Dealing with climate change dangerous impacts

ROAD to COPENHAGEN, The Jakarta Post, Fitrian Ardiansyah and Ari Muhammad ,  Jakarta   |  Tue, 10/13/2009 12:11 PM  |  Environment

Climate change is a grave threat to the economies, societies and natural environment of all countries in the Asia-Pacific region, including Indonesia.

Unless action is taken today to begin to stabilize and then reduce global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions – action including achieving an ambitious global climate agreement at Copenhagen – the impacts of climate change will become increasingly severe and irreversible.

Climate change can lead to damage to natural, communal and business assets. Some studies typically place damage in the range 1-1.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) per year for developed countries, and 2-9 percent for developing countries, if the average temperature increases between 1.5 and 4.0 degrees Celsius.

In his 2006 review, Nicholas Stern extended this estimation by stating that unabated climate change could cost the world at least 5 percent of GDP each year; if more dramatic predictions come to pass, the cost could be more than 20 percent of GDP.

Overall in Indonesia, the observed and projected impacts of climate change include an increase in the severity of droughts, flooding, fires, coral bleaching, the gradual rise of sea levels, and the increase in frequency of extreme weather conditions including storms, which will be destroying natural and human-made systems in the area.

Increased rainfall during the wet seasons may lead to high floods, such as the Jakarta flood in February 2007 that inundated 70,000 houses, displaced 420,440 people and killed 69 with losses of US$450 million, according to the World Health Organization.

Hundreds of millions of people live in Indonesia, most of who depend on resources, goods and services for their livelihood. However, climate change will profoundly affect biodiversity, water resources and the economy in the country, all of which in turn will impact its people.

One study reveals that millions of people are at risk from flooding and sea-water intrusion caused by rising sea levels and declining dry-season precipitation; these phenomena will negatively impact the aquaculture industry (e.g., fish and prawn industries) and infrastructure along the coasts of South and Southeast Asia.

The impacts of climate change will increase the pressure on forest, coastal and marine ecosystems caused by illegal and destructive logging, overfishing and overexploitation of natural resources.

Hence, the challenge that the government faces is finding ways to devise climate-smart development strategies that ensure the mainstreaming of climate change adaptation in the country’s development agenda.

Adapting to climate change means adjusting natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects, which moderates harm or exploits beneficial opportunities.

This demands not only the improvement of national policies – which includes devising climate-smart strategies and mainstreaming these in the development agenda – but also the increase in workforce capacity from national to local levels. To begin with, this requires significant amounts of adequate, sufficient and sustainable financing.

To protect natural and business assets from climate change impacts, the World Bank estimates that $9-41 billion a year will be needed globally. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) calculates the need for $49-171 billion a year – to adapt to climate change alone until 2030 – in which $28-67 billion is required to help efforts in developing countries.

Unfortunately, the current provision of funds to cope with these impacts is yet to be at a level sufficient to meet these requirements. The Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF) and the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) have allocated only $114 million, and the Adaptation Fund, established last year, can accumulate and provide only around $200 million. Some even predict that in reality only $500 million can be gathered for climate change adaptation.

With this dismal figure, Indonesia also needs to seriously prepare its regional and domestic plans to adapt to climate change. Vulnerable sectors – agriculture, marine and coastal, forestry and infrastructure – and areas need to be assessed and prioritized.

Cooperation among countries at the regional level is essential and coordination among sectors and different levels of government is pivotal for successful adaptation initiatives.

At the regional level, for instance, the creation of the Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI) by six countries in the Asia Pacific is a good starting point for addressing climate adaptation in marine and coastal areas.

This initiative and its Regional Action Plan can complement individual countries’ actions to reduce the social, economic and biological impacts of climate change by developing adaptation policies and providing funding, especially for establishing and managing networks of marine protected areas and promotion of sustainable coastal livelihood.

Effective management of coastal resources through a range of options including locally managed regional networks of marine protected areas, protection of mangrove and seagrass beds and effective management of fisheries would contribute to a slower decline in coastal and marine resources as well as an increase in the resilience of coastal communities and the marine sector overall.

At the local level, encouraging news is coming out of Lombok. The provincial government of Nusa Tenggara Barat has carried out initial vulnerability assessment, predicting climate impacts and identifying areas and sectors most vulnerable to climate change.

It is a pioneering work because many climate predictions and assessments have been carried out at a global or regional level. The most important thing is that the results of this assessment were endorsed by the governor, and key elements of the findings are planned to be inserted in the mid-term development planning document of the province.

Reducing and coping with climate change impacts may be an endless struggle. However, some actions taken at the local, national and regional levels can further keep our hope alive to win this battle.

