Ensuring the survival of the nation

Fitrian Ardiansyah , The Jakarta Post, Climate Solutions Column | Tue, 02/16/2010 1:32 PM | Environment

As an archipelagic nation depending so much on natural resources, Indonesia needs to equip itself to deal with the possible dire consequences of climate change.

A number of assessments, including from Climate Interactive and Professor John Sterman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), state that although the Copenhagen Accord reaffirms the goal of limiting temperature increases to 2 degrees Celsius.

However, pledges submitted by countries mean the average global temperature may increase by 3.9

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the average global temperature must not rise by more than 2 degrees Celsius to ensure that most vulnerable nations, communities and ecosystems survive.

With the current pledges, there is a risk we will overshoot 2 degrees Celsius, meaning we may face an era of rapid and accelerating climate change.

If this is the case, climate change will profoundly affect water and other natural resources, biodiversity and the economy across Indonesia, which will negatively impact on rural and urban populations across the country.

Hence, the challenge for the country is to develop appropriate ways to adapt to climate change, adjusting natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects, which moderates harm or exploits beneficial opportunities.

There is also a need to integrate disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate change adaptation (CCA) interventions.

According to Tom Mitchell from Climate and Disaster Governance, DRR is the development and application of policies and practices that minimize risks to vulnerabilities and disasters.

DRR, therefore, is an essential part of adaptation. It is the first line of defense against climate change impacts, such as increased flooding or regular droughts.  

Adaptation strategies can vary. Some approaches involve acknowledging that there are many non-climate change stresses on natural and human systems.

Limiting these stresses (such as pollution, illegal and destructive logging, forest conversion, over fishing and over exploitation of natural resources) may increase the natural resistance and resilience of people and ecosystems to the added stress of climate change.

To initiate CCA, the government needs to take the lead to assess and prioritize vulnerable sectors — agriculture, marine and coastal, forestry and infrastructure — areas and people.

Other actors including research institutions, environmental organizations, humanitarian aid organizations, local communities and the private sector can assist the government in identifying, mapping and providing further understanding of sectors and geographic areas that are likely to be negatively impacted by climate change.  

The information resulting from this assessment can be used to develop an action plan that combines CCA and DRR in those identified sectors, areas and people.

The combined expertise from different actors, in particular, humanitarian aid and environmental “know-how”, is crucial to ensure vulnerability reduction and a long-lasting recovery from climate-change related disasters.

At the local level, the government, local communities and relevant institutions need to be assisted in the implementation of vulnerability assessments that predict climate impacts and identify areas and sectors most vulnerable to climate change.

There is pioneering work in the island of Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara, which aims to mainstream CCA and DRR using climate predictions and assessments carried out at the global and regional level.

Lombok and many other small islands in Indonesia are vulnerable to climate change impacts and related disasters.

In 2007, the governor of West Nusa Tenggara issued a decree that formed a task force comprising government, NGOs and academia to mainstream climate change mitigation and adaptation into the local development agenda.

After two years of assessment and policy work on projected climate change impacts and vulnerability, strategies to ensure CCA in Lombok have been adopted in the provincial mid-term development plan (2008-2014).  

This, however, is just the beginning of ensuring the survival of the island and perhaps many other islands in Indonesia.

At the community level, there is a further need to increase community resilience to climate change impacts.

Based on the compiled stories by the WWF in a number of villages across the country, fishermen and farmers have been experiencing changes in nature, such as changes in seasons schedule, stream direction, local temperature, water supply, waves and increasing high tide.

Further work is required to analyze the problem roots and look for and implement the short- and long-term solutions to their current problems, and also real threats from climate change.

Solutions may range from promoting alternative sustainable livelihoods to the application of agriculture and aquaculture better management practices.

Overall, adapting to the impacts of climate change is an uphill challenge, yet actions taken at national, local and community levels are imperative and should be supported.

Providing the necessary skills, expertise and financial support to equip relevant actors is a key to promote adaptation and ensure the survival of this nation. 

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

The original link: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2010/02/16/climate-solutions-ensuring-survival-nation.html


Renewing support for renewable energy

Fitrian Ardiansyah ,  The Jakarta Post, Climate Solutions Column, Contributor ,  Jakarta   |  Tue, 02/02/2010 12:40 PM  |  Features

Indonesia is at a crossroads. With the impressive rate of growth of its economy – leading to a dramatic increase in the level of energy consumption – and its ambition to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, it needs to come up with a way to reduce its reliance on carbon-fueled energy.

