Rio+20 and the fate of sustainable development

Strategic Review

The Indonesian Journal of Leadership, Policy and World Affairs, by Fitrian Ardiansyah, 18 May 2012

Original link: http://www.sr-indonesia.com/2011-08-09-22-09-10/commentaries/193-rio20-and-the-fate-of-sustainable-development

The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), being held in June in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, will undoubtedly raise a critical question about how far countries have advanced sustainable development and mitigated environmental degradation.

Sustainable development, defined as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, was introduced in the 1987 Brundtland Report and reaffirmed 20 years ago in Rio. This is why this year’s UNCSD is also known as Rio+20, marking the 20th anniversary of one of the famous large-scale gatherings on environmental issues, the 1992 Earth Summit, which was held in the same city.

During the 1992 Earth Summit, world leaders agreed to uphold sustainable development, demonstrated by, among others, the adoption of Agenda 21, the signings of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and the issuance of the Declaration of Forest Principles. Agenda 21 is a blueprint to rethink economic growth, advance social equity and ensure environmental protection at the global, national and local levels.

The CBD, signed by 150 government leaders, provides a platform to achieve sustainable development since it recognizes crucial functions and services of biodiversity and natural ecosystems that directly and indirectly support people and their needs. The Forest Principles, which focuses particularly on forest ecosystems, is the first global consensus that encourages nations to conserve, restore and manage these already fragile and threatened resources.

Another major breakthrough in the 1992 Rio Earth Summit was the signing of the UNFCCC. The convention created an umbrella for global efforts to tackle the challenge posed by climate change, which is perceived as one of the biggest threats to human civilization. With the UNFCCC, nations recognize that the climate system is a shared resource and all governments and people on our planet have the responsibility to ensure its stability.

Two decades have passed since the first UNCSD, yet progress toward the achievement of the objectives of the above conventions and commitments, according to many scholars, has been very slow.

In the 2010 editorial section of Wiley’s Interdisciplinary Reviews (WIREs) of Climate Change—Climate and Development, Daniel Murdiyarso of the Center for International Forestry Research argued that global programs and actions to achieve safe drinking water, improved health and reduced mortality, food security and reduced hunger, and environment sustainability – as also reflected in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – fell very short toward their targets.

When commenting about the MDGs in 2008, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said: “We have made important progress toward all eight goals, but we are not on track to fulfill our commitments.”

With regard to food security and the use of land and water, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, for example, reported in 2011 that although agricultural production has as much as tripled due to significant increases in the yield of major crops, global achievements in production in some regions have been associated with degradation of land and water resources and the deterioration of related ecosystem goods and services.

The report indicated that significant biomass, carbon storage, soil health, water storage and supply, biodiversity and social and cultural services have been negatively affected by the global agriculture production from the use of 11 percent of the world’s land surface and 70 percent of all water withdrawn from aquifers, streams and lakes for crop production. In the same report, agricultural policies are viewed to have primarily benefitted farmers with productive land and access to water, bypassing the majority of small-scale producers who are still locked in a poverty trap of high vulnerability, land degradation and climatic uncertainty.

In Indonesia, a 2008 study written by Sugiyanto and Candra R Samekto of the ministries of Public Works and National Development Planning revealed that the country had already experienced water shortages in some areas during the dry season and flood events during the rainy season.

Specific water issues that Indonesia faces, as described in this study, include in imbalance between supply and demand in a spatial and temporal perspective and degraded river basins. For instance, increasing water demand – the total water needs of the country was 112.3 billion cubic meters in 2003 and approximately 117.7 billion cubic meters in 2009 – combined with limited water availability will certainly aggravate the water scarcity problem and trigger water conflict.

Biodiversity is also under threat. In the 2010 State of the Planet’s Biodiversity, the UN Environment Program (UNEP) provided gloomy facts. Species extinction is a natural part of Earth’s evolution, the reported noted, but during the past 100 years humans have increased the extinction rate by at least 100 times compared to the natural rate.

The report stated that virtually all of Earth’s ecosystems have been dramatically transformed through human actions; for example, 35 percent of mangroves and 20 percent of coral reefs have been lost. The report further argued that important ecosystems continue to be converted for agricultural and other uses at a constant pace during at least the past century.