Fitrian is program director of climate & energy at WWF-Indonesia and adjunct lecturer at Paramadina Graduate School of Diplomacy. He can be reached at Ari is adaptation policy coordinator at WWF-Indonesia. He can be reached at

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Getting ready for REDD — crucial for tropical forest nations

ROAD to COPENHAGEN, The Jakarta Post, Fitrian Ardiansyah | Tue, 10/06/2009 9:06 AM | Environment

The achievement of a strong climate agreement in Copenhagen is essential to keep the rise in global temperatures well below 2 degrees Celsius. With deforestation, forest degradation and other land use changes accounting for approximately 20 percent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, it is clear that any solution to the climate change problem must include a solution to these issues.

In addition to contributing to global climate solutions, tackling deforestation and forest degradation is a crucial part of the development of tropical forest nations.

Forests have a vital role to play in the fight against global warming — being the largest terrestrial store of carbon and the third largest source of carbon emissions after coal and oil.

Also, forests have significant economic and ecological values as providers of ecosystems’ goods and services, a home for the largest part of the world’s biodiversity and support for the livelihoods of more than 1 billion of the world’s poorest people.

Indonesia, as one of the largest rainforest countries in the world, has been facing a serious rate of deforestation and forest degradation, which eventually leads to the significant GHG emissions and the undermining of the development of the country.

According to the Forestry Ministry, the country lost around 2.8 million hectares a year in 1995 to 2000, 1.09 million hectares a year in 2000 to 2005 and 0.8 million hectares a year in 2006 to 2008. Forest degradation was at 59.7 million hectares in 2002. Sumatra, Kalimantan, Papua are the three islands most affected and threatened by deforestation and forest degradation.

For Indonesia to be successful in addressing these issues, the country needs to urge the creation of a global umbrella framework for REDD (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation) under the UNFCCC (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change).

This framework has to provide clear directions on policy approaches and build a mechanism for financial support for developing countries in preparing, developing and implementing REDD.
WWF’s report on climate solutions identifies that the probability of success of good climate solutions will drop progressively from greater than 90 percent down to 35 percent in the absence of effective action to curb forest and land-use emissions.

Hence, making REDD part of the post-2012 global climate agreement will not only help tropical developing nations but also clearly contribute to solving climate change problems.
Until the Bangkok Climate Change Talks this week, significant progress has been made. The incorporation of REDD in the Bali Action Plan, which emerged from the UNFCCC COP (Conference of the Parties)-13 in late 2007, was a good start for a global framework.

This has encouraged the development of REDD readiness programs at the national level in many countries, the initiation of early actions in the forms of REDD demonstration activities at subnational levels (i.e., landscape or district levels) and the exploration of financing options for REDD.
Nevertheless, substantial work and challenges remain if a coherent REDD mechanism is to be successfully included in the post-2012 agreement. These include aspects related to developing further policies and improving the technical capacity in developing countries, as well as the provision of adequate, sufficient and sustainable financing.

In Indonesia, the development of REDD policies dates back to before the COP-13 in Bali, with the establishment of IFCA (Indonesia Forest Climate Alliance).

The Alliance, led by the Forestry Ministry and helped by various government departments, donor agencies, research institutions and NGOs, has outlined key elements of REDD including methodologies, land-use policies, institutional arrangement and benefit distribution mechanisms.

Evolving from this and as part of the ministry’s internal policy development, three ministerial decrees have been issued on REDD (i.e., 68/2008, 13/2009 and 36/2009). These decrees have made Indonesia the leading country in providing legal direction in developing and exercising REDD.

However, with 109.9 million hectares gazetted as formal forest zone, Indonesia has to do considerable preparations to have proper REDD policies. Deforestation and forest degradation are often associated with the development of other sectors, such as agriculture, mining and infrastructure. Hence, the creation of REDD policies at the national level has to address the involvement of these sectors and coordination among these sectors is critical.

Decentralization and growing aspirations among indigenous and local communities will also require the central government to take into account the roles and needs of local governments and these stakeholders in developing policies and financial mechanisms for REDD.

Failure to capture these important aspects may hinder the development and implementation of REDD and may make Indonesia lose one of the biggest opportunities to reduce and even stop deforestation “once and for all”.

Another important aspect for REDD to be workable is the provision of positive incentives. For this, Indonesia and other developing countries need to remind industrialized countries they must assist developing countries in financing REDD.

REDD will need substantial and predictable amounts of funding from multiple sources, starting immediately. Different funding sources will be appropriate for phases of REDD’s development, which may include preparation or readiness, demonstration activities and full implementation, as well as considering the needs for capacity building and different national circumstances.

These include public funding committed by industrialized countries as part of the agreements reached at COP15 in Copenhagen. Over time, compliance carbon markets can also play an increasing role in securing adequate funding for REDD.

It is essential to have this general work on policies, financing and ground initiation ready and tested for REDD to be successful in the future and contributing to real reductions in emissions.

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 This weekly column features articles related to developments in the lead up to the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.

