Climate change and Indonesia’s key resources

By Fitrian Ardiansyah, published in Coal Asia, February 22 – March 22, 2014, page 150-151

for the pdf version, please see Opinion Fitrian Ardiansyah_CoalAsia_FebMar2014

Climate change and Indonesia ke resources

In his speech on a recent visit to Jakarta, the US Secretary of State John Kerry calls the world to pursue actions on climate change. This has propelled climate change back on the global news headlines.

With the current negotiation on climate change at the UN level converging toward Paris in 2015, expectedly resulting in a global climate change treaty agreed by all nations, the statement made by John Kerry is like a breath of fresh air since many countries have been waiting for the US examples and leadership in this issue.

A bilateral agreement between China and the US – reached a day before his visit to Indonesia – to cooperate more closely on combating climate change may potentially lead to wider and stronger commitments to curb greenhouse gases (GHG) by both and other big countries.

Any positive movement and actions coming out from the two superpowers are significant steps toward reaching a global commitment.

For Indonesia, actions from the two superpowers and wider global actions, including an agreed treaty, will definitely help and strengthen the country’s existing policies and programs on climate change.

As an archipelagic nation, Indonesia has started to experience climate change impacts, and if not seriously dealt with, these could further put pressure on the country’s economy, society and natural environment, which include extreme and unseasonal weather, droughts, flooding and trans-boundary haze.

At the same time, stronger actions on climate change at the global level are likely to provide a platform for Indonesia to decouple its economy from GHG emissions. Global agreed actions, particularly that include stronger commitments in terms of GHG emissions reduction, can in turn provide economic incentives for both state and corporate actors to reduce their emissions.

Without such incentives, it will be challenging for an emerging economy like Indonesia that has a high and relatively steady economic growth, a huge natural resources base and projected population expansion, to reduce the growth of its GHG emissions.

Sufficient economic incentives added with appropriate policies and programs can assist Indonesia to achieve balanced development – development that ensures economic growth and climate change mitigation.

To be able to attain this, however, the government of Indonesia may require specific interventions at the national and sub-national levels in key sectors such as energy (with key commodities including coal, gas and renewables) and agriculture (with key commodities including palm oil).

In the energy sector, Indonesia has significant resources and reserves of coal and gas, producing more this type of energy sources, not only for domestic consumption but also for meeting theexport demand. The 2012 data of the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry indicate a persistent growth of production of coal, with the proportion of export reaching above 90 percent in the period of 2007-2009.

The increased domestic use of coal means that emissions from coal, which was minor contribution in 1980s and remained below 10 percent until late 1990s, have spiked in the last ten years. In 2009, according to the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry, the contribution of emissions from coal was almost 40 percent.

The use of fossil fuels – i.e. coal, gas and oil – appears to continue playing an important role in the country’s energy mix in the future. Yet, to achieve a strong economic growth while ensuring the reduction of GHG emissions, Indonesia needs to dramatically boost investment in renewable energy and energy conservation (e.g. clean technology, eco-efficiency, eco-designs, etc.).

Boosting and attracting investments require policy reforms, especially which relate to energy subsidies and fundamental institutional changes. Many economists believe that huge energy subsidies have hindered the development of Indonesia’s renewable energy and can lead to energy security issues in the future.

In the agriculture sector, Indonesia has a challenging future in terms of providing food for its population. Several projections, for example, reveal that Indonesia’s rice consumption would exceed its production in 2020 and beyond. One of the possible factors causing this is likely to be the issue of land availability.

If climate change impacts are taken into consideration, the agricultural production may fall below these current projected figures. Climate change not only could lead to the reduction of the volume of agriculture commodities produced but may also result in other related damages and costs.

It is crucial, therefore, for the government to formulate policies and programs which ensure that the agriculture sector can cope with climate change challenges.

The current programs initiated by the Agriculture Ministry including by developing crop varieties which can cope with climate challenges (i.e. resilience to drought, flooding and diseases) and improving farmers field education on climate change and
variability, need to be further supported, especially at local level (i.e. ensuring farmers to have support so that they can increase their adaptive capacity).

Such programs and the lessons-learnt resulting from these not only can help Indonesia to develop climate change adaptation in the agriculture sector but also contribute to the negotiation of global adaptation programs and funds.

When it comes to discussing the agriculture sector, palm oil is undeniably one of the most important commodities for Indonesia.

With the skyrocketing demand for palm oil over the past 25 years, the challenge of climate change (both in terms of the future demand for biofuel and issues associated with deforestation) and the increase in capability to produce more, world production of palm oil, including in Indonesia, is expected to nearly double by 2020.

The amount of land given over to oil palms that has multiplied since the mid-1970s would even dramatically increase in the future.

