Feeding nation while protecting environment

The Jakarta Post, Thursday, 5 January 2017,

By Fitrian ArdiansyahIndonesia country director of IDH-Sustainable Trade Initiative

Original link: http://www.thejakartapost.com/academia/2017/01/05/feeding-nation-while-protecting-environment.html

2016_12_30_18720_1483095893._JP5January2017.jpg
Farmer works cultivating rice in the field (Antara/Berto, as shown in the Jakarta Post)

The year 2016 has just ended, but a question remains. Will countries, including Indonesia, be able to supply food for their growing populations, taking into account the constraints of our limited natural resources?

The global demand for food, fiber and fuel is on the rise. This demand needs to be matched while we also need to ensure that our resources, landscape and ecosystems will be sustainably managed for the long term. Several projections, including from the Directorate General of Food Crops in 2013, for example, reveal that Indonesia’s rice consumption would exceed its production starting in 2020, taking into account land availability and climate change.

Threats to food security will likely increase as the population continues to soar and economic activities develop, while land availability becomes more limited. Hence, improved productivity and technological developments are necessary.

Globally traded commodities produced in Indonesia, namely palm oil, coffee and cocoa, face similar challenges.

Palm oil is one of the most efficient crops but the productivity level in Indonesia, especially on small farmers’ lands, is still relatively low at 3.2 tons of crude palm oil (CPO) per hectare — the global average is between 4 and 5 tons.

If productivity and practices are not improved, the increased global demand for palm oil could lead to expansion and exploitation of the remaining forests and peat lands and potentially to forest and land fires.

However, a decree for conservation has been adopted by the government, which is in tandem with global markets that increasingly support sustainable products.

Land cultivated for palm oil needs replanting. In South Sumatra alone, between 2016 and 2021, replanting needs are estimated to be at least 270,000 hectares.

The investment required for oil palm replanting could reach US$5,000 per ha. A new financial plan is needed to support replanting, especially if it involves small farmers.

Without adequate finances and technical support for replanting, growers and farmers could opt to expand their palm oil cultivation to high risk areas, such as forests and peat lands.

Concerning cocoa and coffee, low productivity is a huge challenge as land is often managed and cultivated by small farmers.

Low productivity has trapped small farmers in a cycle of poverty and a cycle of debt. The inability of small farmers to access finances and sound agriculture practices has led to reduced quality of input which in turn produces a low level of output (quantity and quality).

Without a provision of better input, farmers will have difficulty meeting global standards — hence, their struggle to break into the global market.

Funding for farmers is even more challenging because financial institutions perceive giving loans to small farmers as a high risk.

This perception relates to the unclear land status of farmers, low capability and accountability of farmer organizations and existing debt by farmers.

Innovation could help farmers gain agriculture knowledge, input material, improve farmer organizations and reduce investment risks. This is key to producing more with less — more productivity with less environmental impact.

Models for this have been tested across the globe, including in Indonesia.

A good model usually consists of a supply chain company committed as a long-term off-taker of commodities supplied by farmers, a farmer organization or cooperative, a bank that provides a soft-loan for a cooperative with a grace period taking into account the harvesting cycle, a provider of seeds and input materials and a donor or private foundation that provides technical support for farmers.

Such models have been applied in Aceh for aquaculture, Riau, Jambi and South Sumatra for palm oil, Lampung for coffee and Sulawesi for cocoa.

Individual corporations, organizations and banks or multi-stakeholders’ platforms, such as Partnership for Indonesia Sustainable Agriculture (PISAgro), are examining these models in collaboration with a number of cooperatives and government agencies.

A model in just one supply chain may not be enough as there are many challenges and issues shared among different actors in different supply chains.

These shared issues include land legality, water and landscape management, fire prevention and energy provision and require a holistic approach beyond just one farm or supply chain.

In Musi Banyuasin district, South Sumatra, a supply shed approach led by its regent is being tested to support the development of integrated sustainable commodities, such as palm oil, rice, rubber and protecting forests and peat lands.

This approach has gathered the support of local government agencies, mills and local and international organizations to collaboratively help identify and map independent small farmers and their challenges.

A combination of segregated supply chain and integrated supply shed approaches with clear financial support and sound agriculture practices is one of the most effective ways to develop commodities while protecting our fragile ecosystem.

The bold part of this journey is to build on these approaches to increase investment, develop commodity production and protect larger areas.

It is time for Indonesia to demonstrate its ability to “produce more with less”.

