In his Independence Day speech, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono announced the results of the latest population census, sparking concern as to how the country was handling the looming challenge of a population boom.
According to the Central Statistics Agency (BPS), Indonesia is now home to 237.6 million people, an increase of about 32.5 million since 2000. Within the next five years, Indonesia’s population will grow to 250 million, according to estimates.
In the context of climate change, this may well lead to a dramatic growth in consumption and other human-induced activities, which could significantly increase greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as by-products of economic growth.
As we may learn, an increase in GHG emissions correlates with an increase in the concentration of GHG in the atmosphere, resulting in climate change and its associated impacts — which will eventually affect Indonesians.
Even without climate change, the exponential growth rate of the country’s population has contributed to continuous pressures on remaining natural resources and ecosystems.
Climate change may worsen existing environmental degradation resulting from illegal and destructive logging, forest conversion, overfishing and overexploitation of natural resources.
Because this massive archipelagic nation has adopted a decentralized system, local governments and people must shoulder the burden of this issue.
One of the country’s biggest challenges right now is to formulate climate policies and initiate programs that seriously reflect local aspirations and incorporate ongoing efforts at the local level.
A number of climate policies developed since 2007 mostly focus on strategic intervention to reduce GHG emissions by 26 percent by 2020 at the national level, or prioritize action in key development sectors.
This approach, however, leaves a substantial gap when it comes to action on the ground. Comparing polices at the national level, or in key development sectors, with intervention at a local level, has never been easy. Decentralization in Indonesia is a highly complex subject.
Many experts have praised Indonesia’s decentralization and transformation but concerns over the division of authorities and fiscal distribution remain.
For instance, policies formulated and actions taken by national government (in all sectors) often differ or clash with those taken at the provincial or district level.
This is also true in the case of climate change.
According to Dr. Meine van Noordwijk of the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), how reductions of GHG emissions are likely to be allocated over sectors and, more importantly, over parts of the country, has not been decided yet.
Provinces and districts in Sumatra, Kalimantan and Papua, for instance, are still drafting their low-carbon development plans.
In these drafts, provinces and districts have voiced their aspirations to address climate change and sustainability.
In a decentralized model, it is crucial that the already developed and currently formulated national and sectoral climate change policies take into account these sub-national or local policy aspirations.
If the figures from different layers of the government do not match, it will be a Herculean task for the country to commit to pledge to reduce GHG emissions.
Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, head of the Indonesian team negotiating the bilateral agreement with Norway to reduce carbon emissions, recently said the Indonesian government had acknowledged the need for a system with high integrity, which left no room for leakages, to implement REDD+ successfully.
He explained a high degree of integrity was fundamental since compensation for REDD+ implementation would depend on the credibility of this system.
Setting up positive incentives, including financial ones, is another way to encourage local governments and actors to be more involved in climate change mitigation.
This is important since benefits resulting from any climate change policies need to be felt and distributed in an equitable manner.
Moreover, these incentives need to be framed by rules that ensure benefits created flow to, and are retained by, local and indigenous people — as well as poor communities — who are among the most resource-dependent people and providers of important environmental services.
In the past, the position, rights and interests of local and indigenous people were often overlooked or marginalized when the government formulated environmental policies.
As a result, poverty and environmental degradation are still prevalent.
Including local and indigenous people is therefore key to instituting better climate governance.
The recipient of the 2009 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, Elinor Ostrom, said social arrangements were crucial in determining the outcomes of policies, particularly when these were aimed at influencing human behavior interconnecting with economic matters.
In the Indonesian context, understanding the complexity of decentralization, taking into account aspirations of local governments and people, can be viewed as appropriate social arrangements.
This is not only likely to ensure successful outcomes from climate policies, but could also help minimize the cost of implementation of these policies, reduce social conflicts and provide social insurance in case of hazards.
Most importantly, this would strengthen the confidence and trust among all stakeholders and right holders — which is crucial for the nation itself.
The writer is a PhD candidate at the Australian National University, a recipient of the Australian Leadership Award and Allison Sudradjat Award, as well as an advisor to WWF-Indonesia on climate and energy. He can be reached at email@example.com