As an archipelagic nation depending so much on natural resources, Indonesia needs to equip itself to deal with the possible dire consequences of climate change.
A number of assessments, including from Climate Interactive and Professor John Sterman of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), state that although the Copenhagen Accord reaffirms the goal of limiting temperature increases to 2 degrees Celsius.
However, pledges submitted by countries mean the average global temperature may increase by 3.9
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the average global temperature must not rise by more than 2 degrees Celsius to ensure that most vulnerable nations, communities and ecosystems survive.
With the current pledges, there is a risk we will overshoot 2 degrees Celsius, meaning we may face an era of rapid and accelerating climate change.
If this is the case, climate change will profoundly affect water and other natural resources, biodiversity and the economy across Indonesia, which will negatively impact on rural and urban populations across the country.
Hence, the challenge for the country is to develop appropriate ways to adapt to climate change, adjusting natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects, which moderates harm or exploits beneficial opportunities.
There is also a need to integrate disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate change adaptation (CCA) interventions.
According to Tom Mitchell from Climate and Disaster Governance, DRR is the development and application of policies and practices that minimize risks to vulnerabilities and disasters.
DRR, therefore, is an essential part of adaptation. It is the first line of defense against climate change impacts, such as increased flooding or regular droughts.
Adaptation strategies can vary. Some approaches involve acknowledging that there are many non-climate change stresses on natural and human systems.
Limiting these stresses (such as pollution, illegal and destructive logging, forest conversion, over fishing and over exploitation of natural resources) may increase the natural resistance and resilience of people and ecosystems to the added stress of climate change.
To initiate CCA, the government needs to take the lead to assess and prioritize vulnerable sectors — agriculture, marine and coastal, forestry and infrastructure — areas and people.
Other actors including research institutions, environmental organizations, humanitarian aid organizations, local communities and the private sector can assist the government in identifying, mapping and providing further understanding of sectors and geographic areas that are likely to be negatively impacted by climate change.
The information resulting from this assessment can be used to develop an action plan that combines CCA and DRR in those identified sectors, areas and people.
The combined expertise from different actors, in particular, humanitarian aid and environmental “know-how”, is crucial to ensure vulnerability reduction and a long-lasting recovery from climate-change related disasters.
At the local level, the government, local communities and relevant institutions need to be assisted in the implementation of vulnerability assessments that predict climate impacts and identify areas and sectors most vulnerable to climate change.
There is pioneering work in the island of Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara, which aims to mainstream CCA and DRR using climate predictions and assessments carried out at the global and regional level.
Lombok and many other small islands in Indonesia are vulnerable to climate change impacts and related disasters.
In 2007, the governor of West Nusa Tenggara issued a decree that formed a task force comprising government, NGOs and academia to mainstream climate change mitigation and adaptation into the local development agenda.
After two years of assessment and policy work on projected climate change impacts and vulnerability, strategies to ensure CCA in Lombok have been adopted in the provincial mid-term development plan (2008-2014).
This, however, is just the beginning of ensuring the survival of the island and perhaps many other islands in Indonesia.
At the community level, there is a further need to increase community resilience to climate change impacts.
Based on the compiled stories by the WWF in a number of villages across the country, fishermen and farmers have been experiencing changes in nature, such as changes in seasons schedule, stream direction, local temperature, water supply, waves and increasing high tide.
Further work is required to analyze the problem roots and look for and implement the short- and long-term solutions to their current problems, and also real threats from climate change.
Solutions may range from promoting alternative sustainable livelihoods to the application of agriculture and aquaculture better management practices.
Overall, adapting to the impacts of climate change is an uphill challenge, yet actions taken at national, local and community levels are imperative and should be supported.
Providing the necessary skills, expertise and financial support to equip relevant actors is a key to promote adaptation and ensure the survival of this nation.
The writer is program director of climate & energy at the WWF-Indonesia, and adjunct lecturer at Paramadina Graduate School of Diplomacy. He can be reached at email@example.com