In the 2010 State of Biodiversity of Asia and the Pacific, UNEP ranked Indonesia second after Australia as having the most threatened plant and animal species in the region. This is due to, among other things, high rates of fragmentation and net loss of forests that have continued in many countries in Southeast Asia between 2000 and 2009.

Still, 20 years after the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, it is not all doom and gloom for the Earth and its people. Increasing collaborative works among state and non-state actors or between businesses and nongovernmental organizations have brought about gradual but important changes toward achieving sustainable development.

The development and application of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) – a pioneering certification scheme for forest products harvested based on strict environmental, social and economic criteria – is an example of a concrete step forward from the 1992 Forest Principles. Under the FSC, more than 130 million hectares of forest and 8.5 percent of forest products in international trade are now certified, allowing important reforms in the relevant chains of custody and behavioral changes of end consumers. Other forest certification schemes have also been developed.

A similar case can be argued about the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), a certification scheme for wild-caught seafood. To date, this scheme has produced more than 100 MSC-certified fisheries and 7,000 certified products available worldwide.

When it comes to the protection of large-scale threatened biodiversity and ecosystems, a multi-partners work that launched a 10-year initiative to preserve 12 percent, or 60 million hectares, of the Brazilian Amazon under the Amazon Region Protected Area can be used as a showcase. The protected area and other similar efforts in the Amazon are the world’s largest in situ conservation schemes, creating more than 30 million hectares of protected areas, ensuring further protection and improved management of 80 percent of the Amazon’s original forest and establishing a $29 million conservation fund.

Similar efforts have taken place in the Central Africa and Southeast Asia regions, such as the adoption of the Yaoundé Declaration (resulting in the protection and sustainable management of more than 10 percent of the Congo forest), and the creation of the Heart of Borneo (conservation and sustainable management of 22 million hectares of forest and terrestrial ecosystems).

In marine areas, comparable efforts have been undertaken through the Coral Triangle Initiative, a multilateral partnership of six countries (Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste) formed in 2009 to address the urgent threats facing the coastal and marine resources of one of the most biologically diverse and ecologically rich regions on Earth.

Such progress, however, can only be further continued if existing and future threats, particularly from unsustainable land use and marine activities, are mitigated and important enabling conditions are improved, namely good economic policies that create positive incentives, good governance, clear land tenure and environmentally-friendly infrastructure development.

Rio+20, under one of the two themes of its upcoming conference, “Green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication,” provides a venue for countries to openly and informally discuss comprehensive approaches using a green economy concept to address such threats and improve enabling conditions and propose solutions.

By using the green economy concept, it is expected that countries can be helped to transform their engines of economic growth, particularly through shifting investments – public and private, domestic and international – towards emerging green sectors and the greening of existing sectors, complemented by changes to unsustainable consumption patterns.

Such transformation is crucial to ensure sustainable development in most countries, especially developing countries including Indonesia. Without significant transformation in countries’ economies, sustainable development is likely to remain an oxymoron concept.

Indonesia, as a large developing country, has a real stake and hence is required to come up with a strong position to negotiate so that countries agree at Rio+20 for a worldwide transition toward a green economy and concrete application of sustainable development.


Fitrian Ardiansyah is a Climate and Sustainability Specialist, doctoral candidate at the Australian National University and the recipient of the Australian Leadership Award and Allison Sudradjat Award.

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Revisiting the global role of tropical forest nations

The Strategic Review Journal, Volumen 2, No. 1, Jan-Mar 2012.

Author: Fitrian Ardiansyah is a Climate and Sustainability Specialist Based in Canberra, Australia. He spent 14 years working in Indonesia and Southeast Asia, including as the Adviser and Program Director for climate and energy at World Wildlife Fund-Indonesia.

Please find the link to the first part of this article here: http://www.sr-indonesia.com/this-months-issue/indonesia-360/131-revisiting-the-global-role-of-tropical-forest-nations (the complete article can be purchased by subscribing to the journal). This first part of the can also be found below:

Revisiting the global role of tropical forest nations

Rapid development of tropical forest nations has led not only to economic growth but also to environmental degradation and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Situated between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, these nations are home to peatlands, savannas and half of the world’s forests, which are considered among the most valuable ecosystems in the world.