The future of development and the question of sustainability

The Jakarta Post, Opinion, Fitrian Ardiansyah, Canberra | Wed, September 26 2012, 8:52 AM

Paper Edition | Page: 7,

Original link: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2012/09/26/the-future-development-and-question-sustainability.html

The gathering of the United Nations (UN) this September in New York undoubtedly had a different nuance. It marked the first official meeting to discuss “the future of development”. On Tuesday 25th, parallel to the UN General Assembly, the UN High Level Panel (HLP) of Eminent Persons on Post-2015 Development Agenda kicked off discussions about the continuation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the formulation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In September 2000, 147 heads of state and government officials met at the UN to unanimously adopt the Millennium Declaration, committing themselves to eight global development objectives (the eight MDGs) to be reached by 2015. These MDGs are widely perceived as the global and cross-country measures by which international development efforts would be judged.

Some proponents of the MDGs claim that many countries have exceeded the targets in at least three areas of the MDGs, namely poverty, slums and water. In the poverty category, for instance, it is estimated that in 2010 the share of people living on less than a US$1.25 a day basis dropped to less than half of its 1990 figure at the global level, as reported in the 2012 MDGs publication.

In Indonesia, as explained by the President’s special envoy for the MDGs, there are MDGs targets that have been achieved successfully such as the increased level of PPP (public-private partnership), school enrollment and higher gender equality. It is clear, however, many countries under the current MDGs framework have yet to achieve all the MDGs’ targets. The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2008, for instance, when commenting on the achievements of the MDGs, stated: “We have made important progress toward all eight goals, but we are not on track to fulfill [all of] our commitments.”

The 2012 UN report concurred with the secretary-general’s statement. The report projected, among others, that more than 600 million people worldwide in 2015 will lack access to safe drinking water, almost one billion will be living on an income of less than $1.25 per day, mothers will continue to die needlessly in childbirth and children will suffer and die from preventable diseases.

In Indonesia, to achieve many of the MDGs’ targets by 2015, huge challenges remain. One of them chiefly relates to addressing poverty vulnerability, which remains high (i.e. many people live very close to the poverty line and mostly, they do not have social protection).

The aforementioned situation sends a strong, clear message to the UN and all countries to accelerate efforts to further achieve targets already laid out in the MDGs, and to continue efforts to achieve them beyond 2015.

Due to this challenge, Ban formed the UN HLP earlier this year that will advise the UN on the global development agenda beyond 2015.

Ban has appointed three co-chairs to lead this HLP: President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, and Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom. The HLP consists of 26 eminent individuals that will help the co-chairs.

The HLP is expected to prepare a bold yet practical development vision, to be presented to participating countries of the UN next year, which will recommend on a global post-2015 agenda with shared responsibilities for all countries with the fight against poverty and sustainable development at its core.

Sustainable development has been highlighted as an important core of the post-2015 development framework because at the Rio+20 Conference this year, countries agreed on the SGDs and many analysts argued that these goals have been generally overlooked in the MDGs.

Experience shows that focusing on economic growth and poverty eradication alone has not necessarily led to human welfare and — most importantly — well-being. A sole focus on economic growth may further result in the increase in social inequality and environmental negative externalities.

If this continues, such unsustainable growth may push our planet close to its “tipping point” (exceeding our “planetary boundaries”). The planetary boundaries, as defined by some scholars, are a safe operating space for humanity, which are identified and quantified so that human activities can move forward without causing unacceptable and irreversible environmental changes.

These boundaries include biodiversity loss, atmospheric aerosol loading, chemical pollution, climate change, ocean acidification, stratospheric ozone depletion, nitrogen and phosphorous cycles, global freshwater use and change in land use. Since most changes in ecosystems are likely to be irreversible, it is imperative that urgent action is taken to address these challenges before it is too late.

The links between poverty and the environment, however, are mostly complex and strongly influenced by local demographic, political, institutional, economic and cultural factors.

The over exploitation of natural resources, for example, which is driven by wealthy investments, may lead to environmental and natural resource degradation and further marginalize poor people, preventing them from accessing these already limited resources or pushing them to face more frequented disasters, such as flooding, land-slides, drought and fires and haze, as a result of the degradation.

The development framework in post-2015, as discussed in the HLP, therefore, should seriously take into account balanced efforts to address poverty, social inequality (both intra-generational and inter-generational equity) and environmental degradation. The framework needs to promote innovation including the promotion of bottom and inclusive approaches — garnering the support from different stakeholders — in the formulation of development agendas in many countries.

