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.

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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.

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.

The private sector and ‘green’ transformation

By Fitrian Ardiansyah, published in Coal Asia, July 19 – August 17, 2013, page 82-83

for the pdf version, please see Opinion Fitrian Ardiansyah_CoalAsia_JulyAugust2013

CoalAsia_JulyAugust2013_privatesector

With growing environmental and social problems faced by the society resulting from economic activities, there is a clear need for substantive solutions that cut to the heart of the economy at different levels. The private sector, as a key actor involved in economic activities, hence has a significant role to push for the transformation of the economy into greener and sustainable.

Indonesia is currently at the forefront of many sustainability issues. Deforestation, depletion of natural resources, water and air pollution, flooding and drought, are among huge challenges that the country has to deal with.

The private sector, including investors and corporates, has often been perceived as one of the main culprits causing environmental problems. In the recent event of forest and land fires in Sumatra, an analysis by World Resources Institute indicated the occurrence of fires in lands belong to a number of plantation and forestry companies. The mud flow in East Java is also an example in which the public view that a particular corporation is the sole cause of the disaster.

The private sector, nevertheless, has also been commencing initiatives with other stakeholders, including the government and civil society groups, to address environmental issues and provide immediate and long-term solutions.

At the global level, platforms such as the Forest Stewardship Council that promotes certification for sustainable forest management and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil that promotes the production and use of certified sustainable palm oil have emerged.

According to the 2012 Association of Chartered Certified Accountants report, there has been a significant increase in the application of socially responsible investment by institutional investors around the world and over 1,000 investors representing US$32 trillion has signed up to the UN Principles for Responsible Investment.

In Indonesia, although there is yet to be a comprehensive assessment on the private sector’s sustainable activities, it appears there are sections of the sector which have seen sustainability as business opportunity.

Indonesian corporations linked with foreign investors or markets which have stricter environmental regulations or requirements, for instance, may likely to promote and adopt sustainability standards for their operations or could face further pressures and negative consequences.

Pressures and demands from the Indonesian government and its society for greener economy and development have also sent signals to the private sector that destructive operations which result in negative environmental impacts need to be mitigated or stopped.

Local social conflicts could rise due to the perceived negative risks and unwanted impacts resulting from particular business activities, such as from mining, oil and gas extraction, infrastructure development, plantation establishment, logging operations, buildings and settlements.

Avoiding the halt of particular business activities resulting from tensions and conflicts could mean helping investors and corporates to save unwanted costs which could reach millions of dollars.

Creating incentives and rewards can also trigger more active involvement of the private sector to promote, develop and implement sustainable practices.

The latest increase in the tariff for renewable energy in Indonesia (i.e. geothermal, biomass, solar), for example, has created a better level of playing fields for renewable energy investors and corporates. This is expected to further attract larger investments from the private sector which eventually help reducing the country’s dependency on fossil fuels, providing wider and accessible energy for its citizens, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Incentives created for reducing emissions from deforestation have also begun to attract investors and corporates to be pioneers in forest and peat land conservation and restoration. If conducted responsibly, taking into account the needs and rights of local and indigenous peoples, the private sector can demonstrate that this type of actions can produce benefits for the economy, environment and communities.

Such responsible approach is not an easy task to do. The private sector may need help from a variety of groups, including the government and civil society, to understand the complexity of the issues, calculate the costs and initial investment associated with the approach, and be patient but persistent in undertaking the journey towards sustainability.

Multi-stakeholders platforms built collaboratively by the private sector, the government and civil society groups to provide business solutions for sustainability issues can also improve the level of trusts among these actors, especially if transparent discussions and exchange of knowledge take place regularly.

Regardless of the growing number of companies taking part in sustainability platforms, it seems that the current and future environmental problems may be too big to be solved by even “the progressives” and “champions” of the private sector. There is definitely a need for a critical mass of investors and corporates so that there will not be any significant “bootleggers” and “free-riders”.

A significant and larger number of investors and corporates which promote and undertake sustainable practices can reduce costs and investments in greening the economy. A critical mass of the private sector involving in sustainability means that “the champions” of the industry will not be isolated just because they implement sustainable practices.

To achieve such situation, the private sector needs to pro-actively engage the government and seek for the support from the civil society and the media to push for better corporate governance, in which transparency is promoted, corruptions are seriously dealt with and a level of playing field is created.

