about rising sea levels, as Bangkok is home to nearly 15% of the country's 66 million people and yet is at risk of being deluged with water in the coming decades as the world's oceans swell.

Thailand is the seventh largest emitter of carbon dioxide in Asia, emitting 4.2 tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere per person per year, according to the UN Development Programme (UNDP).