In general, the work of the HLP is crucial to define the basic shape of our development in the future. Since the Indonesian President is one of the co-chairs of the panel, Indonesians — and other developing country citizens — need to be proactive in contributing to this process.

It is our future that the HLP is discussing and defining.

With our contribution, it is hoped that the process is enriched and the formulation of “the future of development” will lead to the appropriate level of welfare and well-being of the human population as well as sound and healthy ecosystems of our only planet Earth.

The writer is a doctoral candidate at the Australian National University, and the recipient of the Australian Leadership Award and Allison Sudradjat Award.

Pushing forward to better land use

The Jakarta Post, Fitrian Ardiansyah and Thomas Barano, Jakarta | Sun, 27 May 2012, 8:00 AM

May and June are shaping up to show if Indonesia has achieved significant progress in promoting better land-use management, particularly in reducing deforestation and land degradation.

May 20, for instance, marks the completion of the first year of Indonesia’s two-year moratorium on new permits for primary forest and peat-land clearing. June 5 is World Environment Day, with its “Green Economy: Does it Include You?” theme — in which land-use management is considered to be one of six high-growth sectors in the green economy.

The moratorium is an integral part of REDD+ (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, conservation and enhancement of forest carbon stocks, and sustainable management of forest) policy development and is expected to improve forest and land-use governance, especially in synergizing mapping and licensing systems.

A synchronized, synergized and agreed-to map — adhered by various sectors and layers of government — of forest and land use in Indonesia is fundamental to address the challenges facing our land-use management.

The recent debate between Greenpeace and the President’s special staff on climate change on the exact figure of forest cover loss has reaffirmed the importance of having a credible, reliable, accessible and transparent mapping system of forest and land use. Without that, Indonesia cannot measure and account for greenhouse gas emissions, land-use changes and forests.

More importantly, a credible map would lay the foundations for the settlement of land conflicts.

In December 2010, the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) found in its study on forestry policies and systems that a synchronized map of forest areas that can be used by stakeholders did not exist. Instead, there were at least four different versions that, utilizing various scales, were incompatible with each other.

According to the KPK, the lack of a consolidated map, coupled with unclear definitions and boundaries of forest areas as well as a lack of fair procedures in designating forest areas, has weakened the legitimacy of 88.2 percent of forest areas, or more than 105.8 million hectares.

Despite the fact that it is very challenging to have an agreed map, given the variety of sectors and actors that have interests in forest and land use, it appears that this issue has been gradually addressed through the development and refinement of the moratorium-indicative map (MIM).

The REDD+ taskforce, which is given a mandate by Indonesia’s President to develop the national REDD+ strategy, has been working with different agencies to arrive at an agreed, indicative map of the moratorium, to avoid confusion and create legal certainty.

The agencies include the National Survey and Mapping Coordinating Agency (Bakosurtanal), the Forestry and Agriculture Ministries, the National Land Agency (BPN) and the President’s Delivery Unit for Development Monitoring and Oversight (UKP4).

The MIM is required to outline the areas covered in the moratorium and is being updated every six months to integrate the latest sets of data from additional agencies and to incorporate results from site visits.

To date, a second MIM is available, albeit with some discrepancies of figures between the two maps, as reported by the taskforce.

In the first MIM, the total moratorium area was 69.1 million hectares with, primary forests and peat-land accounting for 7.2 million and 10.68 million hectares. In the second MIM, the total moratorium area was reduced to 65.5 million hectares, with primary forests and peat-land covering 8.39 million and 5.9 million hectares.

Overall, the total change in moratorium area is 3.6 million hectares, with changes in primary forests and peat-land of 1.16 million and 4.76 million hectares.

The taskforce argues that such differences occurred because the first MIM only used definitions of natural-primary forests from the Forestry Ministry and definitions of peat-land from the National Development Planning Board (Bappenas) and Wetlands International, incorporating areas with ongoing land-use activities such as for estate crops and settlements, covered only by licenses issued by the ministry without any field-survey
components.

The second MIM, according to the taskforce, has covered information provided by different agencies involved. This map, for instance, has taken into account the definitions and data of peat-land from the Agriculture Ministry, licenses issued by the BPN, and some field studies and research on peat-land nationwide.

Since there are many sectors and actors involved, it is understandable that synchronizing the map may add or reduce the relevant forest and land cover figures. Also, negotiations and trade-offs are likely to take place among these sectors and actors.