According to the Global Compact Network Indonesia, good governance is a critical enabling factor. Good governance principles, such as transparency, accountability and responsiveness, therefore, should be promoted as fundamental values to guide efforts to achieve sustainability.

The private sector can further lead the way by improving its internal policies and operations, and creating funds to support such actions. The private sector may require innovation in its approach at different levels so that sustainable development can be carried out in a cost-effective and efficient way.

There is, however, an important component of education and outreach to the public and consumers. Consumers need to understand that efforts to operate in a sustainable manner require their support. Hence, identification of products or services which are really delivered in a responsible and sustainable way is a key.

Honest, clear and accessible information is vital to further promote green products and services. To achieve this, the private sector needs to undertake efforts along the supply chain.

When the private sector can push for both sustainable production and consumption, green transformation can then be considered as “effectively running”. If this is the case, many will likely applaud the contribution of the private sector, particularly toward achieving a healthier and liveable planet.

In a total economic value term, increased investors and corporates focus on sustainability not only are creating better products and services but also fundamentally addressing challenges of natural resource depletion and environmental pollution.

The journey towards greener economy may be long and uneasy, but if the private sector recognizes itself as a key stakeholder and is willing to collaboratively lead the way, this journey may yield immediate benefits and better outcomes in the future.

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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.

The future of development and the question of sustainability

The Jakarta Post, Opinion, Fitrian Ardiansyah, Canberra | Wed, September 26 2012, 8:52 AM

Paper Edition | Page: 7,

Original link: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2012/09/26/the-future-development-and-question-sustainability.html

The gathering of the United Nations (UN) this September in New York undoubtedly had a different nuance. It marked the first official meeting to discuss “the future of development”. On Tuesday 25th, parallel to the UN General Assembly, the UN High Level Panel (HLP) of Eminent Persons on Post-2015 Development Agenda kicked off discussions about the continuation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the formulation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In September 2000, 147 heads of state and government officials met at the UN to unanimously adopt the Millennium Declaration, committing themselves to eight global development objectives (the eight MDGs) to be reached by 2015. These MDGs are widely perceived as the global and cross-country measures by which international development efforts would be judged.

Some proponents of the MDGs claim that many countries have exceeded the targets in at least three areas of the MDGs, namely poverty, slums and water. In the poverty category, for instance, it is estimated that in 2010 the share of people living on less than a US$1.25 a day basis dropped to less than half of its 1990 figure at the global level, as reported in the 2012 MDGs publication.

In Indonesia, as explained by the President’s special envoy for the MDGs, there are MDGs targets that have been achieved successfully such as the increased level of PPP (public-private partnership), school enrollment and higher gender equality. It is clear, however, many countries under the current MDGs framework have yet to achieve all the MDGs’ targets. The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2008, for instance, when commenting on the achievements of the MDGs, stated: “We have made important progress toward all eight goals, but we are not on track to fulfill [all of] our commitments.”

The 2012 UN report concurred with the secretary-general’s statement. The report projected, among others, that more than 600 million people worldwide in 2015 will lack access to safe drinking water, almost one billion will be living on an income of less than $1.25 per day, mothers will continue to die needlessly in childbirth and children will suffer and die from preventable diseases.

In Indonesia, to achieve many of the MDGs’ targets by 2015, huge challenges remain. One of them chiefly relates to addressing poverty vulnerability, which remains high (i.e. many people live very close to the poverty line and mostly, they do not have social protection).

The aforementioned situation sends a strong, clear message to the UN and all countries to accelerate efforts to further achieve targets already laid out in the MDGs, and to continue efforts to achieve them beyond 2015.

Due to this challenge, Ban formed the UN HLP earlier this year that will advise the UN on the global development agenda beyond 2015.

Ban has appointed three co-chairs to lead this HLP: President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, and Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom. The HLP consists of 26 eminent individuals that will help the co-chairs.

The HLP is expected to prepare a bold yet practical development vision, to be presented to participating countries of the UN next year, which will recommend on a global post-2015 agenda with shared responsibilities for all countries with the fight against poverty and sustainable development at its core.

Sustainable development has been highlighted as an important core of the post-2015 development framework because at the Rio+20 Conference this year, countries agreed on the SGDs and many analysts argued that these goals have been generally overlooked in the MDGs.

