Indonesia to Reconsider Climate Action Plan, May Revive REDD

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By Fidelis E. Satriastanti

Indonesia surprised the environmental community earlier this year when its climate action plan shifted away from saving forests and towards ramping up clean energy. But then its forests started burning, and now in Paris there are signs that forests and ecosystem restoration will play a larger role in the country’s climate strategy.

Last week, a high-ranking official with Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry told Ecosystem Marketplace that the country was already re-evaluating its climate plan, or “Intended Nationally-Determined Contribution” (INDC), but that any official revision will not emerge until after the talks here conclude two weeks from now.

“We are assessing whether we need to reevaluate [our INDC], due to recent land and forest fires,” said Sarwono Kusumaatmaja, chair of climate change steering committee, an ad-hoc body set up by the ministry for the Paris climate talks. “[The INDC] is still not completed. If it needs to be reevaluated, then we will do so. If not, then we will provide explanations. But, it will not clear before the aggregation result [from the UNFCCC] announced. If it’s announced, then we will check our standing point again.”

The Shift from Forests to Factories

The current INDC showed a drastic shift from land use change to energy issues as it was predicted that with increasing population, demands would also be rising. The previous commitment had focused primarily on forests and land use, which generate more than 80 percent of Indonesia’s total greenhouse-gas emissions.

Henriette Imelda, a researcher of Institute for Essential Services Reform (IESR), a think tank which monitored the INDC process, said that there was a sense of rush in making the draft and its final document.

“The ministry had just inaugurated its first echelons only a few months before the deadline,” she said. “So, it was pretty much a complicated internal situation at that time.”

But she also argued that the country had more than enough resources to do the job right.

“Bappenas [Indonesia’s development planning agency] already came out with a model that could explain emissions level by 2030 in perfect detail,” she said. “It also included thorough explanations on power generation, transportation, even reducing fossil fuel subsidies. They also put out the baseline, timeframe and financing sources. But, I don’t understand why it didn’t make it into the INDC.”

She added that Indonesia previously enjoyed a positive image in climate-change negotiations as the first developing nation to announce voluntary emission cut targets back in 2009.

“Then, we submitted this plan,” she said. “The image will surely be discarded.”

INDC Under Attack

The INDC has been roundly criticized, both from inside and outside the country.

“It could not even explain how they came up with 29 percent [reduction target],” said Henriette, contrasting her own country’s INDC with that of South Africa, which at least provided rationale for its projections. “Yes, an INDC cannot be hundreds of pages, but at least you refer it to something or gives an official link.”

Sarwono, however, defended INDC, and told Ecosystem Marketplace that it’s not meant to be a stand-alone document.

“It is both a comprehensive and a general document,” she said. “If we want to be specific, then we can include policy briefs on REDD or financial mechanisms, for instance. The INDC was not designed to convey all the specifics. If the President goes to Paris and make a speech [on emissions], it is also and INDC. It’s an open document for review depending on political decision.”

REDD stands for “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation”, and is a financing mechanism designed to slow deforestation. The government of Norway has pledged $1 billion to help Indonesia develop a REDD program, but that program has been on ice since the end of last year.

Peatlands Management to Reduce Indonesia’s Emissions

Only a few weeks after the INDC submission, forest fires erupted in Palembang, South Sumatra, followed by Jambi and Riau provinces.

Affected by El Nino, which carries dry weather, thick haze resulted from Sumatran fires begun to spread to neighboring countries, especially Singapore. It did not take long for forest fires to occur in Kalimantan and Papua islands. It took some time for the government to acknowledge that most of those fires were coming from poor land use change management, especially peatlands which are hard to put out once they are on fire.

“Last year, from December to February, the government had implemented programs [to prevent land and forest fires] in Riau and West Kalimantan provinces. The results were visible. However, we missed out other regions as there is the factor of central and regional administrations interaction” said Minister of Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya Bakar.

President Jokowi responded with a moratorium on permits for peatland clearing, as well as an injunction against clearing even for those who have a permit.

“While waiting for government regulation [on peatland management], we already gave instructions related to President’s decision, on early November,” said Minister Siti. “It is clear that no more permits on peatlands. It is a total ban. It means that those already obtained permits they are not allowed to do new land clearing. If they already cleared peats, there will be an assessment. If it’s categorized as protected areas, then it will be closed. If it’s categorized for production areas, then they must apply for technology for hydrology.”

Apart from the regulation, she said the government has been pursuing legal actions, applying rehabilitation programs, and considering ecosystem restoration model as part of strategies to prevent land and forest fires.

“We will have to wait for March [which is predicted to be the early dry season] to determine its being a success or a failure to prevent land and forest fires,” she said.

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