World leaders gather this month in Katowice, Poland, for COP24, the most important global meeting on climate change since the…
World leaders gather this month in Katowice, Poland, for COP24, the most important global meeting on climate change since the UN Climate Change Conference 2015 in Paris. Top of the agenda: to get the countries to agree on the rules for implementing Paris Climate Change Agreements 2020, when the Pact enters into force.
The meeting serves as a reminder of troubled facts – President Donald Trump still intends to withdraw the United States from the agreement, and the latest UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that we only have 12 years to limit the average global heating to 1
.5 degrees Celsius.
But Indonesia is today the world’s fifth largest greenhouse gas emissions, mainly from land use, land use change and forestry. Today, Indonesia is aware of how little it has done to implement policies that would enable it to fulfill its commitment under the Paris agreement: reduce emissions from deforestation by 29 percent during forecasts until 2030.
“In order to really achieve climate goals … there is a need to reach new ambitious politicians, “says Hanny Chrysolite, Forest and climate project manager with the World Resource Institute Indonesia.
In fact, Indonesia is moving in the opposite direction. The government is planning to build more than 100 coal-fired power stations and expand the production of palm oil for local biofuel consumption, which will mean further deforestation of rich, rich tropical forests. Add the expansion of a car-based transport infrastructure, a growing middle class and very little investment in renewable energy sources, and you have the recipe for a climate disaster.
If Indonesia fails to reduce emissions and build a clean energy infrastructure, there is no hope for the world to meet its global climate goals. Indonesia, like the United States, China, India and Europe, is crucial to the success of the Paris agreement. What is needed now, climate experts say on Earth that there is a rapid mobilization from the Indonesian government, the private sector and the global community to move the country into a new climate-aware paradigm.
Globally, land-based emissions account for about a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions, according to World Bank data. Indonesia is the largest global contributor to these emissions, spying 240 to 447 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually from agriculture, the conversion of cherry woods to plantations and other uses, according to data from Global Forest Watch.
Tropical rainforests and peatlands – wetland ecosystems containing peat, a fungus organic material formed from partially decayed plants – stores large amounts of carbon. According to a Nature Communications paper published in June, a hectare of rainforest results in a palm oil plant in Indonesia in 174 lost columns.
“The amount of carbon released when only one hectare of wood is cleared to grow oil pales is approximately equal to the amount of coal produced by 530 people flying from Geneva to New York in economy class.” Thomas Guillaume, one of the authors, said in a statement.
Behind 2015 led an extremely dry rainfall with a strong El Nino event to massive fires over the archipelago, especially on the islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan. They emitted more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere than the UK does for a whole year.
Unfortunately, little progress has been made in reducing land-based emissions in Indonesia so far. Despite the creation of a rescue agency for peat bogs 2016, followed by the extension of a moratorium on partial logging, satellite monitoring shows that palm oil and paper plantations – the main deforestation and fires driving forces – continue to expand with at least 10,000 square miles of primary forest and peatland disappear since 2011, according to a coalition from civil society.
“They are doing some good things, but it’s not enough,” said Teguh Surya with Yayasan Madani Berkelanjutan, an Indonesian environmental organization. “Palm oil expansion is still under construction, and on the ground we found some turf areas that are still open to planting. There are still weaknesses in law enforcement.”
In essence, efforts to reduce fires after the 2015 event have had little impact so far, and current plans can make things much worse. More than 10 percent of the Indonesian population lives below the poverty line, and the country wants to build 3 million hectares of oil palm and sugar plantation in Papua. If these move forward, they argue that they may cause fire problems to the only part of the country with domestic forests intact and increase the country’s greenhouse gas emissions even more.
Here are things more about it. Although all plans to reduce deforestation succeed, fires are eliminated, and palm oil production goes over to sustainable methods, which may not be enough. Indonesia’s fast-growing middle class has an increasing demand for energy. In fact, WRI projects that by 2026 or 2027 will provide energy, not land, will be the biggest contributor to Indonesian emissions.
There are two aspects to this challenge. One is power generation. Indonesia has large coal reserves, mainly in Borneo, where coal mining is also a reason for deforestation. However, the global coal market has a glut, and imports from Indonesia to places such as China, South Korea and India fall. In response, the Indonesian government had a simple plan; replace this foreign demand with local consumption by building over 100 new coal power plants across the country, 10,000 MW of power generation capacity, on top of the current current 42, making Indonesia one of the last places in the world driving forward on coal energy.
Then there is transportation. Indonesia is building new roads and car ownership is growing. Oil production tripled between 2004-2012, and despite its relatively large oil and gas production capacity.
The real tragedy is that Indonesia has a huge renewable capacity, with plenty of wind, solar, water and geothermal resources on its many islands. Nevertheless, it currently only uses a weak 2 percent of that capacity, and it is also mostly from large-scale hydro – a bad choice for a number of reasons.
A bright spot: The Indonesian government is finally ready to start accepting payments as part of the Reducing Emissions program from Desforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD +). REDD + provides direct payments to preserve intact forests, and Norway has already promised $ 1 billion to protect Indonesian forests.
If climate financing can be scaled up, this can be a tool for providing significant resources for forest protection. Jonah Busch, environmental economist whose research focuses on climate change and tropical deforestation at the Center for Global Development, believes that Brazil, which dramatically reconciled its own deforestation between 1996 and 2010 (although the trend has been worrying since then) could provide a model for Indonesia to reduce its own deforestation.
“Five, ten or twenty billion [dollars] to protect forests would have a much greater impact,” said Busch. “It would happen when rich countries get much more serious about tackling climate change than they are at present.”
There is also potential for clean energy. A new parliamentary Green Economy Caucus has been created, and there are calls for a renewable energy law that could compare the game area with fossil fuels. It may not take much support to allow alternatives like sun, wind and geothermal competition. In neighboring China, India and Thailand, clean energy competes with fossil fuel, years before projections. Indonesia could follow.
“Indonesia recently said that they will not contract for more coal-fired power plants, which are already too many in the pipeline, and will focus on renewable energy targets and revise emission standards,” said Lauri Myllyvirta, an Asian coal and air pollution expert for Greenpeace. “Very positive things happen.”
The question: Can these changes happen quickly enough for Indonesia to At the moment, Indonesia’s policy allows for deforestation and is too fossil fuels centered. Globally, climate funds and global funds such as the maligned climate fund, which could further stimulate forest protection with REDD +, are not yet realized, with payments far beyond what promised in Paris.
At the same time, the responsibility of the Trump Administration implies for climate change that countries such as Indonesia will be less likely to make the hard decisions necessary to radically reduce emissions.
“The United States does not take climate seriously gives a great excuse for the Indonesian government not to take it seriously,” Busch said. “They have many other domestic problems.”
One thing that can help is stronger requirements from countries importing goods responsible for deforestation and fires, such as palm oil. Europe – after years of grandstanding – will finally change its biofuel policy to reduce imports of climate-intensive alternative fuels such as palm oil. If more countries follow, this may force Indonesia to make the palm oil industry more sustainable.
Financial institutions can also play a greater role. At the moment, many foreign banks, especially those from Japan, are the prime financiers of coal-fired power stations. Changing investments from coal and towards clean energy projects could help to speed up Indonesia’s movement towards clean energy plants.
Indonesia can not solve the climate change itself. But the world can not stop climate change without Indonesia. Global financial institutions, including banks, financiers and foreign governments, need to do more to reduce deforestation, restore land degraded and ensure that the country is not locked for decades of fossil fuel burns.
Nithin Coca is an Asian-focused freelance journalist who covers environmental, human rights and political issues throughout the region.