To obtain a credible map, however, such processes need transparency that allows the wider public to access the map.

The recent case of the clearing and burning of Tripa peat-swamp forests for palm oil in Aceh’s Nagan Raya district is a clear example of a “small” but serious discrepancy of forest and land cover in the MIM that needs to be urgently addressed, especially when it comes to monitoring and evaluating land-use licenses and activities in more than 400 local governments.

The involvement of civil society in protesting the license issued for this land and reporting this case to the central government has eventually pushed the REDD+ taskforce, the Environment Ministry, the National Police and the Attorney General’s Office investigate this case.

This recent case clearly provides a valuable lesson. For instance, to avoid future land conflicts at the local level, improving spatial resolution of the MIM needs to be prioritized.

Further, it is imperative to produce a common map not only for the sake of legal certainty but to also provide credible and transparent mapping and licensing systems — feeding back to district/provincial land-use policies and regimes — so that land-use management will bring about better social, economic and environmental outcomes.

Fitrian Ardiansyah is a doctoral candidate at the Australian National University and a recipient of an Australian Leadership Award and an Allison Sudradjat Award. Thomas Barano is conservation spatial planning specialist of WWF-Indonesia.

Saving Sumatra’s forests: World heritage in danger

The Jakarta Post, Fitrian Ardiansyah and Thomas Barano, Canberra/Jakarta | Sun, 04/22/2012 12:49 PM

Original link: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2012/04/22/saving-sumatra-s-forests-world-heritage-danger.html

In light of the 42nd anniversary of Earth Day, celebrated this year on April 22, the government and citizens of Indonesia are again reminded of the huge challenges they face in halting or reversing the declining state of their natural forests, including those on Sumatra.

Sumatra is a rare island in that it harbors four endangered and unique mammals, namely the Sumatran orangutan, the Sumatran elephant, the Sumatran rhino and the Sumatran tiger.

Its lowland forests are recognized as part of the Global 200 Ecoregions — nature regions, landscapes or seascapes that are exceptionally important and symbolic for the survival of rich biodiversity features.

In 2004, 2.5 million hectares of Sumatra’s rainforests were included on the World Heritage List of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for their rich and unique biodiversity.

According to UNESCO, the tropical rainforest heritage of Sumatra, comprising Gunung Leuser, Kerinci Seblat and Bukit Barisan Selatan national parks, is home to an estimated 10,000 plant species, more than 200 mammal species and some 580 bird species.

However, the forests on this island have come under the constant threat of destructive and illegal logging activities, expansion of agriculture and pulp plantations, as well as infrastructure development.

Then environment minister Gusti Mohammad Hatta stated in 2010 that Sumatra had experienced tremendous pressures resulting from natural resource exploitation. He further argued that natural forests had decreased, leaving only 29 percent of forest cover on the island.

A 2010 technical report submitted to the National Forestry Council and the National Development Planning Agency, which provided scientific analysis of the state of Sumatra’s natural forests, found a steep decline in forest area from 25.3 million hectares (58 percent of land cover) in 1985 to 12.8 million hectares in 2008/2009 (29 percent), which equals an annual loss of 0.54 million hectares (approximately eight times that of Jakarta’s territory).

In 2011, UNESCO placed the tropical rainforest heritage of Sumatra on the list of those world heritage sites in danger. The organization viewed that the forests had been frequently under pressure from poaching, illegal logging, agricultural encroachment and road development.

To respond to these challenges, plans and initiatives have been developed, with activities undertaken at different levels, particularly focusing on sustaining the management and conserving the remaining forests on the island.

One of the key initiatives is the Road Map for Saving the Sumatra Ecosystem: Sumatra’s Vision 2020, which was signed in 2010 by four ministers (forestry, environment, home and public works) and 10 governors (Aceh, North Sumatra, West Sumatra, Riau, Jambi, Riau, Bangka-Belitung, Bengkulu, South Sumatra and Lampung).

This initiative outlines the governments’ commitment to developing spatial plans on the island based on ecosystem values, functions and services, restoring critical areas and protecting the remaining conservation high value areas.

Key components of this initiative include the promotion of sustainable forests, responsible agriculture development and payments for environmental services, such as for water services and forest carbon.

An initial good sign appears in the form of Presidential Decree No. 13/2012 on Sumatra Island Spatial Planning, which stipulates the intention of the government to at least maintain 40 percent of remaining forests as conservation areas and restore already degraded forests.