According to the World Energy Outlook 2009 published by the International Energy Agency (IEA), Indonesia is the largest energy producer and consumer in the region, the world’s leading thermal coal exporter, a substantial liquefied natural gas (LNG) exporter, and until 2004 was a net oil exporter.

If no new oil reserves are found, and with the increasing demand for energy, scientists expect Indonesia will be a significant oil importing country within less than two decades.

By 2030, Indonesia will remain an exporter of natural gas and coal, but will import 1.3 million barrels of oil per day.

Energy demand will increase in line with regional economic development and population growth.

At present, around 65 percent of the population have access to electricity. But in rural areas, 74 million people remain unconnected to the network.

As a result, Indonesia is expected to provide its own supply of energy to avoid energy security issues.

According to the IEA Reference Scenario, Indonesia accounts for 36 percent of the incremental energy demand in ASEAN to 2030.

With the high price of oil and the target to reduce emissions, Indonesia needs to provide an alternative source of energy to meet this demand.

Coal has been seen as one of the significant sources to substitute for oil to satisfy Indonesia’s primary energy development, especially under the first phase of the 10,000 MW of capacity added by 2013 – mostly through coal-fired plants.

However, the use of coal for power plants has major environmental impacts, namely smog, acid rain, significant GHG emissions that cause global warming, and air pollution.

On the other hand, Indonesia possesses a variety of other energy resources. These include natural gas and renewable energy sources such as geothermal, solar, micro-hydro, wind and bio-energy.

It will be impossible to diversify energy sources, address the escalating concern over environmental issues, and reduce dependency on conventional energy resources if there is no serious support for or investment in renewable energy.

The National Council on Climate Change recommends the conversion from coal and petroleum-based fuels to renewable energy sources to reduce emissions. The government’s general energy policy also advocates the diversification of energy sources.

Nonetheless, promoting the development of renewable resources over the past several years has progressed very slowly.

Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry statistics show that at present renewable energy (hydropower, geothermal and biomass) accounts for only 3.4 percent of total potential reserves.

This is perhaps because there are no clear policies, incentives or pricing plans to encourage investment in renewable energy, or promotion of schemes to develop renewable energy concurrently to displace high-carbon coal with low-carbon gas as a “bridging fuel”.

Lets take a look at geothermal energy.

Despite Indonesia possessing the world’s largest reserves of geothermal energy, it hasn’t made much progress using them. Over the last two decades, less than 4 percent of Indonesia’s geothermal potential has been developed.

Pricing of those energy sources is one of the main obstacles in the development of geothermal energy in Indonesia. Geothermal energy needs to be competitive with other energy sources, and at the same time offer developers an attractive rate of return.

The geothermal industry argues that prices could be more competitive if upstream and downstream activities could be integrated, with value added tax (VAT) applied only to sales of electricity. A significant factor affecting the price of geothermal energy is the 34-percent tax rate applied to electricity rates.

The government’s recent introduction of a ministerial decree on the benchmarking of prices of geothermal electricity sold to PLN (the state-owned electricity company) may provide a breath of fresh air.

Other obstacles that need to be addressed include high fossil fuel subsidies, inadequate legal and institutional frameworks to promote the development and utilization of renewable energy that result in the unpredictability of the industry and bias for fossil fuels, and higher upfront costs compared to conventional energy.

This is why the reduction of subsidies allocated for fossil fuels is still necessary to stimulate further use of alternative renewable energy resources.

The development of renewable energy has also been generally smaller in scale compared to fossil-fuel based projects. Hence, the relative transaction costs are higher, which impedes small investors from opting for renewable energy and discourages government officials from supporting such projects.

It is clear that for Indonesia to achieve its aspiration to reduce greenhouse emissions while ensuring energy supplies for future generations, the barriers mentioned above will have to be addressed seriously.

A comprehensive mechanism framed by relevant government regulatory agencies is required to ensure necessary support for the development of renewable energy.

It is time to for this country get going, not just with small test pro-jects of renewable energy but with full-scale support and programs.