Such increase in palm oil production leads to challenges and opportunities for Indonesia. Immediate and future opportunities for Indonesia, among others, are to show good cases that the country can meet the domestic and global demand by promoting sustainable palm oil production.

Key challenges include applying better land management, including no conversion forest and peat lands as well as the implementation of zero burning activities, and other GHG saving activities, including the use of POME (palm oil mill effluent) for energy and other uses.

The speech made by the US Secretary of State serves as a good reminder for the US itself, China and other big countries, including Indonesia, that all nations have responsibilities toward addressing climate change albeit with different capabilities.

When it comes to Indonesia’s domestic capability, the country needs to focus on its key sectors, resources and commodities. These sectors are both contributors to GHG missions and potentially affected by climate change impacts.

Strategically focusing on these sectors and resources means a further burden for a developing country like Indonesia because it requires huge financial, institutional and social investments.

It, nevertheless, also presents a good opportunity for the country not only to safeguard it against the threat climate change poses to development but also seize the economic opportunity that climate change presents.

Let us hope the current and future governments choose their options wisely.

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The author is climate and sustainability specialist, a doctoral candidate at the Australian National University, the recipient of Australian Leadership Award and Allison Sudradjat Award, and Program Development Director of Pelangi Indonesia.

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Challenges for better natural resources management beyond 2014

By Fitrian Ardiansyah, published in Coal Asia, December 20, 2013 – January 20, 2014, page 144-145

for the pdf version, please see Opinion Fitrian Ardiansyah_CoalAsia_Dec13Jan2014

CoalAsia_Dec13Jan2014_BetterNRM2014

With the 2014 general election on the horizon in Indonesia, one may wonder whether the issues of better natural resource management and environmental protection would be in the mainstream debate among political parties and presidential candidates.

To date, Indonesia has experienced a stable growth since its economy recovered from financial crisis in the late 1990s and maintained its real growth performance at average above 5 percent in the period of 2000-2011, as reported by the World Bank.

The 2012 McKinsey Global Institute Report states that Indonesia is the 16th largest economy in the world.

The strength of Indonesia’s economy has been helped by its strong exports of natural resources, such as oil, gas, coal and crude palm oil (CPO), making up around 50 percent of Indonesia’s exports, as argued by the Global Edge of Michigan State University.

Indonesia has abundant resources and reserves of coal and gas, and has pushed the production of this type of energy sources in recent years, not only for domestic consumption but also for meeting the export demand. The Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry (MEMR) records that the proportion of coal export reaching above 90 percent in the period of 2007-2009.

With regard to palm oil, Indonesia in 2009 surpassed Malaysia to become the biggest producer this commodity in the world. Indonesia’s CPO exports and resultant revenues have increased dramatically over the last several decades, from 3.8 million tons (valued at US$1 billion) in 1999 to 21 million tons in 2013 (US$22.40 billion).

Commodities from forests and oceans also contribute to Indonesia’s economy. The 2011 International Trade Strategies (ITS) Report showed that various forest commodities contributed roughly 3 percent to the country’s GDP (gross domestic product).

Furthermore, natural resources and commodities have contributed significantly to the country’s employment, energy supply and food security.

The forest related sectors, for instance, employed a combined total of 3.76 million people or 4 percent of Indonesia’s working population, according to the 2011 ITS Report. While in 2010, 38.3 percent was reported by the World Bank as the figure of employment in agriculture (percent of total employment) in Indonesia.

A big question remains whether the country can retain its strong growth and support the livelihood of its population when these resources are extremely degraded or depleted.

In the general context of economic growth and GDP, resource depletion may not create immediate negative impacts. The McKinsey reveals that currently and to a large extent, Indonesia’s economic growth is propelled by its domestic consumption rather than export of natural resources.

The report further suggests that the resource sector’s share of the economy has fallen since 2000, with mining, oil and gas accounting for only 11 percent of Indonesia’s nominal GDP.

In the mid to long-run, however, resource depletion may shake the very foundation of Indonesia’s exports and eventually its economy. With the global demand for commodities likely continuing if not increasing, especially in fast-growing emerging markets, export growth from Indonesia can only remain buoyant if the country manages its resources wisely.

Resource depletion will also hurt the country’s economy domestically. In fact, it has done some damages if oil subsidy is used as a case.

Indonesia has become a net importer of both crude oil and refined products since 2004. Oil consumption has been heavily subsidized as part of energy subsidies and this has cost the government Rp306.5 trillion (US $31.5 billion) in 2012, a figure much higher than that in 2010 (Rp139.9 trillion or US $14.4 billion), according to Directorate General of Treasury of the Finance Ministry.

To address this issue, in mid-2013, the Indonesian government and parliament approved a government budget that increased the price of a liter of petrol by 44 percent and diesel by 22 percent. This intervention may have helped the government’s budget deficit but even after the price rises, as stated in the Economist, the deficit is still expected to reach 2.4 percent of GDP, up from 1.8 percent in 2012.