Yet, there is a gulf between a high-level commitment and seeing desired changes on the ground.

To bridge the gap between commitment and implementation, strong support from the corporate sector is required, mainly from agriculture and pulp plantations, to ensure that the development of plantations will no longer replace forests and peat lands.

A recent petition signed on behalf of various organizations submitted to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to save the habitats of orangutans in the Gunung Leuser ecosystem proves the necessity of engaging the aforementioned sector. In this letter, these organizations say that the fires that are intended to clear forests in the province of Aceh for oil palm plantations have threatened the ecosystem, endangering 300 orangutans and pushing the species even closer to extinction.

Another aspect crucially required to realize the commitment is the support and involvement of local governments and people as well as indigenous communities. With a decentralized government system in place, regional governments hold relatively more power and authority to manage and control their natural resources.

Options or incentives provided to help local governments to develop their economies in sustainable ways are, thus, imperative to keep the remaining forests intact.

Such incentives — for forest protection and management — particularly have to be significant so that they are sufficient enough to counter the economic drivers of deforestation, which include logging and plantation development.

More importantly, these incentives have to reach local and indigenous communities, who are considered the users and providers of ecosystem services. Without their support and involvement, any initiatives may yield results but will not last long.

Furthermore, since Sumatra’s rainforests have been acknowledged as one of the world’s treasures, international communities have a high degree of responsibility to contribute to the creation of positive incentives that can advance the conservation and sustainable management of these globally significant forests.

As reflected by this year’s Earth Day theme: “Mobilizing the Earth”, initiatives to save what remains of Sumatra’s forests clearly require strong support from and the involvement of different actors at different levels.

Such a broad-based effort in garnering support is definitely a good test-case as to whether we, the people of this planet, can stand united in creating a sustainable future, at least, for Sumatra and its inhabitants.

Fitrian Ardiansyah is a PhD candidate at the Australian National University and the recipient of the Australian Leadership Award and Allison Sudradjat Award. Thomas Barano is a conservation spatial planning specialist from WWF Indonesia.

Electing the leader of Jakarta, the city of (no) joy

The Jakarta Post, Fitrian Ardiansyah, Canberra | Wed, 03/21/2012 9:59 AM

Original link: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2012/03/21/electing-leader-jakarta-city-no-joy.html

Recent news on the lead up to the Jakarta gubernatorial election has reminded people about the importance of the immediate future of this great big capital city and the people who live within its city limits.

Jakarta, for some, is considered as a source of economic opportunities, a stepping stone to living the “Indonesian dream”.

For others, it is a constant reminder of a harsh day-to-day life, facing the consequences of urban environmental mismanagement such as traffic gridlock, flooding, air and water pollution.

Yet, like a magnet, those who have left will likely return, new people will turn up and the majority who stay will continue to call this city their home.

Jakarta has a stunning history. From a small port on the estuary of the Ciliwung River around 500 years ago, Jakarta has significantly transformed itself into Indonesia’s economic and political hub.

The city is a busy and crowded melting pot and is now one of the biggest cities on Earth.

The latest statistics suggest that Jakarta’s population has reached 9.6 million (with a growth rate of 1.40 percent per year) — among the top 10 most populous cities in the world — while the Greater Jakarta Metropolitan Area is home to 27.9 million people (the growth rate is 3.6 percent per year).

Jakarta’s population density is estimated at around 14,500 per square kilometer, ranking 17th of 125 big cities in the world.

According to Prof. Tommy Firman of the Bandung Institute of Technology, the population growth in Jakarta and its greater area can be attributed to net migration and reclassification (i.e. change in rural localities to urban localities).

The accelerating growth in population in the city is due to, among other factors, its significant economic growth. It was recorded that last year, economic growth in Jakarta reached 16.5 percent, the highest in Indonesia.

Although having the highest economic growth in the country, Jakarta still falls behind other big cities in the world, particularly when it comes to personal earnings and purchasing power.

A report released last year by UBS reveals that Jakarta has the lowest rank (number 73 of 73 big cities assessed) in terms of domestic purchasing power, even compared to Manila, Nairobi and Mumbai. It is, however, slightly better (number 70) than these three cities in terms of gross wages.

Its iPod index — a calculation on how long an employee would have to work to be able to afford an iPod nano with 8 GB storage in each city — ranks 65 in 2009, which is lower than Bangkok (much lower than Zurich or New York) but higher than Delhi, Manila and Mumbai.