The writer is the 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

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Innovative ways of retaining forests

Fitrian Ardiansyah ,  The Jakarta Post, Climate Solutions Column, Jakarta   |  Tue, 01/19/2010 11:18 AM  |  Environment

Stopping and reversing the loss and degradation of forests and peat land is a crucial element of any climate solution developed in Indonesia.

Last year, in his pledge to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and in his Cabinet’s “100 days” program, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono stated that Indonesia would tackle emissions from deforestation and changes in land use, including from forest and land fires.

This year, the minister of forestry vowed to add an extra 21.15 million hectares of forest by 2020 (500,000 hectares per year) as the top priority to contribute to the President’s pledge.

While this is a good move, it may not provide sufficient results to reduce the country’s GHG emissions.

Various reports have concluded that the deforestation rate in this country still outweighs that of reforestation — the annual rate of deforestation stands at 0.8 to 1.09 million hectares compared to 0.3 to 0.6 million hectares for reforestation (re-planting).

Most GHG emissions in this sector usually come from forests being converted to expand the forestry industry (e.g. logging, pulp wood plantation) and agriculture (e.g. oil palm plantation), build infrastructure, settlements and set up mining operations; illegal and destructive logging outside and inside legal forest concessions; and forest and land fires to clear space for agricultural lands.

Addressing these, hence, is key to reducing the country’s GHG emissions.

The million dollar question that needs to be answered now is: “What sort of policies, incentives, investments and practices are required to retain the remaining forests and still allow for economic growth in Indonesia?”

At the policy level, it is essential for the government to start promoting, adopting and implementing sustainable and responsible spatial and land use development.

It is clear that one of the stumbling blocks to achieve the President’s pledge is that carbon issues are yet to be integrated into land-use planning in this country, while land-grabbing continues due to poor governance.  

To be able to plan the use of land effectively, the work ought to be carried out at island, provincial and district levels, integrating both economic and ecosystem values for priority landscapes.

Having adopted a decentralized decision-making process, some initial steps have been carried out to demonstrate a good process in integrating sub-national and national levels of effective land use policies.

These include steps taken under the Sumatra Governors’ Declaration, in the Heart of Borneo and 
in Papua.

In Sumatra, for example, four ministers and 10 provincial governors committed themselves to protect the remaining forests and critical ecosystems of this island by developing ecosystem-based spatial plans that will serve as the basis for future development on the island.

The Road Map for Saving Sumatra — expected to become a blueprint for conducting ecosystem-based spatial planning — was subsequently finalized and endorsed by those governors.

Nevertheless, concrete actions are required, especially in key sectors, if these policies are to succeed. 
In the forestry sector, standing stock and performance of different forest areas should be assessed.

These assessments can then become the basis to decide how to manage the forests in a sustainable manner, while reducing emissions and enhancing carbon stocks.

In the natural production forests, for instance, reduced impact logging can be introduced to lower emissions and increase the carbon stock.

When it comes to the use of forest lands to produce palm oil, growth in demand could be met by improving yield on existing plantations by 1.5 to 2 percent per year, and particular focus needs to give to smallholders, or planting on abandoned land.

When agricultural development requires new land, various statistics have indicated that between seven and 14 million hectares of degraded, abandoned lands may be used.

To achieve this result, non-state actors — the private sector, NGOs and local communities — need to work together to promote policy reforms reconciling Indonesia’s land-use and sector’s policies.

These actors and the government will need incentives and assistance to sustain their work and achieve their goals.

The Copenhagen Accord reached last December recognizes the crucial role of reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and enhancing the removal of GHG emissions by forests (REDD-plus).

Around US$30 billion has been set aside to help developing countries adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change.

Other important actors need to be invited to join the cause: banks and other financial institutions.

In the past decade, billions of dollars were invested in sectors related to land use by both national and foreign investors.

These institutions play an indispensable role in supplying capital to commodity producing companies by providing loans or buying their shares.

There is a glimmer of hope. Several commercial banks have developed detailed forest, plantation 
and mining policies over the past few years.

According to their policies, these banks strive to finance only companies that care for high conservation value forests, to minimize their environmental impact and respect the rights and needs of local communities.

The overall work combining policies, incentives and actions is critical to ensure fundamental changes in how Indonesia manages, protects and sustains its forests.

Today, this kind of changes must come from various actors who can eradicate unsustainable practices and hopefully take the pressure off forests and peatlands.