Experience shows that focusing on economic growth and poverty eradication alone has not necessarily led to human welfare and — most importantly — well-being. A sole focus on economic growth may further result in the increase in social inequality and environmental negative externalities.

If this continues, such unsustainable growth may push our planet close to its “tipping point” (exceeding our “planetary boundaries”). The planetary boundaries, as defined by some scholars, are a safe operating space for humanity, which are identified and quantified so that human activities can move forward without causing unacceptable and irreversible 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 likely to be irreversible, it is imperative that urgent action is taken to address these challenges before it is too late.

The links between poverty and the environment, however, are mostly complex and strongly influenced by local demographic, political, institutional, economic and cultural factors.

The over exploitation of natural resources, for example, which is driven by wealthy investments, may lead to environmental and natural resource degradation and further marginalize poor people, preventing them from accessing these already limited resources or pushing them to face more frequented disasters, such as flooding, land-slides, drought and fires and haze, as a result of the degradation.

The development framework in post-2015, as discussed in the HLP, therefore, should seriously take into account balanced efforts to address poverty, social inequality (both intra-generational and inter-generational equity) and environmental degradation. The framework needs to promote innovation including the promotion of bottom and inclusive approaches — garnering the support from different stakeholders — in the formulation of development agendas in many countries.

In general, the work of the HLP is crucial to define the basic shape of our development in the future. Since the Indonesian President is one of the co-chairs of the panel, Indonesians — and other developing country citizens — need to be proactive in contributing to this process.

It is our future that the HLP is discussing and defining.

With our contribution, it is hoped that the process is enriched and the formulation of “the future of development” will lead to the appropriate level of welfare and well-being of the human population as well as sound and healthy ecosystems of our only planet Earth.

The writer is a doctoral candidate at the Australian National University, and the recipient of the Australian Leadership Award and Allison Sudradjat Award.

Rio+20 and challenges towards sustainable development

East Asia Forum, June 21st, 2012, Author: Fitrian Ardiansyah, ANU
Original link: http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2012/06/21/rio20-and-challenges-towards-sustainable-development/
The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), otherwise known as Rio+20, commenced yesterday (20 June) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

This is one of the world’s largest-ever environment conferences, and a useful point at which to examine the progress and regress of countries in advancing sustainable development over the past few decades.

Sustainable development emphasises 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-generatonal equity. The concept was developed in the 1987 Brundtland Report, and re-affirmed at the Rio Earth Summit 1992. This year’s UNCSD marks the 20th anniversary of that summit.

Twenty years on, countries around the world must now demonstrate whether their development paths have upheld the principles of sustainable development, through rethinking their economic growth, advancing social equity and ensuring environmental protection at all levels.

According to many scholars, some progress toward achieving sustainable development is being accomplished, albeit very slowly. Reports show an increase in collaboration between state and non-state actors, which has brought about gradual but important changes, including the promotion, development and application of sustainability principles in the management of key commodities, including forestry (through the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)), fishery (through the Marine Stewardship Council) and palm oil (through the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil).

In Indonesia, prior to 2009, only 1.1 million hectares of forests were certified under the FSC, amounting to 2 per cent of the country’s production forests. Now, approximately 26 companies with a total 2.6 million hectares of forests are undertaking a rigorous process for FSC certification.

In addition to the Timber Legality Verification System (SVLK) implemented in 2009, which aims to verify the legality of all traded Indonesian timber products, forest certification is seeing Indonesia gradually move toward sustainable forestry practices. But, as those forests certified under FSC still make up only a small proportion of Indonesia’s total forests, achieving sustainability in this sector is still a significant challenge.

Progress has also been made in the prevention of biodiversity loss. In this sense, the Heart of Borneo (HoB) initiative can be seen as a test for Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei in conserving and sustainably managing 22 million hectares of important forest and terrestrial ecosystems.

However, promoting conservation and sustainable forest managementon such a significant scale requires not only political willingness but also concrete incentives and practical solutions on the ground.

Another immmediate political challenge for the HoB initiative is that a development policy released by the same government, the Master Plan for the Acceleration and Expansion of Indonesia’s Economic Development (MP3EI), may contradict efforts to protect, conserve and sustainably manage its forests and biodiversity in this area.

A recent discussion among scholars, high-ranking government officials, business practioners and NGO activists in Jakarta, facilitated by the Paramadina Graduate School of Diplomacy, agreed that the MP3EI may overlook environmental persectives and parameters.

