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Jakarta Post

Climate change: Indonesia’s leadership is critical

  • Sunny Verghese


Singapore   /   Fri, October 12, 2018   /   12:07 pm
Climate change: Indonesia’s leadership is critical Thousands of people attend the People's Climate March to stand up against climate change. ( S. Glass)

This week’s new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report from the world’s preeminent climate scientists makes for harrowing reading. To keep planetary warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius will require an unprecedented effort to transform the global economy, fast. Time is not on our side. 

The report also clearly demonstrates that to achieve a 1.5-degree world will require renewed action to protect the world’s forests and better manage its soils. As an ambassador of the Food and Land Use Coalition, a global coalition seeking to make decisive progress on the food and land use agenda, I welcome the report’s focus on this often forgotten set of solutions. 

No country provides a more eloquent example of the importance of food and land use to prosperity and climate action than Indonesia. The bulk of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions are generated by land use change. Its forests, mangroves and peatlands are globally important treasure troves of biodiversity and carbon. They are also critical to ensuring that the country is more resilient to natural disasters and climate change. The recent tragic events in Indonesia, for which I express my heartfelt sympathy, are a powerful reminder of how vulnerable Indonesia is to natural disasters and a more variable and extreme climate.

Fortunately, the government is wise on these issues, and has put in place a series of far-sighted policies to bring about a more sustainable food and land use system. Most recently, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo extended a palm oil moratorium, to ensure no further encroachment into forests as a result of this or other commodity expansion. 

The Health Ministry has established ambitious food and nutrition security goals, whether to reduce stunting or to increase fresh fruit and vegetable intake. No fewer than six ministries are currently working to address high rates of food loss and waste in the country. And the Environment and Forestry Ministry has made excellent progress in reducing rates of deforestation and forest and peat fires.

The National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas) has also embarked on a visionary process to establish a Low Carbon Development economy for Indonesia (LCDI). Initial findings from the Initiative will be presented to finance ministers and others at a side event at the International Monetary Fund-World Bank Group meetings this week in Bali. It will present detailed recommendations on how Indonesia can better manage its forests, agriculture, peatlands and marine fisheries to support the country’s low-carbon, green growth. A particular focus of the LCDI is on the importance of seeking an alternative development path for Indonesia’s remaining areas of high forest cover: a food system which meets people’s nutritional needs while also protecting and nurturing the rainforests on which Indonesia’s and the world’s health and resilience ultimately depends.

Indonesia, like so much of the world, finds itself exposed to the double burden, with high levels of malnutrition as well as obesity afflicting significant swathes of the population. Olam is working with farmers to diversify their crops for improved income and food security, to increase nutrition training for communities through partnerships and to reduce food and loss in our supply chains.

Tackling climate change — with the right policies and industry action — is an urgent task. As outlined by the recent IPCC report, the world has just a 12-year window to set humanity on a sustainable path. Indonesia’s leadership on climate change and protecting its natural resources has never been more critical.


The writer is cofounder and Group CEO, OLAM International business group and ambassador of the global Food and Land Use Coalition.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.