The trade of timber and other products derived from these ecosystems provides substantial foreign exchange earnings for these nations and contributes to global wealth. Such economic gains, however, are accompanied by a high rate of forest loss, which is turn has been identified as a crucial factor in causing flooding, droughts, wildfires and recently, climate change. Striking the right balance between economic development and environmental protection, therefore, is an immediate challenge for these nations and the world.

Tropical forest nations, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), include 23 countries in the Americas, 37 in Africa and 16 in Asia. Brazil, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Indonesia are the three largest tropical forest nations, each representing a different continent (Figure 1). The combined total estimated forest area of these three nations in 2010, as reported by the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), is 771.5 million hectares – more than half of the world’s tropical forests. For decades, government policies and private investment in these three nations have been viewed as the root causes of the exploitation of their forests and terrestrial ecosystems. These policies and investments have yielded considerable economic returns. Forests play an important role in the national economies of these three countries and provide livelihoods for local communities.

Figure 1: The Map of Brazil, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Indonesia

click picture for bigger size

Source: The Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH), 2011

In Brazil, a study written by Eustáquio J Reis and Fernando A Blanco and published in 2000 revealed that macroeconomic and regional policies implemented after the 1960s played a decisive role in driving forest exploitation and clearance. For instance, credit and fiscal subsidies to agriculture, supported by an expanded road network, pushed the agricultural frontier, particularly cattle ranching, further into the Amazon, the world’s largest tropical rainforest. In recent decades, however, multiple factors and actors have been considered as the driving forces. These include road, railway and other infrastructure construction, government policies on colonization and subsidies for agro-pastoral projects (mainly cattle ranching), agricultural modernization (associated with the diversification of output towards commercial crops such as soybeans), timber extraction and mining, and charcoal production.

To read the complete article: Subscribe now

About Strategic Review:

The Strategic Review is the Indonesian Journal of Leadership, Policy and World Affairs with its editorial board led by Dr Hassan Wirajuda (Former Minister of Foreign Affairs) and its advisory board consists of Prof Juwono Sudarsono (Former Minister of Defense), Let Gen (Ret) Agus Widjojo (Executive Board in the Partnership for Governance Reform), Prof. John Thomas (Harvard Kennedy School of Government USA), Prof. Erhard Friedberg (Sciences Po France) and Prof Arne Westad (London School of Economics UK).

Along with my article, there are other articles published in this edition including those written by Christine Lagarde (Managing Director of the IMF), Dr Dino Patti Djalal (The Ambassador of Indonesia to the US), Dr Muhammad Chatib Basri (the Vice Chairman  of the National Economic Committee of the President  of the Republic of Indonesia) and Sydney Jones (International Crisis Group). The complete journal can be found at http://www.sr-indonesia.com/

New emerging economies, new climate leaders?

ROAD to COPENHAGEN, Fitrian Ardiansyah ,  Jakarta   |  Tue, 11/24/2009 1:09 PM  |  Environment

With less than 2 weeks to go before the start of the Copenhagen conference, and with leaders from developed countries having so far failed to pave the way for a successful outcome at the summit, the world may require stronger leadership from emerging economies to provide a breakthrough.

The Copenhagen conference is a critical moment that the world has been working toward for two years since the Bali Conference of Parties (COP-13), which historically marked the beginning of 2 years of formal negotiations to reach an ambitious global climate agreement.

Its success will depend on parties reaching an agreement on how high they will set the bar to bring about reductions in emissions that will ensure the survival of the most vulnerable nations, communities and ecosystems.

To achieve this objective, industrialized countries will have to reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 25 to 40 percent compared to their 1990 levels, as recommended by one of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) scenarios.

Some developed countries, e.g. the European Union (EU) and Japan, have taken this 15th Session of Conference of Parties (COP-15) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) very seriously.

These countries committed themselves to emit 20 to 25 percent less GHG than in the 1990s by 2020.

They also promise to increase their emission reduction target if other industrialized countries and big developing countries follow suit.

Other developed countries, have yet to come up with more ambitious targets, while the US, the largest emitter of GHG and the only Annex I country that is not a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol, hasn’t even announced its GHG emissions reduction target.

On the other hand, key emerging economies such as China, India, Brazil, South Africa and Indonesia have unveiled their mitigation policies.

In the last two years, these countries have developed and completed their respective national strategies and plans to address climate change mitigation and adaptation.