If the conflict is not addressed, some actors involved in land-use activities in Borneo may use the economic development master plan as an excuse to continue their business-as-usual activities.

When it comes to creating incentives and developing practical solutions, the Rio+20 conference lists ‘green economy’ as one of its two major themes. The ‘green economy’ approach will presumably provide a platform for countries or other entities to address threats to sustainable developmant and conservation, and improve enabling conditions and propose solutions at a practical level.

The HoB initiative, at the Rio+20 conference, is launching a report entitled ‘Investing in Nature for a Green Economy’. This report is intended to show that the initiative concretely and seriously tackles existing and future threats, particularly from unsustainable land-use activities, and further improves enabling conditions, namely good economic policies that create positive incentives, good governance, clear land tenure and environmentally friendly sectoral development.

By using the ‘green economy’ concept, it is expected that the initiative can transform economic growth in the area, particularly through shifting investments — public and private, domestic and international — toward emerging green sectors and the greening of existing sectors, complemented by changes to unsustainable consumption patterns.

Natural capital, especially biodiversity, is under threat at the global level. In its State of Biodiversity of Asia and the Pacific (2010), UNEP ranked Indonesia second after Australia as having the most threatened plant and animal species in the region. The HoB initiative is an important model to demonstrate that development can take place in biodiversity-rich areas without further threatening fragile resources.

For developing countries like Indonesia and its neighbours, reforming and balancing their development pathways is a Herculean task. It is how to move forward with this challenge that is now being hotly discussed at Rio.

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

Rio+20 and the fate of sustainable development

Strategic Review

The Indonesian Journal of Leadership, Policy and World Affairs, by Fitrian Ardiansyah, 18 May 2012

Original link: http://www.sr-indonesia.com/2011-08-09-22-09-10/commentaries/193-rio20-and-the-fate-of-sustainable-development

The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), being held in June in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, will undoubtedly raise a critical question about how far countries have advanced sustainable development and mitigated environmental degradation.

Sustainable development, defined as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, was introduced in the 1987 Brundtland Report and reaffirmed 20 years ago in Rio. This is why this year’s UNCSD is also known as Rio+20, marking the 20th anniversary of one of the famous large-scale gatherings on environmental issues, the 1992 Earth Summit, which was held in the same city.

During the 1992 Earth Summit, world leaders agreed to uphold sustainable development, demonstrated by, among others, the adoption of Agenda 21, the signings of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and the issuance of the Declaration of Forest Principles. Agenda 21 is a blueprint to rethink economic growth, advance social equity and ensure environmental protection at the global, national and local levels.

The CBD, signed by 150 government leaders, provides a platform to achieve sustainable development since it recognizes crucial functions and services of biodiversity and natural ecosystems that directly and indirectly support people and their needs. The Forest Principles, which focuses particularly on forest ecosystems, is the first global consensus that encourages nations to conserve, restore and manage these already fragile and threatened resources.

Another major breakthrough in the 1992 Rio Earth Summit was the signing of the UNFCCC. The convention created an umbrella for global efforts to tackle the challenge posed by climate change, which is perceived as one of the biggest threats to human civilization. With the UNFCCC, nations recognize that the climate system is a shared resource and all governments and people on our planet have the responsibility to ensure its stability.

Two decades have passed since the first UNCSD, yet progress toward the achievement of the objectives of the above conventions and commitments, according to many scholars, has been very slow.

In the 2010 editorial section of Wiley’s Interdisciplinary Reviews (WIREs) of Climate Change—Climate and Development, Daniel Murdiyarso of the Center for International Forestry Research argued that global programs and actions to achieve safe drinking water, improved health and reduced mortality, food security and reduced hunger, and environment sustainability – as also reflected in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – fell very short toward their targets.

When commenting about the MDGs in 2008, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said: “We have made important progress toward all eight goals, but we are not on track to fulfill our commitments.”

With regard to food security and the use of land and water, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, for example, reported in 2011 that although agricultural production has as much as tripled due to significant increases in the yield of major crops, global achievements in production in some regions have been associated with degradation of land and water resources and the deterioration of related ecosystem goods and services.

The report indicated that significant biomass, carbon storage, soil health, water storage and supply, biodiversity and social and cultural services have been negatively affected by the global agriculture production from the use of 11 percent of the world’s land surface and 70 percent of all water withdrawn from aquifers, streams and lakes for crop production. In the same report, agricultural policies are viewed to have primarily benefitted farmers with productive land and access to water, bypassing the majority of small-scale producers who are still locked in a poverty trap of high vulnerability, land degradation and climatic uncertainty.