The same fate of resource depletion can happen to gas, coal and other mineral commodities especially if these resources are not managed carefully, which in turns may hit back at the country’s economy.

In 2012, for example, the Vice Minister of the MEMR stated that high energy consumption has caused and could accelerate the imbalance between the exploitation of fossil energy resources (such as oil, gas and coal) and the speed of inventing new reserves, leading to a depletion of Indonesia’s reserves and increasing dependency on imported energy.

Moreover, resources depletion often brings about other economic costs in the forms of environmental degradation.

Destructive, illegal and uncontrolled resources extraction in forestry, agriculture, mining and fishery sectors have usually led to deforestation and forest degradation, and depletion of fish stock which eventually created environmental related disasters such as floods, landslides, fires and haze, land, air and water pollutions, and biodiversity extinction.

Some of these impacts and disasters may not be easily reflected in the GDP of the country.

The loss of natural resources and the associated environmental impacts will surely be felt by Indonesian people and affect their daily livelihoods.

Droughts, floods and landslides, for example, often adversely affect agricultural production, in which the impacts are felt both on the level of the local economy and in the balance of trade and the current account, potentially upsetting a country’s macroeconomic equilibrium.

According to the Agriculture Ministry, more than a million hectares of the country’s paddy fields and more than 100,000 hectares of corn fields have been impacted by diseases, floods and drought in the period of 2007-2011. Out of these areas, approximately 140,000 hectares of paddy fields and 18,000 hectares of corn fields have suffered from crop failures.

If such production losses are not dealt with seriously, Indonesia may face difficulties in reaching its goal to ensure food security for its people. Even if such losses are compensated through imports, similar imbalances may surface in other areas, which include putting further dependencies of the country’s economy on foreign agriculture commodities.

Therefore, it is undoubtedly important to continue reforming the management of Indonesia’s natural resources and put this as one of the country’s development priorities.

Potential Indonesian presidential candidates and political parties should be reminded that Indonesia’s economy could be in jeopardy if its current and future economic platforms will only lead to further resource depletion and environmental degradation.

Indonesian people may need to see the track records of their candidates toward 2014 with regard to resource management and environmental protection, and identify and only support leaders who have had commitments and actions in transforming Indonesia’s natural resource management for the better.

The upcoming election once again brings an opportunity as well as challenge for us, the public, to contribute to an important decision-making process for the future of our economy and livelihoods.

It is time to demand for better natural resource management and environmental protection from our politicians and leaders.

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The author is climate and sustainability specialist, a doctoral candidate at the Australian National University, and the recipient of Australian Leadership Award and Allison Sudradjat Award.

Meaningful partnerships to manage our resources wisely

By Fitrian Ardiansyah, published in Coal Asia, November 23 – December 15, 2013, page 142-143

for the pdf version, please see Opinion Fitrian Ardiansyah_CoalAsia_NovDec2013

CoalAsia_NovDec2013_Meaningful partnership

With the alarming global challenges in the forms of climate change, natural resources depletion, environmental degradation, financial crisis, extreme poverty and social inequality, it is more than relevant now for countries and institutions around the world to find new and innovative solutions.

Some scholars have calculated that if human and industrial activities are set to continue with their current trend, the associated impacts resulting from respected activities may push our planet close to its ‘tipping point’, and if particular key environmental factors are measured, the impacts can move the present situation beyond the globally known ‘planetary boundaries’.

The planetary boundaries, as defined by reputable scientists like Professors Dave Griggs and Will Steffen, are a safe operating space for humanity, which are identified and quantified so that human activities can move forward without causing unacceptable environmental changes.

These boundaries include biodiversity loss, atmospheric aerosol loading, chemical pollution, climate change, ocean acidification, stratospheric ozone depletion, nitrogen and phosphorous cycles, global freshwater use and change in land use.

Since most changes in ecosystems are asymmetrical in nature, as defined in these planetary boundaries, once the impacts push our planet to reach its ‘tipping point’, it may be too late for humanity to formulate and implement actions to address these challenges.

One clear example is the anthropogenic climate change that has affected and will continue to affect the global world. A recent report by the Nobel Prize winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projects that small-island and archipelagic nations, including countries in Southeast Asia, and their communities and ecosystems are among the most vulnerable.

Some scholars argue that we have witnessed the early signs of this change including a significant increase in climate related disasters such as extreme weather events, flooding, land sliding, drought, and fires and haze.

Such disasters will put further pressures to our already degraded environment due to decades of natural resources overexploitation and environmental degradation, among others, as a result of destructive and illegal logging, expansion of infrastructure and agriculture, and mining extraction activities.

