The challenges of environmental governance in a democratic and decentralized Indonesia

Authors: Fitrian Ardiansyah, Melati and Astari Anjani.

A book chapter (Chapter 6) in S Mukherjee & D Chakraborty (eds), Environmental Challenges and Governance: Diverse Perspective from Asia, Routledge (2015), Oxon.

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Since the last decade, Indonesia appears to have increasingly put serious efforts into advancing its commitments in environmental protection and climate change mitigation. The Government of Indonesia (GoIn) led by its president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, for instance, made a famous pledge at the G-20 meeting on 25 September 2009, stating that his government was devising a policy to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 26 per cent by 2020 from business as usual (BAU) levels, and up to 41 per cent with international support (Melisa 2010). During his co-chairmanship for the United Nations High Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, the Indonesian president re-affirmed the importance of environmental protection along with economic development and poverty alleviation (President of Indonesia 2012b).

To achieve its commitment for environmental protection and climate change mitigation, the GoIn has combined various approaches including by issuing domestic policies and programs, and providing economic incentives as well as reforming existing institutions and establishing new ones. A number of regulations and policies were issued by the GoIn on this front and the GoIn set up new agencies, in addition to existing ministries, to help deal with environmental issues. The GoIn has also attempted to provide economic incentives for environmental protection and climate change mitigation (Dhewanthi 2012).

Environmental degradation as elaborated in the following section, however, has continued to affect and threaten all aspects of Indonesian development and people’s lives. The forest and land fires during 2013 and their associated haze, which affected neighboring countries, is a good example of how an environmental disaster not only has disturbed the local economy and health conditions of local people but also can transform the relations of neighboring countries in Southeast Asia into one of the worst in the history of the region (Ardiansyah 2013).

The GoIn’s commitments to protect the country’s environment are ambitious, and to achieve the desired outcomes, it will need all support it can get. Indonesia’s political and governance system, however, is not homogenous. While some government agencies may be willing to collaborate, others such as local governments need to feel the ownership of such ‘ideal call’ and see concrete benefits to get involved. Since decentralization took place in the early millennium, significant powers now rest with the district and municipal governments, including in managing natural resources and the environment. This chapter, therefore, explores key challenges in realizing the country’s environmental management commitments in the current governance context. Prior to discussing regulations and institutions established to address environmental challenges in Indonesia, the following section briefly touches on the country’s state of environment and current challenges that Indonesia has to face. The third section provides an analysis of regulations and policies on the environment and other relevant regulations and policies. This section also examines the interconnection of these different regulations. Section four analyzes roles of different government actors or institutions, and non-state actors, namely civil society groups and the private sector when it comes to environmental management of the country. This section discusses the complexity, challenges and opportunities for these different actors and institutions to collaborate in managing the environment and natural resources in the country. This section also emphasizes the importance of the current decentralized governmental system and the challenges resulting from this system for the country’s environmental management. With an increase in the level of authority of sub-national governments, formulating policies, designing programs and coordinating programmatic implementation of environmental management across more than 400 districts in Indonesia are Herculean tasks for the GoIn. The chapter concludes with remarks that may help further reform in Indonesia’s environmental governance.

Keywords: Indonesia, decentralization, environmental governance, forest and land use governance, legal framework.