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

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.

Magsaysay and the environment

The Jakarta Post, Fitrian Ardiansyah, Canberra | Sunday, 7 August 2011, page 4, 3:26 PM

Original link: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2011/08/07/magsaysay-and-environment.html

The Ramon Magsaysay Award, considered Asia’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize, recently given to two Indonesians, clearly acknowledges that there are leaders in this country who significantly bring about positive changes to the environment.

Indonesia is a resource-rich country but is striving to develop its economy, alleviate poverty and at the same time secure energy, reduce deforestation and tackle climate change.

One of the two award recipients was Tri Mumpuni, acknowledged for her work leading IBEKA (the People-Centered Business and Economic Institute) in building community-run hydropower plants in rural Indonesia.

The award for Tri would offer a sense of optimism, particularly to approximately 70-80 million people, or almost one-third of Indonesia’s population, who currently lack access to electricity. These people mostly live in rural areas and the outer islands.

Developing micro-hydro power plants as a renewable energy resource serves the objectives of advancing this country’s economy, reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and alleviating poverty (for example by providing basic access to electricity).

IBEKA has demonstrated that by building 60 micro-hydropower plants with a capacity to generate 5 to 250 KW of electricity and provide electricity to 500,000 people in rural Indonesia, it has contributed to achieving these objectives.

This organization works closely with local communities to ensure that projects are sustainable in the long term and that electrification will have a maximum impact on the development of the communities. This success gives true hope to millions of Indonesians, in that such a complex challenge can be overcome.

The award is also expected to convince the government to intensify its current work in renewable energy development.

The central government has already had a general energy policy that advocates the diversification of energy sources and conversion from coal and petroleum-based fuels to renewable energy sources in a bid to reduce emissions.

However, the promotion of renewable resource development over the last five years has moved at a snail’s pace. At present, renewable energy production (hydropower, geothermal and biomass) makes use of only 3.4 percent of total potential reserves.

This is rather ironic, considering that this massive archipelago possesses a variety of renewable energy resources, including geothermal, solar, micro-hydro, wind and bio-energy.

Further breakthroughs are urgently required such as by reforming and correcting policy and pricing incoherence (for example by phasing out subsidies for fossil fuels), removing structural impediments and promoting investments in renewable energy.

The success story of IBEKA and others who are harnessing renewable energy, therefore, needs to be magnified and/or replicated.

The other award recipient is another source of inspiration of similar magnitude. Tuan Guru Haji Hasanain Juaini, has made his mark, not only through establishing a progressive Islamic boarding school, but also in motivating and organizing students, community members and fellow Indonesians to actively contribute to forest and water conservation.

Tuan Guru, meaning “esteemed master”, is an honorific title used by Muslim leaders in Lombok Island (east of Bali), West Nusa Tenggara. As a local religious leader, Hasanain is a key non-state actor of considerable influence in Lombok society.

Hasanain and his progressive Narmada Islamic School gained great respect by advocating the importance in preserving the remaining forests and water catchment areas in Lombok. They also demonstrated that conservation can start with a school.

Lombok has experienced the worsening seasonal water crisis. Droughts have brought misery to many and clean water is still a luxury only available to some. During the rainy season, some parts of the island suffer from flooding and landslides. With a majority of Lombok’s people still living in poverty, deforestation and the water crisis have worsened local people’s livelihoods.

A collaborative action plan — between governments, local communities, NGOs, the local public water enterprise (PDAM) — was formulated to show that there are solutions to this resource problem, and Hasanain has been lending his voice to support it since.

The solutions include forest restoration in upper catchment areas, payment for watershed services, river conservation and social economic development for local communities.

To back up his call for conservation, starting from Narmada, his students and teachers have established a number of nurseries providing approximately 1.5 million seeds and seedlings, and are also involved in restoration activities that have successfully rehabilitated 36 hectares of degraded forests.

His own house also provides a good example of conservation, which can start from each individual household. A semi-structured nursery and a humble green garden clearly symbolize the intentions of the owner.

Verses from the Koran on the house wall, including the first revelation (i.e. Iqra! or Read, Recite!), appear to reaffirm the commitment of Hasanain and his school to learn more and understand many things, including from nature.

These two Indonesian winners of this year’s Magsaysay Award have shown that ordinary Indonesians can overcome big challenges. Amid negative political, economic and environmental issues faced by this country, their leadership and success are a demonstration of the confidence, strength and capabilities of our people.

These two figures show that there is in fact a bright light of hope for this nation to prosper.

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

Environment Day: A good day for RI’s forests?