Therefore, to find new and innovative solutions may require us to substantially reform our current development paths, for instance, by rethinking the overall economic growth, advancing social equity and ensuring environmental protection at all levels.

It is clear that to undertake such reforms, both industrial and developing countries need to come up with additional and adequate financial and technological resources. A country or an institution cannot do these reforms individually. Existing partnerships have to be strengthened and new and creative platforms of partnerships need to be explored and promoted.

With the current global economic and financial situation, no individual countries have sufficient financial muscles to address the global environmental challenges, without other countries to complement their actions.

In fact, hundreds of multinational corporations may have financial capitals which are more than the gross domestic products of most nations in the world.

This means that when it comes to addressing environmental issues and promoting sustainable management of our remaining natural resources, global partnerships need to be forged not only between the developed and developing nations, among developing countries, but also between state and non-state actors, more particularly with the private sector and key communities.

Such partnerships, if based on common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, can open doors of new opportunities which are crucial to address global environmental challenges and eventually achieve the goals of green economy and sustainable development.

From the region of Southeast Asia, the Heart of Borneo (HoB) initiative can be considered as one of the platforms which can be a good test for the countries who support it – i.e. Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei – to show that conserving and sustainably managing 22 million hectares of important forest and terrestrial ecosystems are not only possible but also economically and socially beneficial.

The three countries in this region which share the same island of Borneo and its remaining valuable terrestrial resources agree that no single country can deal with difficult environmental problems, such as large scale and widespread deforestation and forest degradation, and bring about sustainable solution in this island.

As a result, pledges and commitments have been announced by these countries and stipulated in key documents including the HoB Strategic Plan of Action.

Civil society groups have also taken part in this initiative by supporting some programs and efforts such as through on the ground conservation actions and community empowerment.

Although driven by the three governments and assisted by non-governmental organizations (NGOs), it appears that the HoB initiative can only work properly and achieve its goal if the private sector takes a major part in this initiative.

With mining exploitation and exploration, logging concessions and plantation development as key sectors influencing the development of the island, the involvement of actors from this sector as deemed crucial.

A recent initiative taken by the Government of Sabah State in Malaysia in launching its Forever Sabah initiative to support the HoB can be seen as an effort to promote a wide-range of partnership among key stakeholders influential in land use management in the HoB’s part of that state.

This effort, for instance, has brought together an energy company, that has a plan to increase renewable energy intake which could lead to further protection of forests, along with an award winning community based eco-tourism cooperative that will benefit from further conservation of fragile ecosystems, and plantation companies that try to restore forest important for wildlife corridors as an encouraged under the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil.

An NGO focusing on empowering indigenous and local communities through a model of kampong universities that provides useful knowledge and skills for natural resource management, and other key stakeholders, also have made strategic contributions to this initiative.

Similar efforts have taken place in the Indonesian part of the HoB, including in West Kalimantan province, particularly in Kapuas Hulu district, and in East Kalimantan province (Kutai Barat district). Both areas are striving to achieve an ideal goal of green economic development at local level by promoting a platform of collaborative actions among different stakeholders.

In another part of the world, such as the Amazon region, 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. Other similar efforts in the Amazon have now ensured further protection and improved management of 80 percent of the Amazon’s original forest and establishing hundreds of millions of conservation fund.

Promoting such partnership at that large-scale requires not only political willingness but also concrete incentives and practical solutions on the ground. Otherwise, key actors and stakeholders may not necessarily have the ownership and be willing to support the agenda coming from the partnership.

It is of course still a long way to go for these partnership models to shine.

The involvement of non-state actors, in the government led initiative, however, displays that different actors’ efforts can complement each other.

The private sector and civil society, for example, can be actively involved in addressing the challenge in changing the unsustainable production and consumption patterns, while the governments can provide and improve enabling conditions, namely good economic policies and governance.

If such partnerships can be maintained, enhanced and magnified, one can dream and hope about the bright future of our human civilization.

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The author is climate and sustainability specialist, a doctoral candidate at the Australian National University, and the recipient of Australian Leadership Award and Allison Sudradjat Award.

Decentralization and avoiding deforestation: the case of Indonesia

“Decentralization and avoiding deforestation: the case of Indonesia”. Authors: Fitrian Ardiansyah and Frank Jotzo.

A book chapter (Chapter 9) in S. Howes & MG Rao (eds), Federal Reform Strategies: Lessons from Asia and Australia, Oxford University Press (2013), Oxford.

