We’re all in the same boat, waiting for the captain to lead

ROAD To COPENHAGEN COLUMN – By  Fitrian Ardiansyah | The Jakarta Post, 15 September 2009 | FEATURES | Page 21 |

Achieving an ambitious global climate agreement at Copenhagen depends on the political and economic will and ability of many countries.

Indonesia, as the host of Bali COP (Conference of Parties)-13, which historically marked the beginning of two years of formal negotiations, has much at stake in ensuring that the Copenhagen COP-15 is successful in reaching the goals of the Bali Action Plan.

Overall, however, progress from Bali to the last UN Framework Conventions on Climate Change (UNFCCC) inter-session meeting in Bonn fell sharply short of what we need – little movement of any substance between parties was achieved and the consolidation effort happened at a pace that puts Copenhagen at risk.

As an archipelago that will experience multiple adverse effects from climate change, Indonesia needs to strongly and pro-actively accelerate the negotiations.

In particular, Indonesia must urge industrialized countries to dramatically cut their emissions further to keep the increase in the global temperature at less than 2 degrees Celsius; at this level, the impacts are still manageable.

Indonesia needs to push for a global agreement that has a framework that offers incentives and drives innovation, global technology diffusion and cooperation, and low-carbon development through mitigation mechanisms, technology action programs and capacity and institution building.

Developing country efforts will require adequate financing as well as technology and capacity support. More importantly, the outcome of climate change negotiations has to urgently address adaptation to current and future impacts for the most vulnerable countries, communities and ecosystems.

Having one of the largest areas of tropical forest in the world, Indonesia has a good opportunity to take a stronger position, especially in calling for the creation of concrete policies, positive incentives and measures to reduce emissions resulting from deforestation and forest degradation. Without a clear policy framework and stages of financing support for REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation), it is going to be difficult for Indonesia to readily cope with deforestation and its consequences.

None of these objectives can be achieved without the highest level of leadership and involvement from inside the country.

The time is right for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, in his second term as President and as leader of the largest country in Southeast Asia, to seize this moment and make his mark on history by showing his leadership in handling the climate crisis, together with other heads of state, at a regional and global level. Indonesia is not only vulnerable but also expe-riencing rapid growths in emissions.

Hence, there is no doubt the country will play a key role in the negotiation and implementation of a successful agreement.

Besides influencing the formal process at the UNFCCC, Indonesia, under Yudhoyonos leadership, can play a bigger role in other important forums, namely the MEF (Major Economies Forum), UN General Assembly and G20.

These forums are becoming increasingly important in terms of providing political guidance from higher levels of government.

Usually, it is at these forums that leaders have the opportunity to send crucial signals – such as commitments on finance and mitigation by industrialized countries – to boost negotiations, to lay the groundwork for progress, and to add trust to the nagging talks.

As there is limited time from now to Copenhagen, Yudhoyonos active involvement and influence are needed to ensure positive outcomes from these forums, which can in turn strengthen the outcomes of negotiations in Copenhagen.

Nevertheless, all efforts from Indonesia at the international forums will be less meaningful if no significant national and local actions are taken. It is of the utmost importance to have coordinated national and subnational development strategies with a climate change perspective; this will require coordination between the finance, trade, forestry, agriculture, fishery and public works sectors, as well as the development of adaptation efforts to reduce the impact of climate change in Indonesia.

Fundamentally, Indonesia must make the push toward sustainable development and transform the current economic pattern, which is triggering large-scale deforestation and which is based on high usage of fossil fuels, into a low-carbon economy.

Indonesia can be a pathfinder in effecting this transformation, which will make the country more competitive economically and also better placed to provide its people with a cleaner, healthier and more secure environment.

The creation of the DNPI (National Council on Climate Change) in 2008 by Yudhoyono is an initial step to making concrete efforts to address climate change internationally and domestically as well as to achieve a low-carbon economy. The DNPI should guide Indonesia’s efforts in mainstreaming climate change into its development agenda.

Clear road maps, plans, policies and targets for the reduction of domestic emissions need to be finalized as soon as possible as the basis for climate change negotiations and long-term sustainable development.

Support from different sectors and governments at provincial and district levels is essential to achieve this low-carbon growth pathway. Other non-state actors such as the business sector and civil society also need to be actively involved.

Their contributions to solutions are crucial because climate change poses a grave threat to all – the economy, society and the natural environment.

Achieving development and climate goals depends on support from every component and actor in the development of Indonesia, as we are all in the same boat, and it is for all of us to accelerate or maintain robust economic development while increasing our capacity to face the growing impacts of climate change. Strong leadership, however, will be the key to tailor these efforts.

Hence, there is no better time than after the inauguration, the President himself to chair the meeting of the DNPI and clearly outline a vision for Indonesia’s low-carbon economy. With this, Indonesia is sending strong signals that this country is serious and ready to act on climate change.

The writer is program director of climate and energy at WWF-Indonesia. He can be reached at fardiansyah@wwf.or.id. This weekly column features articles related to developments in the lead up to the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.

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