In Indonesia, a 2008 study written by Sugiyanto and Candra R Samekto of the ministries of Public Works and National Development Planning revealed that the country had already experienced water shortages in some areas during the dry season and flood events during the rainy season.

Specific water issues that Indonesia faces, as described in this study, include in imbalance between supply and demand in a spatial and temporal perspective and degraded river basins. For instance, increasing water demand – the total water needs of the country was 112.3 billion cubic meters in 2003 and approximately 117.7 billion cubic meters in 2009 – combined with limited water availability will certainly aggravate the water scarcity problem and trigger water conflict.

Biodiversity is also under threat. In the 2010 State of the Planet’s Biodiversity, the UN Environment Program (UNEP) provided gloomy facts. Species extinction is a natural part of Earth’s evolution, the reported noted, but during the past 100 years humans have increased the extinction rate by at least 100 times compared to the natural rate.

The report stated that virtually all of Earth’s ecosystems have been dramatically transformed through human actions; for example, 35 percent of mangroves and 20 percent of coral reefs have been lost. The report further argued that important ecosystems continue to be converted for agricultural and other uses at a constant pace during at least the past century.

In the 2010 State of Biodiversity of Asia and the Pacific, UNEP ranked Indonesia second after Australia as having the most threatened plant and animal species in the region. This is due to, among other things, high rates of fragmentation and net loss of forests that have continued in many countries in Southeast Asia between 2000 and 2009.

Still, 20 years after the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, it is not all doom and gloom for the Earth and its people. Increasing collaborative works among state and non-state actors or between businesses and nongovernmental organizations have brought about gradual but important changes toward achieving sustainable development.

The development and application of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) – a pioneering certification scheme for forest products harvested based on strict environmental, social and economic criteria – is an example of a concrete step forward from the 1992 Forest Principles. Under the FSC, more than 130 million hectares of forest and 8.5 percent of forest products in international trade are now certified, allowing important reforms in the relevant chains of custody and behavioral changes of end consumers. Other forest certification schemes have also been developed.

A similar case can be argued about the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), a certification scheme for wild-caught seafood. To date, this scheme has produced more than 100 MSC-certified fisheries and 7,000 certified products available worldwide.

When it comes to the protection of large-scale threatened biodiversity and ecosystems, 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. The protected area and other similar efforts in the Amazon are the world’s largest in situ conservation schemes, creating more than 30 million hectares of protected areas, ensuring further protection and improved management of 80 percent of the Amazon’s original forest and establishing a $29 million conservation fund.

Similar efforts have taken place in the Central Africa and Southeast Asia regions, such as the adoption of the Yaoundé Declaration (resulting in the protection and sustainable management of more than 10 percent of the Congo forest), and the creation of the Heart of Borneo (conservation and sustainable management of 22 million hectares of forest and terrestrial ecosystems).

In marine areas, comparable efforts have been undertaken through the Coral Triangle Initiative, a multilateral partnership of six countries (Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste) formed in 2009 to address the urgent threats facing the coastal and marine resources of one of the most biologically diverse and ecologically rich regions on Earth.

Such progress, however, can only be further continued if existing and future threats, particularly from unsustainable land use and marine activities, are mitigated and important enabling conditions are improved, namely good economic policies that create positive incentives, good governance, clear land tenure and environmentally-friendly infrastructure development.

Rio+20, under one of the two themes of its upcoming conference, “Green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication,” provides a venue for countries to openly and informally discuss comprehensive approaches using a green economy concept to address such threats and improve enabling conditions and propose solutions.

By using the green economy concept, it is expected that countries can be helped to transform their engines of economic growth, particularly through shifting investments – public and private, domestic and international – towards emerging green sectors and the greening of existing sectors, complemented by changes to unsustainable consumption patterns.

Such transformation is crucial to ensure sustainable development in most countries, especially developing countries including Indonesia. Without significant transformation in countries’ economies, sustainable development is likely to remain an oxymoron concept.

Indonesia, as a large developing country, has a real stake and hence is required to come up with a strong position to negotiate so that countries agree at Rio+20 for a worldwide transition toward a green economy and concrete application of sustainable development.


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