This means that an average wage-earner in Zurich and New York can buy an iPod nano after nine hours of work. Workers in Jakarta, however, need to work 93 hours (or 10 nine-hour days) to purchase the same gadget.

Regardless of these figures, the economic spectrum of Jakarta is still very attractive to millions of people.

This tremendous economic boost, combined with decades of land-use and urban management (or the lack of it), however, also brings about unwanted consequences.

Jakarta has been well-known for its seasonal but intensified flooding. Flooding in 2007 affected 80 subdistricts, causing traffic chaos and paralyzing the city. The Indonesian government estimates that losses amounted to Rp 4.1 trillion (US$450 million).

Every year, the city government promises to make various efforts to prevent major floods from inundating the capital city.

Last year, the Jakarta city administration had to allocate Rp 1.36 trillion to support these actions.

With only 9.79 percent of green space in 2010, continuous overdevelopment inside the catchment areas and nearby rivers that cannot discharge water into the sea since they are clogged with waste, the city will have little capacity to absorb a high level of rainfall and prevent flooding.

Another major but daily headache for Jakartans is the continuous horror of its traffic. A 2011 study released by the Jakarta Transportation Agency estimated that traffic congestion costs the city up to Rp 46 trillion a year.

Another figure from the Transportation Ministry claims that congestion costs Rp 28.1 trillion each year, accounting for wasted fuel, productivity lost and traffic-induced health problems.

Promises after promises have been made by the city administration to address these issues and the people of Jakarta have waited long enough to see if these are going to be put into action.

With the upcoming election of their governor, Jakartans now have a greater chance to demand more and push the incumbent and other candidates further to not only promise a better Jakarta but also to come up with ambitious and clear action plans to improve the city.

Impossible is nothing, says one ad. Jakarta can be changed into a better and livable place. Jakarta’s citizens can ask their government — and the future government — to learn from the success of cities in other developing countries.

Mexico City, Bangkok and Rio de Janeiro, for instance, as part of the commitment by their political leaderships to improve the living conditions of their citizens, have gradually changed their images for the better by establishing environmental policies, programs and actions, developing innovative and creative modes of public transportation, and instituting a high degree of public participation and engagement in environment-related issues.

It is now the right time for Jakartans to voice their concerns louder, by ensuring that they elect the right candidate for the position of governor.

Being apathetic is not an option, since the immediate and possibly long-term fate of Jakarta will be decided in this upcoming election.

The writer is a native Jakartan, doctoral candidate at the Australian National University and recipient of the Australian Leadership Award and Allison Sudradjat Award.

This article is reposted in East Asia Forum: http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2012/04/07/jakarta-s-gubernatorial-election-a-time-for-change/

Mixed results from Durban climate talks for Indonesia

The Jakarta Post, Fitrian Ardiansyah, Canberra | Friday, 16 December 2011 9:57 AM

 

Agreements achieved in the early morning of Dec. 11 in Durban, South Africa, not only appeared to salvage the UN climate talks but have also raised further questions about the commitments and capabilities of countries around the world in urgently tackling climate change.

After two weeks and more than a day extension of difficult negotiations, governments involved in the 17th session of the Conference of Parties (COP-17) agreed to extend the Kyoto Protocol and to negotiate a binding agreement for all countries to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

These agreements, known as the “Durban Platform”, also include the implementation of the Green Climate Fund, establishment of the Adaptation Committee, and further development of REDD+ (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation).

The results of Durban climate negotiations need to be cautiously analyzed since they have potentially different implications for the planet and developing countries like Indonesia.

For Indonesia, it is crucial if negotiations in Durban resulted in decisions which clearly translate into or present strong signals leading to global actions to cut GHG emissions and to financially and technologically support actions on mitigation and adaptation in developing countries.

Developing countries in Durban, for instance, managed to get developed countries to agree to the inclusion of a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, which will commence in January 2013, in the “Durban Platform”.

This result will definitely avoid a gap at the end of the first commitment period of the Protocol, ending in 2012.

The Protocol, having set binding targets for 37 developed countries to reduce GHG emissions to 5 percent below the 1990 levels by 2012, however, may lose its significance in the second period since some countries such as Canada, Japan and Russia were reportedly unwilling to take part.

With the US still opting out of the Protocol, it is likely that the Protocol will only achieve small reductions of GHG emissions.

This situation apparently justifies the importance of another agreed decision, as included in the “Durban Platform”, which is to have a roadmap to negotiate a new global treaty covering all countries to reduce GHG emissions.