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

The original link: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2010/01/19/climate-solutions-innovative-ways-retaining-forests.html

New year, new climate (re)solutions?

Fitrian Ardiansyah ,  Jakarta Post, Climate Solutions Column   |  Tue, 01/05/2010 11:03 AM  |  Environment

The New Year has arrived. And 2010 has come with bigger challenges than ever for everyone and society as a whole when it comes to confronting the risk of catastrophic climate change.

At the end of last year, the Conference of Parties (COP15) – the largest gathering ever held on climate change – brought about a bitter solution, with countries present agreeing to merely taking note of a political agreement known as the interim Copenhagen Accord.

The Accord, a 12-paragraph statement of intention, mentions a global ambition to keep the average global temperature rise to two degrees Celsius. However, Professor John Sterman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) notes that the average global temperature may increase by 3.9 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2100.

This would mean that up to 170 million more people suffering from severe coastal floods, 550 million more at risk of starvation, and up to 50 percent of species facing extinction, according to the Stern econo-mic review.

While we hope that COP-16 in Mexico City will succeed in securing a fair, ambitious and legally binding agreement, it is now up to governments, the private sector, organizations and individuals to address climate change.

Many scientific and technical documents state that it is still possible for developed and developing worlds to grow their economies in the 21st century while at the same time avert catastrophic consequences caused by climate change.

Halting the dire consequences of climate change is a long-term undertaking, but the first steps must be taken by governments currently in power.

For instance in Indonesia, it is certainly a good year for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his government to create and consolidate policies, incentives and actions that would reduce the country’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Last year, SBY pledged to reduce the country’s GHG emissions by 26 percent and prioritised three out of 15 action points in a “100 days” program focusing on climate, energy, the environment and land use.

However these action points need to be elaborated on further to provide clear direction that will enable us to halt and reverse the loss, degradation of forests and peat lands as well as boost energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Deforestation and forest and peat land degradation contribute significantly to the GHG emissions through the expansion of the forestry industry (e.g. logging, pulp wood plantation), agriculture (e.g. oil palm plantation), infrastructure development, settlement and mining.

Key regulations that are effectively enforced are required to halt destructive and illegal logging, prevent forest and land fires, preserve the remaining protected forests, and deal with the complexity of land use and spatial planning.

Domestic demand in the energy sector has been increasing faster than the average population growth.

A large amount of this demand was met by fossil fuels, contributing significantly to Indonesia’s 6-percent-a-year GHG emissions growth rate.

Providing policies and incentives to break the link between energy services and primary energy production is essential, such as prioritizing large-scale energy efficiency measures (getting more energy services per unit of energy used).

Policies and incentives are also needed to promote the growth of low-emissions technologies such as geothermal, solar PV, micro-hydro, wind and bio-energy, but within a set of environmental and social constraints to ensure their sustainability; and displacing high-carbon coal with low-carbon gas as a “bridging fuel”.

Population pressures as well as increasing consumption levels locally and overseas drive GHG emissions, often exacerbated by poor governance and inadequate land-use planning.

Therefore, besides involving different sectors and the government, a wide range of influential actors and key stakeholders need to be encouraged to contribute to the President’s pledge and program.

The private sector, for instance, needs a clear signal from the government (e.g. credible regulations) and the market (e.g. benefits for producing commodities derived from sustainable practices) that it must invest in climate solutions, which eventually can be justified to shareholders.

Companies can be encouraged to be part of sustainable development initiatives, such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).

Although voluntary, this type of initiatives can eventually drive demand for responsibly produced commodities while gradually address environmental and social concerns.

Overall, there are plenty of climate change mitigation opportunities business can explore. Involving the private sector will not only contribute to mitigating climate change but also increase national energy security and economic efficiency.

Different actors including the government, private sector and individuals can contribute separately but have to work together to achieve substantive GHG emission reductions.

Examples of these collaborative steps already exist at the subnational level. Platforms initiated through the Sumatra Governors Declaration, the Heart of Borneo and Papua Governor’s pledge may be used as a starting point – carefully laying out a sustainable development platform addressing the need for economic development as well as environmental protection.

In the end, our future depends on all actors involved making critical decisions to achieve a low-emission economy consistent within a certain time line.

Now is the time to advance the exploration and implementation of climate solutions that will help Indonesia’s economy and its people.

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.

The original link: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2010/01/05/new-year-new-climate-resolutions.html