Please check this link to access the chapter:

http://www.oxfordscholarship.com/view/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198092001.001.0001/acprof-9780198092001-chapter-9 

Or see the pre-published version of this chapter:

Indonesia-decentralisation-deforestation_FitrianArdiansyah_FrankJotzo_proofedition_2013

Abstract:

Indonesia has undergone far-reaching political, administrative and fiscal decentralization over the last decade. Significant powers now rest with the district level including the management of natural resources and the environment. A large share of state revenue goes to district governments. Deforestation has been a part and parcel of Indonesia’s economic development and it is the principal source of Indonesia’s large greenhouse gas emissions. Indonesia has committed to curb its greenhouse gas emissions, mostly through reduced deforestation. We assess challenges and options for avoiding deforestation under the decentralized system, using Indonesia’s fiscal transfer system. We find that schemes for improving land management and deforestation need to be structured around the interests of local governments and actors. Positive incentives for local governments will need to be created to compensate them for foregone profits and to facilitate alternative development. This could be done through intergovernmental transfers, using either outcome-based or input-based payment schemes.

Keywords: Indonesia, decentralization, avoiding deforestation, REDD+ programme, forest and land use governance, intergovernmental fiscal transfers

Federal Reform Strategies$

Can Indonesia balance its development?

By Fitrian Ardiansyah, published in Coal Asia, October 21 – November 21, 2013, page 148-149

for the pdf version, please see Opinion Fitrian Ardiansyah for Coalasia 36th_OctNov2013

Can IndonesiaMany people have acknowledged Indonesia as one of the world’s mega-centers of biological diversity. The ecosystems of this archipelagic nation, however, are being increasingly degraded, leading to natural resources depletion, impacting on people’s livelihoods and causing significant environmental damages.

As part of its coastal and marine areas, for instance, Indonesia harbors a huge portion of the world’s center of marine life otherwise known as the Coral Triangle (CT), which is home to 30 percent of the world’s coral reefs, more than 35 percent of its coral reef fish species and much of the tuna eaten around the world.

Located along the equator at the confluence of the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean, not only the CT comprises valuable marine environments but also is a much sought-after tourist destination, providing a daily income to hundreds of millions of people as well as generating revenues for businesses and governments in Indonesia and neighboring countries.

A 2008 study led by Professor Ainsworth from the University of South Florida reveals that the coastal and marine ecosystems in the CT are already under extreme pressures such as from declining water quality, resource extraction, destructive fishing practices and overfishing. If the destruction continues, this will disrupt the multi-billion dollar economic activities associated with the tuna, tourism and coral reef ecosystems, disturbing one of the planet’s economic hubs.

A similar situation occurs in Indonesia’s forest ecosystems. The majority of the country’s forests such as those in Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi and Papua are recognized in the Global 200 Ecoregions — nature regions, landscapes or seascapes that are
exceptionally important and symbolic for the survival of rich biodiversity features.

As with the country’s marine ecosystems, forests on many islands of Indonesia have come under the constant threat of destructive and illegal logging activities, expansion of agriculture and pulp plantations, destructive mining activities, as well as infrastructure development.

In some cases, even the supposedly ‘safe places’ such as protected areas are diminishing in conservation value as poorly planned and unsustainable development leads to poaching, encroachment, habitat fragmentation and forest fires.

Such problems affecting both terrestrial and marine ecosystems have been building for decades, dated back from the New Order regime. Economic development objectives focusing so much on natural resources exploitation have led to promising economic growth but with serious collateral consequences, including seasons of floods and landslides, droughts, fires and haze, and coral bleaching.

In recent years, the government of Indonesia appears to be increasingly proactive in trying to advance its environmental protection agenda along with its economic development targets.

There have been pledges and written commitments issued by the government, such as the famous pledge at the G20 meeting in 2009 announced by the president to cut the country’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, or the forest and peat land conversion moratorium, and other initiatives including the Coral Triangle Initiative and the Heart of Borneo.

In many of his speeches, the Indonesian president re-affirmed the importance of environmental protection along with economic development and poverty alleviation.

Also, the country has equipped itself with new regulations concerning environmental protection and management, and sustainability. As an example, in October 2009, the government adopted Law No. 32 of 2009 on Environmental Protection and Management, replacing Law No. 23 of 1997 on Environmental Management which was deemed to be no longer sufficient in handling new environmental challenges.

With the above mentioned policy actions committed and carried out by the government, one big question remains as to whether such actions are sufficient for Indonesia to have effective environmental governance resulting in better environmental outcomes and balanced development.

Balanced development, or globally known as sustainable development, emphasizes a holistic, equitable and forward-looking approach to decision making at all levels — not just focusing on economic performance but also on the environmental and social aspects of development, including intra-generational and inter-generational equity.

Commitments to protect the country’s environment and achieve sustainable development are arguably ambitious. These require tremendous support from different layers of governments and different spectrums of society, including from the private sector
and the general public.

Albeit very slowly, platforms formulated and supported by civil society groups and the private sector to promote best practices in sustainable development (e.g. in forest management, fishery and agriculture) have emerged and some progress resulting from these platforms is being accomplished.