The negotiations for this treaty are expected to be concluded by 2015 and the treaty will come into force from 2020.

Many climate analysts, nevertheless, are not convinced with the possible directions of this particular agreement.

Although covering both developed and developing countries, including Indonesia, the projected emissions resulting from this possible treaty — calculated based on the current pledges made by these countries since Copenhagen COP-15 in 2009 — may likely lead to a global average temperature rise of more than 3.5 degrees Celsius.

This means that the future of people living on this planet, particularly in vulnerable countries like Indonesia, is at stake. The economy and many aspects of human civilization are threatened.

Therefore, there is a need for serious new commitments and actions to address the “emissions gap” so that the planned treaty can effectively tackle climate change.

As of Durban, there were no new pledges for stronger emissions reductions.

In addition, waiting until 2020 for the treaty to take effect may also be too late. There is a huge risk that by that time, the limit of emissions in the atmosphere has been reached so that actions to stabilize the climate are next to impossible and too expensive.

Another perceived crucial agreement incorporated in the “Durban Platform” is a formal structure of the Green Climate Fund and a work plan to operate it by mobilizing funds from both private and public sources.

A number of countries signaled their readiness to contribute to the Fund but realizing the promise may prove to be a daunting task.

The global financial crisis was often cited as the reason behind the difficult negotiations and realization on finance.

This situation, hence, has left many unanswered questions for developing countries to fight climate change since the Fund is supposed to be used to support policies and actions in these countries.

Also, the negotiations on finance, specifically on the Green Climate Fund, have not resulted in the establishment of a specific window for REDD+. A special window funds for REDD+ at the global level, if agreed, is expected to provide significant support for tropical forest nations, including Indonesia, to advance their REDD+ development at national and local levels.

A decision coming out in Durban which can lead to financial support for REDD+ is the agreement on a variety of sources for financing ranging from public and private finance, as well as market mechanisms.

This decision will not only open the door for new and long-term investments in REDD+ but also at least help ensuring the future of investments already put in place in supporting REDD+ readiness and early actions. Other aspects of REDD+ were also agreed, among others, covering the reference levels and safeguards.

The progress made on the reference levels is necessary since establishing these levels is important not only for determining emission reductions but also as a basis for REDD+ funding mechanisms.

However, the aspect of rules on safeguards in REDD+ decision appears to be weak, especially when it comes to rules on protecting indigenous communities and biodiversity. This may undermine the credibility of REDD+ and make it unattractive in the eyes of investors.

Another positive decision reached in Durban, especially for vulnerable countries like Indonesia, is the establishment of the Adaptation Committee.

This Committee will coordinate adaptation activities on a global scale. The establishment of this Committee has put one of important the components to help developing countries confronting the increasingly dangerous impacts of climate change.

In general, the Durban climate talks have provided mixed results for developing countries like Indonesia. There was some marginal progress made but huge unanswered questions remain.

Political promises and weak agreements will hardly reduce GHG emissions. Only strong decisions and real actions can demonstrate the level of seriousness in addressing climate change.

It is therefore imperative for Indonesia, unilaterally and with other countries, to continue to work hard and show real actions on climate change mitigation and adaptation. Without these actions, the survival of the nation and the fate of the planet will look uncertain and grim.

The writer is a doctoral candidate at the Australian National University, and the recipient of the Australian Leadership Award and Allison Sudradjat Award.

Measuring the success of RI’s involvement in Durban

The Jakarta Post, Fitrian Ardiansyah, Canberra | Monday, 5 December 2011 8:04 PM

 

The global climate change negotiations, underway from Nov. 28 to Dec. 9 in Durban, South Africa, once again undoubtedly highlight a fundamental question as to whether countries around the world will reach agreed solutions to tackle climate change.

It is also an appropriate event to assess the involvement of developing countries like Indonesia, and particularly to understand whether their involvement in this UN climate conference will significantly contribute to a successful outcome.

Durban, hosting the 17th session of the Conference of Parties (COP-17) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), will certainly pick up what has been left at last year’s UN climate change negotiations in Cancún, Mexico, and the subsequent inter-sessional meetings.

The big remaining challenge, however, is to see whether governments involved in Durban will build on the progress achieved in Cancún or withdraw from this promising path and allow short-term national interests to shroud the already exhaustive negotiations.

The Cancún Agreements represent key steps forward, forming the basis for the largest collective effort to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions with national plans captured formally at international levels under the banner of UNFCCC, in a mutually accountable way.