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Finding the `middle ground’

The Jakarta Post, ROAD TO COPENHAGEN COLUMN, page 23, Wed, 23 September 2009  |  Lifestyle

Copenhagen is fast approaching. The road to achieving a global climate treaty, nevertheless, will be a thorny one.

One of the potential deadlocks will be the negotiations on shared vision – a vision that needs to have the right level of ambition to bring about reductions in emissions that are high enough to ensure the survival of the most vulnerable nations, communities and ecosystems.

A credible scientific body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), provides the lowest mitigation scenario category, which stabilizes greenhouse gas concentrations in the range of 445-490 ppm CO2 equivalent, leading to temperatures of 2 to 2.4 degrees Celsius higher than pre-industrial levels in the long term. To achieve this, emission reductions for industrialized countries have to be at the high end of the IPCC – 25 to 40 percent reduction.

Prior to the Copenhagen COP (Conference of Parties)-15 of the UN Framework Conventions on Climate Change (UNFCCC) this December, different individual countries and major blocks of countries have stated their targets. However, the current proposed emission targets rather befit temperature rises of 3 to 4 degrees Celsius, an inconsistency that threatens the survival of entire nations and precious ecosystems around the world.

For instance, EU member states committed themselves to cutting the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020, compared with 1990 levels, with a promise to move to 30 percent if other industrialized countries follow suit.

The new Japanese government has recently moved its target from an 8 percent reduction in emissions by 2020 on 1990 levels to a 25 percent reduction, provided that the upcoming international agreement includes big developing countries like China and India.

Other industrialized countries, including the US, have yet to come up with stronger targets. As the only Annex I country that is not a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol, leadership from the US is needed. The country must join a strong new international agreement in Copenhagen by adopting an economy-wide quantified emission reduction commitment, reflecting its history as the largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

Based on the overall compilation of national data, industrialized nations are planning average cuts in greenhouse gas emissions of between 10 and 14 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 as part of a new UN climate pact. This falls sharply short of what the science has suggested.

As mentioned by Japan and echoed by many industrialized countries, there is significant pressure on newly industrialized countries such as South Korea and Saudi Arabia to take quantified emissions limitation and reduction commitments and on key developing countries (e.g., China, India, Brazil, South Africa and increasingly Indonesia) to also reduce their emissions to less than business as usual by 2020.

This is not an easy subject to negotiate. On the one hand, it is recognized that to achieve the goal of keeping global temperature rises well below 2 degrees Celsius, involvement and contribution of developing countries are key. On the other hand, developing countries have less historical responsibility and capability to act, and hence they require adequate finance, technology and capacity-building support from industrialized countries.

To have this sort of trade-off, developing countries can put forward Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs). Developing countries’ actions, as a group, should aim to achieve the emission reductions required, while at the same time leading to the poverty eradication, meeting the Millennium Development Goals and ensuring the right to overall sustainable development.

The group of developing countries has the potential to reduce their actual emissions substantially reaching to 30 percent of deviation below a business as usual (BAU) pathway by 2020, including REDD (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation), provided they receive relevant support from industrialized countries.

The plans to reduce emissions in developing countries should be based on their respective capacities, targeting the heaviest polluters in the country including power generation, deforestation, transport and the built environment. Building from the bottom up, these plans and actions are likely to include policies, measures and perhaps sectoral agreements.

These plans and actions should not be perceived as burdens but as an opportunity for job creation and a healthy society, setting the world on a development path that can be sustained over a long period.

Industrialized countries, therefore, should commit considerable funds to cover the costs of preparing these immediately.

Industrialized and developing countries can all be change agents, but key countries from both sides need to be more proactive and get beyond the finger pointing. Both sides need to understand better each other’s key objectives, concerns, aspirations and responsibilities.

More than ever, there is a need for game-changing interventions.

The statement from the British prime minister arguing for the need to offer finance – US$100 billion a year by 2020 – to poorer countries to enable them to begin the transition to low-carbon development and adaptation, for example, is a good starting point, signaling “willingness” by industrialized countries to support developing countries.

The plan by Chinese President Hu, at the United Nations and G20 summits next week, to voice a position on climate change, in particular calling for stronger international efforts on climate change, and to introduce the new measures that China is taking, could well be seen as the “willingness” from developing countries to contribute to climate change solutions.

If other industrialized and key developing countries, including Indonesia, follow these moves and go beyond rhetoric – and putting trust in the joint understanding that all parties will do their fair share to deal with this crisis – we may achieve a desired global climate agreement in Copenhagen. Climate change now really depends on “good” politics from all parties involved.

– Fitrian Ardiansyah

The writer is program director of climate and energy at WWF-Indonesia. He can be reached at

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We’re all in the same boat, waiting for the captain to lead

ROAD To COPENHAGEN COLUMN – By  Fitrian Ardiansyah | The Jakarta Post, 15 September 2009 | FEATURES | Page 21 |

Achieving an ambitious global climate agreement at Copenhagen depends on the political and economic will and ability of many countries.