The Jakarta Post, Opinion, Fitrian Ardiansyah, Canberra ACT | Mon, 13 June 2011. 6:44 PM

Original link:

This year’s World Environment Day, which sports the theme “Forests: Nature at your service” is likely to be celebrated in a more “colorful” way in Indonesia.

This may be due to the fact that in the last two weeks prior to June 5, three influential policies were issued by the government. These were two presidential decrees concerning forests and the most recent economic development master plan.

If not properly guided, managed and implemented, these three policies have the potential to be contradictory and hence could ruin a significant chance for Indonesia to sustainably manage its remaining valuable forests.

For instance, on Friday, May 20, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono signed a presidential instruction number 10 of 2011 regarding a two-year moratorium on new permits to clear primary forests and peatland throughout Indonesia.

This long-awaited moratorium, which was intended to reduce deforestation, may provide a relative degree of certainty for pushing the overall program of reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) and land use management and development in Indonesia.

However, the decree has been met with polarized reactions and many believe it is a product of a heavy compromise.

The first issue to be debated has been the clarity of figures used as the basis for the moratorium.

According to the recent government data which may be based on an indicative map attached to the moratorium document, the moratorium would cover 64.2 million hectares of primary forests and 24.5 million hectares of peatland.

These figures appear to contradict earlier figures released by the government.

In February 2010, for example, the forestry minister himself stated that the remaining amount of primary forest in Indonesia was 43 million hectares.

In addition, the National Working Group on Peatland Management, a government taskforce led by the Home Ministry, estimated that in 2006 Indonesia had around 20 million hectares of peatland, distributed mainly in Sumatra, Kalimantan and Papua.

Observing the indicative map, another important aspect that needs to be scrutinized is that a significant percentage of the primary forests are already protected under Indonesian laws in the form of national parks and other conservation areas.

Several conservation organizations have said the moratorium will extend protection to only an additional 14 percent of primary forests.

Another critical dimension to this decree is that it only prohibits the issuance of new permits for logging, conversion and different types of exploitation of primary forests and peatlands.

The challenging question now is to calculate the size of areas of primary forests and peatlands that are already under old and existing concessions, or areas listed under “vital” development programs excluded by this moratorium, as stipulated in the decree.

We may all be surprised to see the exact number and size of these permits.

Another presidential decree released the day before, on May 19, allowing conditional underground mining in protected forest areas, for example, could further cloud the definition of what are regarded as “vital” activities that can continue to operate in primary forests.

Not only does the decree allow geothermal activities to be developed, but also possibly encourage other destructive mining activities to take place.

Furthermore, critics say the presidential instruction covers only primary forests and peatland, leaving out secondary forests.

Secondary forests in Indonesia cover an area of more than 20 million hectares and these areas have been constantly threatened by both legal and illegal logging activities and clearing for agricultural or industrial purposes.

If the government is serious about its commitment to reduce Indonesia’s greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent, it needs to comprehensively take into account its efforts in avoiding deforestation in primary and secondary forests as well as peatlands.

A crucial aspect which seems to have been left out is support for actors, sectors, regions or communities negatively impacted by the moratorium, for example in the form of alternative economic schemes, opportunities or technological or financial means.

As we may know, without comprehensive support for these parties, it may be very challenging to implement the moratorium in the field.

The government needs to send a clear signal, particularly to those who stand to lose as result of the moratorium, that they will be treated fairly.

There is a huge opportunity to use the last week’s published Master Plan for the Acceleration and Expansion of Indonesia’s Economic Development (MP3EI) to tackle this challenge.

The government has informed the public it will invest around Rp200 trillion (US$23.4 billion) to develop six economic corridors promoting palm oil, rubber and other industries under the MP3EI program.

If it utilizes the MP3EI funding carefully, the government could assist planters, loggers and other land users to achieve more efficient and productive output when it comes to utilizing their land.

In the case of palm oil, according to a study conducted in 2007, if oil palm plantation productivity can be improved, there would be no need for the oil palm plantation sector to further expand its land usage, as growth in demand could be met by improving yields of existing plantations by 1.5-2.0 percent per year.

This intervention could poten-tially reduce the need to convert forests and peatlands to oil palm plantation.

If this opportunity is ignored and the MP3EI program is not synergized with the moratorium and vice versa, the parties not benefiting from the moratorium will use the economic development master plan as an excuse to continue their “business-as-usual” activities.

If this is the case, Indonesia and its people will still be struggling to achieve balanced development, promoting economic development on the one hand and taking care of the environment on the other.

As citizens of this country, we need to ensure that the government and influential parties make the right decision and that the Environment Day we celebrate this year is meaningful.

