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.