The Agreements, among other things, bring about the most comprehensive package ever agreed to by governments to help developing nations deal with climate change and lay the foundation to build their own sustainable futures.

The package encompasses finance (Green Climate Fund and fast-start financing), the Cancún Adaptation Framework, a Technology Mechanism (to support action on mitigation and adaptation, and speed up for low-emission economies) and a formal incorporation of REDD+ (stating clearly that it is not only about reducing emissions but also halting and reversing forest loss).

It is, therefore, critical for governments involved in the negotiations, especially Indonesia, to lock in the progress as stated in the Cancún Agreements and moreover push further for the agreements to be implemented.

Indonesia, as a resource-rich country striving to develop its economy, alleviate poverty and at the same time deal with climate change, has a lot at stake getting involved in these climate change negotiations.

For this country, for instance, it is critical to negotiate the further implementation of the Cancún Adaptation Framework, firstly in ensuring the establishment of the Adaptation Committee.

The establishment of this committee will send a strong signal to vulnerable countries affected by climate change, including Indonesia, that governments around the world are serious to help these countries confronting the increasingly dangerous impacts of climate change.

Indonesia needs to also work hard, with other parties, to negotiate and urge the realization of fast-start finance and Green Climate Fund.

The fast-start finance is pledges made by developed country parties to mobilize new and additional resources, amounting to US$30 billion for the period 2010-2012, to help mitigation and adaptation in developing countries.

The Green Climate Fund was decided in Cancún to support projects, programs, policies and other activities in developing countries using thematic funding windows.

With a short-term challenge of financial crisis being faced by a number of developed countries, negotiations on finance and its realization are highly likely to be difficult ones.

Indonesia and other developing countries thus have a challenging task to remind developed countries about their promise, the progress made in achieving the goal of this financing and procedures to access these resources.

Specific to the Green Climate Fund, it is necessary for Indonesia to work together with other tropical forest nations as well as like-minded countries to lobby for a special window for REDD+ under this fund.

REDD+ has been initiated and piloted in tropical forest nations such as Indonesia. In fact in this country the government has produced several policies and strategies to guide REDD+ development and implementation, including the introduction of the moratorium of new permits to convert forests and peatlands to other land uses.

Such policies, strategies and relevant regulations may not be sufficient to transform current land use changes and practices, which result in the reduction of deforestation.

Tackling deforestation involves different actors, sectors, as well as layers of governments. These entities are known to have competing interests over land use. Without the provision of clear incentives, it is a Herculean task to persuade them to change the patterns of land use in Indonesia.

A special window of funding for REDD+ at a global level would certainly provide more than a moral boost for tropical forest nations to advance their REDD+ development at a national level and on the ground.

Adding to already tough negotiations on finance, Indonesia and other developing countries are required to advocate parties at the Durban conference not to forget the importance of identifying the sources for long-term finance, which are needed to cut GHG emissions and to support adaptation efforts of vulnerable countries.

Climate change is going to be a long-term phenomenon and countries like Indonesia will indeed suffer if actions in mitigation and adaptation are formulated only for a short time frame. If there is no indication in which resources are allocated to fight climate change over a long period, reducing carbon emissions and creating a sustainable future will be merely a dream for global communities.

With discussions on the need for long-term commitments and actions on climate change, Durban is seen as crucial to produce an agreement or at least a convincing direction toward a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol.

The first commitment period of the Protocol, which regulates the commitment of developed countries to cut their GHG emissions, will end in 2012. Hence, it is urgent for Indonesia and other countries to achieve real progress on this matter.

The agreement on second commitment period to the Kyoto Protocol is not only important to demonstrate a strong commitment among developed countries in significantly reducing their emissions, but it can also help persuade big emerging economies and other countries to set out a clear mandate for a comprehensive legally binding
agreement.

In Durban, the climate talks are at a crossroads, and governments, including that of Indonesia, and other parties have a lot of work to do to demonstrate to the world that they are serious about addressing dangerous climate change.

The costs of climate change, socially, environmentally and economically, are high and will be higher for the world and this country. A delay to act will prove costly.

Therefore, Indonesia’s delegations have no choice but to commit to continuous hard work and provide real leadership to guarantee a successful outcome in Durban’s climate negotiations.

The writer is a doctoral candidate at the Australian National University, and the recipient of the Australian Leadership Award and Allison Sudradjat Award.