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

This article was re-published in East Asia Forum on 16 July 2011 at:


A critical year for REDD in Indonesia

Published in The Jakarta Post, Opinion, page 6 | Mon, 01/10/2011 9:36 AM |

Fitrian Ardiansyah and Aditya Bayunanda, Canberra

The new year has begun and the need to deal with environmental degradation, including deforestation, have become more pressing than before, yet the challenges are greater than ever.

For a few decades, Indonesia has paid a high price in terms of economic, environmental and social costs as well as negative reputation for the continued obscurity of policies to curb deforestation and a less than encouraging record in managing natural resources.

As part of efforts to alter this, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in 2009 stated that his government was devising a policy that would cut the country’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 26 percent by 2020 from “business as usual” levels. A significant portion contributing to this would come from reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+).

To politically and financially back up REDD+ development and implementation in this country, a letter of intent (LoI) was signed by the Indonesian and Norwegian governments in Oslo in late May last year.

The LoI came with a pledged provision of US$1 billion for Indonesia. This could be considered as the biggest single support any country has given Indonesia to date in the area of environmental management and climate change, and a significant initial step toward saving Indonesia’s peatlands and natural forests.

To show that he was serious in addressing the issue of deforestation and giving a boost to the REDD+ platform, the Indonesian President in Oslo also announced his commitment to halting all new concessions for the conversion of peatlands and natural forests in two years, supposed to start in January 2011.

January has arrived and after approximately seven months of continuous public discourses and reviews within the relevant ministries as well as inside UKP4 — a special presidential delivery unit charged with managing this LoI — the government is yet to produce a clear strategy and legal framework to support this initiative.

One sign of progress is the formation of a special taskforce that has a mandate to establish a special agency that will report directly to the President and coordinate the efforts pertaining to the development and implementation of REDD+.

Another recent development following this LoI, which happened just before the turn of the year, was the selection of Central Kalimantan province as a province-wide REDD+ pilot.

However, these moves are far from sufficient and adequate to show that Indonesia has a credible REDD+ platform.

Credibility is a key part of all REDD+ schemes that are being employed internationally. Credibility cannot be achieved without a firm national strategy and clear framework as well as legal certainty that support REDD+.

Furthermore, the absence of these aspects will hinder the development of national monitoring, reporting and verification system for GHG emissions coming from forests and peatlands – as stipulated in the LoI.

More importantly, tackling deforestation and land use changes involves different layers of governments and various sectors and actors.

These sectors are regulated under different ministries (i.e. forestry, agriculture, energy and mineral resources, and public works) and layers of governments. These institutions are known to have issued overlapping policies on land use and land use changes.

There are cases in which spatial and land use planning at the district level are different to if not contradictory with the planning at the provincial or national level.

Early in December last year, the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) released the outcome of its study on forestry policies and systems. The KPK found an unclear definition of forest areas in Law No. 41/1999 on Forestry and a number of other relevant regulations.

This situation, according to the KPK, has created a legal loophole for illegal loggers and illegal miners to continue their operations and avoid the legal implications.

According to the KPK’s findings, the division of authority, roles and responsibilities among different layers of governments remains unclear and problematic, especially in determining forest areas in a spatial planning process.

This situation has led to legal uncertainty, which is a prerequisite for serious investment in sustainable forest management and land use as well as community-based forest managed by local and indigenous people, which would support the country’s sustainable development.

It is therefore essential for the government to immediately come up with an initial but clear regulation (e.g. government regulation or higher ruling), strategy and framework that indicate the high level of seriousness to solve the uncertainty of land use systems, planning and coordination.

Substance-wise, this legal backing for REDD+ needs to prioritize the termination of  the conversion of natural forests, peatlands and other terrestrial ecosystems that are rich in carbon and have significant ecological and social values, but are at risk of being converted or destructively logged.

The legal framework backing up REDD+ is also required to clearly state that halting deforestation will not hinder development in other sectors.

On the other hand, a good regulation on REDD+ would create the urgency needed for the country to arrive with decisions over conflicting land use that have remained unresolved and have disrupted development, despite the fact that the Forestry Law stipulates this issue should be completed by the end of last year.

This overall process must be seen as a step forward to reform natural resource management of the country.

With or without foreign aid, the country’s future depends so much on the development path that we choose today.

Embarking on a sustainable path may be daunting but it is imperative for Indonesia, for the sake of its economy, environment and, most importantly, people.

Fitrian Ardiansyah is an advisor to WWF-Indonesia on climate and Aditya Bayunanda is Forest Trade Network manager of WWF-Indonesia.

Original link: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2011/01/10/a-critical-year-redd-indonesia.html