In the case of forest management, prior to 2009, only 1.1 million hectares of forests were certified under the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) amounting to 2 per cent of the country’s production forests. To date, approximately 26 companies with a total 2.6 million hectares of forests are undertaking a rigorous process for FSC certification.

As of 2011, there are also at least 1.8 million hectares of certified forests under the Indonesian Ecolabeling Institute (LEI). In addition to voluntary timber certification, the government introduced the Timber Legality Verification System (SVLK), which aims to verify the legality of all traded Indonesian timber products.

Both timber verification and forest certification is seeing Indonesia gradually move toward more responsible forestry practices. Yet, as those forests certified under FSC and LEI still make up only a small proportion of Indonesia’s total forests, achieving sustainability in this sector is still an enormous challenge.

Progress has also been made in fishery management indicated by the works carried out by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) in Indonesia, in collaboration with the Indonesian government and national NGOs.

Such works in promoting collaborative sustainable natural resource management further requires not only political willingness but also concrete incentives and practical solutions on the ground.

Innovative designs of financial and fiscal mechanisms that can support sustainable practices seemingly are still far behind. Without the provision of appropriate and adequate incentives, it will be challenging to address threats to sustainable development and conservation, especially those coming from business activities and capital investment.

A 2011 study conducted by the Indonesian Corruption Watch shows that as a result of deforestation in a year, the country has lost about Rp14 trillion (US$1.6 billion). During the period of 2005-2009, the same study calculated an equivalent of Rp71.28 trillion as the costs of deforestation.

Therefore, balanced development can only be achieved if the country can combine their measured policies on sustainable development and environmental protection with strong economic incentives, and further mainstream these into the overall
government’s development agenda.

In brief, to achieve sustainability that ensures economic growth and environmental protection, Indonesia and its people have a massive challenge to transform and adjust their current development approach.

As a developing country, Indonesia has enormous potential and a good model to show that the country can protect,
maintain and even enhance its natural capital for current and future generations.

More importantly, this commitment should not be used as merely a ‘mantra’. It needs to be shaped as continuous progress and coloring the daily life of the nation.

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The author is climate and sustainability specialist, a doctoral candidate at the Australian National University, and the recipient of Australian Leadership Award and Allison Sudradjat Award.

Flooding: looking beyond Jakarta

by Fitrian ArdiansyahErik Meijaard and Jessie Wells, published in The Jakarta Globe, 4 December 2013, Opinion.

Original link: http://www.thejakartaglobe.com/opinion/flooding-looking-beyond-jakarta/

Anyone living in Jakarta is more than familiar with the huge impacts of flooding, and the need for greater efforts for prevention and management. And yet, when it comes to the focus and support from the government for these actions, Jakarta may be more “fortunate” compared to other parts of the country that suffer from frequent floods, such as Kalimantan.

Heavy tropical rainfall causes flooding nearly everywhere in the Indonesian archipelago. According to the recent projections of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in the coming decades Indonesia may receive less rainfall between July and October, but increased rains (and higher intensities) are expected during the wet season.

A combination of continuing environmental degradation (e.g. through deforestation and erosion), climate change that leads to sea level rise and extreme weather events, and poor infrastructure, has increased the urgency for Indonesia to address flooding issues not only through emergency response, but pro-actively through land use planning, mitigation and adaptation.

Some government agencies at the national and sub-national levels, including the Jakarta government, appear to be increasingly aware of the significant social and economic impacts that flooding can have, and are starting to take steps to reduce risks and mitigate impacts.

Others are yet to take action. In Kalimantan, for example, the government and key stakeholders need to make a dramatic shift away from their current business-as-usual approach to development and reactive approach to flooding, to avoid severe impacts that risk collapse of the island’s economic and humanitarian systems.

More than 20 major rivers flow through Kalimantan. Disturbances to the hydro-climatic systems, ecosystems and land use in the catchment areas of these rivers will have serious consequences for the island’s water supplies, transportation networks, and the capacity of its people to further develop their economies and moderate the impacts of droughts and fires.

With regard to flooding, a recent study titled Forests, Floods, People and Wildlife on Borneo showed that problems caused by flooding in Kalimantan are much larger than previously recognized, that flood risks are being exacerbated by trends in climate, land use and urbanization, and that urgent and forward-thinking actions are needed to address these issues.

This study, published by the United Nations Environment Program, estimates that between April 2010 and 2013, media-reported flood events inundated between 197,000 and 360,000 houses in Kalimantan, and displaced between 776,000 and 1.5 million people. The authors emphasize that these are conservative estimates, since many events go unreported, and independent surveys in 354 villages indicated that flooding occurred annually or even more frequently in at least 49 percent of villages in the island — with large social and economic impacts.