These include: China’s National Climate Change Program (completed in June 2007), Indonesia’s National Action Plan addressing Climate Change (completed in November 2007), South Africa’s Long Term Mitigation Scenarios – Climate Change Policy Framework (completed in July 2008), India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change (completed in July 2008), and Brazil’s National Plan on Climate Change (completed in December 2008).

This year, some of their leaders went even further by vocalizing their aspirations to reduce their countries’ emissions to less than business as usual (BAU) by 2020.

The Indonesian President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, has made a pledge to reduce the country’s emission by 26 percent in 2020 and by 41 percent if supported by developed countries.

His counterpart in Brazil has stated that by 2020, this country intends to reduce its emissions by between 36.1 and 38.9 percent in comparison to a BAU scenario. Both countries have also promised to reduce emissions from deforestation.

South Africa, meanwhile, said it could level off its emissions by 2025. Others, including China and India, are pouring money into green-energy projects; while China has talked about significantly reducing the carbon intensity of its industry, and in a joint statement with the US, the country flagged its intention to crystallize this objective in an international agreement.

These existing unilateral actions taken by new emerging economies may have a larger impact than many realize. Given the stage of development these emerging countries are currently at, their existing aspirations have shown they are not only courageous but also willing to contribute to climate solutions.

The existing aspirations of Brazil, China, Indonesia and South Africa alone – if implemented – will do approximately as much to reduce GHG emissions by next year as the EU hopes to accomplish by 2020, according to an analysis by the Center for Clean Air Policy.

On the other hand, climate change in developing countries can lead to significantly damage to natural, communal and business assets. Some studies typically place damage in the range of 2 to 9 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) per year for these countries, if the average temperature increases between 1.5 and 4 degrees Celsius.

People living in developing countries, including those in Asian mega-cities, along coastal areas and river deltas, are the most vulnerable to rising sea levels, storms and other phenomena arising from climate change, underscoring the threat to these peoples’ lives and economies, states a recent WWF’s report.

Hence, it is in these emerging economies’ best interest to reach successful outcomes to both mitigate and adapt to climate change in Copenhagen.

To accomplish this, leaders of emerging economies need to influence their counterparts in developed countries – especially the US – and show that Copenhagen can still deliver what the world needs. Negotiators have been working on the legal language for over a year, it is ready and the only missing ingredient is political will to make the final calls and turn it into a treaty text.

The text needs to capture the important progress that has been made to date – partly by these emerging economies – and create a clear, fast path towards a final legally binding document. This document may not need to capture every detail but certainly has to incorporate ambitious objectives.

Regardless of the outcomes reached at Copenhagen, emerging economies need to urgently take action in their own backyards. A less carbon-intensive development needs to be mainstreamed to ensure these countries develop in a sustainable manner, with a positive effect on the global climate system.

These actions will also contribute to achieving sustainable development objectives, such as energy security, sustainable economic development, technological innovation, job creation, local environmental protection and enhancement of emerging countries’ capacity to adapt to climate change impacts.

However, these actions require adequate, sufficient and sustainable financing. The finance available within emerging economies and the one offered by developed countries to pay for low-carbon development and adaptation to the impacts of climate change is currently inadequate.

In Copenhagen, leaders of new emerging economies need to ensure that this coming agreement will provide innovative sources of funding and a commitment to financial support in addition to the already stretched aid budgets.

A deal with low targets and no financial support to pay for low-carbon actions in developing countries will not halt the world’s trajectory towards dangerous global warming.

Achieving favorable outcomes in Copenhagen is not impossible. There is still time and opportunity to turn Copenhagen around, but this requires political will.

Leaders of emerging economies hand in hand with their counterparts need to commit to action to reduce emissions, to provide sufficient public financing through reliable mechanisms, to protect forests, and to support the most vulnerable countries to adapt to and prepare for the impacts of climate change.

Only if leaders step up at this unique moment will history judge them as climate leaders and heroes. For this, the future is literally in their hands.

The writer is program director of climate & energy at WWF-Indonesia, and adjunct lecturer at Paramadina Graduate School of Diplomacy. He can be reached at fardiansyah@wwf or.id

Original Link:
http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2009/11/24/new-emerging-economies-new-climate-leaders.html