Tackling climate change can at times seem to be at odds with ensuring economic growth and alleviating poverty. I believe, however, that the only way to truly succeed with either of these goals is by striving to reach them all. Climate change, poverty, population growth, and food, water and energy insecurity are mutually reinforcing.
None of these challenges can be solved in isolation. While economic development is key for achieving social and environmental goals, long-term economic growth and lasting competitiveness can only be secured through environmentally sustainable and climate friendly development policies.
Norway, like all other countries, must strive to transform into a low-emission society, and must take the lead in domestic emissions reductions. As a developed country, we carry particular responsibilities in this regard.
We have therefore established a goal — supported by a large majority of our Parliament — to be carbon neutral by 2030. Our contributions to Indonesia’s REDD+ efforts is additional to this goal. We urge other developed countries to set equally audacious goals and follow up on them with determination.
However, the inconvenient truth is that commitment and action from developed countries alone would not solve the climate change challenge, even if all developed countries stopped all emissions today.
Developing countries must act as well. Unless we all take large scale remedial action, huge damage worldwide will follow, wreaking havoc with much of the development progress of the last decades.
Climate change is already affecting the globe through intense and frequent heat waves, droughts, floods, and tropical cyclones.
In 2010, the Brazilian rainforest experienced what some scientists describe as the worst drought in one hundred years. The signals are all flashing red; action can be delayed no longer.
Faced with the stark realities of climate change and its consequences for the developing world, no developing country will benefit from building its future on unsustainable resource extraction leading to environmental destruction and large emissions.
Fortunately, even in the most difficult times, there are always alternatives. Tropical forest countries, like Indonesia, are endowed with rich natural resources that sustain essential life support systems both for the region and for the world.
Lasting economic growth can be built on sustainable land use and world class agricultural productivity.
Effective and transparent land use planning and improved governance and transparency can be established at all levels of government. What the world needs is good examples of how this could be done: Indonesia is in the process of becoming such an example.
Private enterprise, moreover, benefit from the ecosystem services that standing forests and peatlands provide, and will suffer from the consequences of climate change, such as lack of water and unreliable rainfall patterns.
I am pleased to see that Sinar Mas, Indonesia’s largest producer of palm oil believe that sustainable palm oil production is in their economic interest, and has vowed not to plant on peat, and not to clear forest where significant carbon is locked up in trees.
Low emission development is a fundamental choice for a country that cannot be imposed from the outside. Norway has pledged to support Indonesia with US$ 1 billion over the next few years. However, the agreement between Indonesia and Norway only captures in writing what Indonesia under President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s leadership had already planned to do.
Indonesia’s challenge over the next few years — as stated in its climate and forest strategy — is to rationalize land use by the forestry, mining and plantation sectors to ensure more effective protection and reduced emissions from natural forests and peatlands, as well as more effective utilization of degraded lands.
A comprehensive moratorium protecting most of the remaining natural forest and peatlands from this perspective provides a unique opportunity for Indonesia.
It points the way towards a situation where the long-term sustainability of these sectors would be
ensured, thereby strengthening their medium and long term growth prospects. In short, it represents an opportunity for sustainable economic growth.
I strongly believe that the direction in which President Yudhoyono is taking the country will be the best for Indonesia and for the Southeast Asian region, not decades from now, but in the near future.
Rainforests and peatlands provide invaluable services today, to the world and to all Indonesians. The Indonesian government’s pledges to both improve the lot of their population and lead the fight against climate change is a beacon to the world. The government of Norway admires these commitments, and we are proud to support them.
The writer is Norway’s Minister for Environment and International Development.