This study also found that 18 percent of villages experienced an increase in flood frequencies over the past 30 years. Increases in flood frequencies were primarily concentrated in the middle Mahakam area in East Kalimantan, the lower and middle reaches of the Barito, Kahayan, Sampit and Lamandau Rivers in South and Central Kalimantan, and the low-lying swamps around the Kapuas River in West Kalimantan. Reports of increasing flood frequencies were also strongly associated with increased turbidity and declines in water quality.

These are all areas with high human population densities and increasing agricultural developments, indicating that future economic impacts of flooding could be larger still.

One important aspect specifically explored in the study is the link between deforestation and changes in flood frequencies. The study concludes that it is not possible yet to understand the full picture of the complex relationships between land cover, topography and flooding, but the data indicate that increases in flooding were most likely in areas that have experienced more extensive deforestation for oil palm development, or severe degradation through logging and fires.

Such findings are important for Indonesia’s land use policies. Indonesia’s regulations (including Agriculture Ministry Decree No. 837 of 1980), have provided guidance for identifying lands that play an important role in watershed protection, based on considerations of slope, soil type and rainfall intensity.

However, vast areas of lands that meet these criteria have not been gazetted with any protection status such as protection forest (hutan lindung), but instead have been given out to industrial logging or other development activities incompatible with maintaining their hydrological functions. Such areas include large areas of Kalimantan’s forests on steep slopes or on deep peats, which continue to be converted despite the consequences.

The recent moratorium policy on forest and peat land conversion issued by the national government provides an opportunity for remaining areas to be protected, conserved and sustainably managed.

Taking up this opportunity will require governments at each level to effectively implement and monitor existing policies; to strengthen capacities for landscape planning that sustains the vital functions of watersheds, alongside other ecosystem benefits and economic developments; and to integrate land use planning with local preventive measures for flooding and adaptation to flooding regimes.

Otherwise, flooding impacts associated with deforestation and forest degradation in Kalimantan are only going to get worse.

In addition, rapid migration and urban expansion in the coastal and riverine lowlands affects both the likelihood of flood events (e.g. through altered hydrology and land subsidence), and amplifies the likely impacts of those events on larger and more concentrated populations of vulnerable people. Trends toward urbanization are likely to continue, and so an urgent and sustained effort is needed to reduce the impacts of urban and upstream development on flood risks, and to make settlements as resilient as possible to the risks that remain.

The government needs to act urgently. Agus Purnomo, a member of the Special Staff to the Indonesian President on Climate Change and the head of the secretariat of the National Council on Climate Change, states that many weather-related disasters in Indonesia, such as flooding and landslides, are having increasing impacts. He further argues that it is not only new policies that Indonesia requires, but also increased capacity, sufficient resources and adequate technology to address this issue.

Such comprehensive thinking, however, needs to be translated and supported at the local level, particularly in Kalimantan’s political agendas. Reading local newspapers, one wonders whether politicians in Kalimantan share similar concerns, since most discussions or actions related to flooding focus on mitigation through hard infrastructure (e.g. flood defenses), and appear to neglect efforts for hazard reduction or prevention (e.g. maintaining forested watersheds and improving infrastructure) or risk-reduction and adaptation.

It is time for government to put into effect its own, existing policies, including the government’s commitments to sustaining essential watershed functions, to reducing emissions from land use, and to maintaining at least 45 percent of Kalimantan’s land area as forest (Presidential Decree No. 3 of 2012).

To achieve this, the national government, through its Forestry Ministry, Environment Ministry and recently established REDD+ Agency (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, plus conservation and enhancement of forest carbon stocks), needs to enhance collaboration with local governments to enable land use planning that integrates the multiple functions of landscapes, including rigorously identifying which forests should be protected from development and which areas can be sustainably used or developed, and how.

The One Map Initiative, for example, can be used to guide the process on the ground so that needs for economic development can be met in concert with (rather than at a cost to) environmental protection and ecosystem services.

It is essential for the government and key stakeholders to show that the country’s commitments to addressing deforestation, climate change and disaster risks are concrete and meaningful. With this, as a society, we can hope that Indonesia will be able to beat the flooding challenge.

Fitrian Ardiansyah is a doctoral candidate at the Australian National University and program development director at Pelangi Indonesia.

Erik Meijaard is a long-term Indonesia-based conservation scientist leading the Borneo Futures initiative as a consultant for People and Nature Consulting International.

Jessie Wells is a postdoc at the Environmental Decisions Group, University of Queensland, researching hydrological ecosystem services in Kalimantan.

Improved governance crucial to protect our most pristine forests

by Fitrian Ardiansyah and Erik Meijaard, published in The Jakarta Globe, 20 September 2013, Opinion.