Indonesia, as the host of Bali COP (Conference of Parties)-13, which historically marked the beginning of two years of formal negotiations, has much at stake in ensuring that the Copenhagen COP-15 is successful in reaching the goals of the Bali Action Plan.

Overall, however, progress from Bali to the last UN Framework Conventions on Climate Change (UNFCCC) inter-session meeting in Bonn fell sharply short of what we need – little movement of any substance between parties was achieved and the consolidation effort happened at a pace that puts Copenhagen at risk.

As an archipelago that will experience multiple adverse effects from climate change, Indonesia needs to strongly and pro-actively accelerate the negotiations.

In particular, Indonesia must urge industrialized countries to dramatically cut their emissions further to keep the increase in the global temperature at less than 2 degrees Celsius; at this level, the impacts are still manageable.

Indonesia needs to push for a global agreement that has a framework that offers incentives and drives innovation, global technology diffusion and cooperation, and low-carbon development through mitigation mechanisms, technology action programs and capacity and institution building.

Developing country efforts will require adequate financing as well as technology and capacity support. More importantly, the outcome of climate change negotiations has to urgently address adaptation to current and future impacts for the most vulnerable countries, communities and ecosystems.

Having one of the largest areas of tropical forest in the world, Indonesia has a good opportunity to take a stronger position, especially in calling for the creation of concrete policies, positive incentives and measures to reduce emissions resulting from deforestation and forest degradation. Without a clear policy framework and stages of financing support for REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation), it is going to be difficult for Indonesia to readily cope with deforestation and its consequences.

None of these objectives can be achieved without the highest level of leadership and involvement from inside the country.

The time is right for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, in his second term as President and as leader of the largest country in Southeast Asia, to seize this moment and make his mark on history by showing his leadership in handling the climate crisis, together with other heads of state, at a regional and global level. Indonesia is not only vulnerable but also expe-riencing rapid growths in emissions.

Hence, there is no doubt the country will play a key role in the negotiation and implementation of a successful agreement.

Besides influencing the formal process at the UNFCCC, Indonesia, under Yudhoyonos leadership, can play a bigger role in other important forums, namely the MEF (Major Economies Forum), UN General Assembly and G20.

These forums are becoming increasingly important in terms of providing political guidance from higher levels of government.

Usually, it is at these forums that leaders have the opportunity to send crucial signals – such as commitments on finance and mitigation by industrialized countries – to boost negotiations, to lay the groundwork for progress, and to add trust to the nagging talks.

As there is limited time from now to Copenhagen, Yudhoyonos active involvement and influence are needed to ensure positive outcomes from these forums, which can in turn strengthen the outcomes of negotiations in Copenhagen.

Nevertheless, all efforts from Indonesia at the international forums will be less meaningful if no significant national and local actions are taken. It is of the utmost importance to have coordinated national and subnational development strategies with a climate change perspective; this will require coordination between the finance, trade, forestry, agriculture, fishery and public works sectors, as well as the development of adaptation efforts to reduce the impact of climate change in Indonesia.

Fundamentally, Indonesia must make the push toward sustainable development and transform the current economic pattern, which is triggering large-scale deforestation and which is based on high usage of fossil fuels, into a low-carbon economy.

Indonesia can be a pathfinder in effecting this transformation, which will make the country more competitive economically and also better placed to provide its people with a cleaner, healthier and more secure environment.

The creation of the DNPI (National Council on Climate Change) in 2008 by Yudhoyono is an initial step to making concrete efforts to address climate change internationally and domestically as well as to achieve a low-carbon economy. The DNPI should guide Indonesia’s efforts in mainstreaming climate change into its development agenda.

Clear road maps, plans, policies and targets for the reduction of domestic emissions need to be finalized as soon as possible as the basis for climate change negotiations and long-term sustainable development.

Support from different sectors and governments at provincial and district levels is essential to achieve this low-carbon growth pathway. Other non-state actors such as the business sector and civil society also need to be actively involved.

Their contributions to solutions are crucial because climate change poses a grave threat to all – the economy, society and the natural environment.

Achieving development and climate goals depends on support from every component and actor in the development of Indonesia, as we are all in the same boat, and it is for all of us to accelerate or maintain robust economic development while increasing our capacity to face the growing impacts of climate change. Strong leadership, however, will be the key to tailor these efforts.

Hence, there is no better time than after the inauguration, the President himself to chair the meeting of the DNPI and clearly outline a vision for Indonesia’s low-carbon economy. With this, Indonesia is sending strong signals that this country is serious and ready to act on climate change.

The writer is program director of climate and energy at WWF-Indonesia. He can be reached at This weekly column features articles related to developments in the lead up to the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.

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