Original link: http://www.thejakartaglobe.com/opinion/improved-governance-crucial-to-protect-our-most-pristine-forests/

A recent regulation issued by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on the National REDD+ [reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation plus] Agency shows the government’s continuous willingness to better manage our environment. Yet, it also triggers an interesting question about whether the establishment of this new agency is sufficient to save our remaining forests.

Indonesia is one of the most important countries in the world for biodiversity and ecosystem conservation, and has more species than all other countries but Brazil. Also, because of its unique geology, the country has very high levels of endemism: species occur here but nowhere else.

Indonesia and its population have every reason to be proud of their incredible natural heritage. Nevertheless, more serious and comprehensive efforts appear to be needed to ensure that this heritage can be sustained and enjoyed by future generations too.

In Indonesia, some of the most pristine forests have been gazetted as protected areas. These are the cornerstone of ecosystem and wildlife conservation, and to a large extent, have provided human populations with valuable goods and services, including water and local climate regulation.

Protected areas are supposed to provide a safe haven for endangered animal and plant life, away from the human threats, such as over-exploitation and disturbance. In this country, however, the reality seems different. Two recent studies, for instance, found that Indonesian protected areas had suffered from significant deforestation between 2000 and 2010.

A study by Douglas Fuller of the University of Miami and colleagues — in press in the Indonesian Journal of Nature Conservation — is likely the first-ever assessment looking at all terrestrial protected areas in Indonesia, including national parks, and nature and wildlife reserves. The study reveals that between 2000 and 2010 these areas lost 3,700 square kilometers of forest, equaling about half the greater metropolitan area of Jakarta.

When it comes to the status of the areas, deforestation rates in nature and wildlife reserves were about twice as high as those in national parks. Such different deforestation rates may be due to the fact that national parks have been slightly better equipped with funds, human resources and technology compared to other protected areas.

A second study published in the journal PLOS ONE, and led by David Gaveau of the Center for International Forestry Research in Bogor, confirms similar findings.

This study assessed forest loss in Kalimantan between 2000 and 2010. An estimated 303,525 square kilometers or 57 percent of Kalimantan’s land area was covered by natural forest in 2000, of which 14,212 square kilometers had been cleared by 2010. Forests in oil palm concessions had been reduced by 5,600 square kilometers, while the figures for logging concessions are 1,336 square kilometers and for protected forests 1,122 square kilometers. The remaining deforestation happened in land with other uses, such as small-scale agriculture.

In relative terms the study showed that deforestation rates in timber concessions and protected areas were not significantly different. This is a surprising finding since timber removal is obviously allowed in logging concessions but not in protected areas.

This finding, however, can provide a crucial suggestion. This could mean regardless of the status of forests — either production or conservation and unless not changed to conversion forest — as long the areas are well managed, deforestation can be largely avoided.

Under Indonesian laws, logging concessions have to be managed sustainably and remain permanently forest-covered. If these concessions are well-managed, they can continuously function as wildlife habitats and host a wide range of forest species, as well as generate income for government, companies and surrounding communities.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature recognizes this conservation potential of well-managed timber concessions.

Still, this only works as long as the government does not license the conversion of these natural forest concessions to non-forest land uses, such as oil palm plantations, which are of far less value to wildlife, ecosystems and people’s livelihoods.

The remaining forests of Indonesia provide important wildlife habitats and are greatly valued by people for a range of products and services (including flood buffering, temperature control, but also a free source of bush meat and fish). The future of Indonesia’s forest wildlife and the prevention of natural disasters therefore greatly depends on preventing further forest loss in protected areas and timber concessions.

The two studies suggest, however, that much works needs to be done by the Indonesian government and society since either protected areas or logging concessions seem to be inadequately managed and not strong enough to prevent deforestation.

The core weaknesses of the present protected area management system, for instance, will have to be addressed urgently. Performance-based systems should help the government to reward improvement in management and penalize failure, increasing the accountability of those in charge. The new REDD+ agency could support such systems.

Sustainable management of remaining forest areas from which timber can be legally harvested is a second key strategy. President Yudhoyono, for example, committed in 2012 to maintaining at least 45 percent of Kalimantan’s land area as forest.

Achieving such a target requires integration of forest estate planning, including prevention of further conversion of the remaining forests and ensuring that other development planning, both at sub-national and national levels, is synergized. Also, improved governance of forests requires further reforms in forest and land use licensing and management.

Indonesia still has significant forest areas. The future of these valuable resources is in the hands of the government, private sector and public. We need to continuously make decisions and put forward actions that not only boost our current economic growth but also sustain it and secure the country’s future economy by keeping and sustainably managing our forests.

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

Erik Meijaard is a long-term Indonesia-based conservation scientist leading the Borneo Futures initiative as a consultant for People and Nature Consulting International.