The Jakarta Post
Lima did not call for zero carbon emissions. However it got nations to accept the groundwork for a global legally binding agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Countries could then aim for that wishful zero target that the world's scientists on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) called for.
The latest annual United Nations conference on climate change in the Peruvian capital that ended Dec. 14 did result in 32 decisions.
The primary outcome was the five-page Lima Call for Climate Action. It decided an ad hoc working group should have a draft negotiating text of a protocol, or other legal instrument, or agreed outcome, with legal force before May 2015.
Further, the developed and developing country parties agreed to submit information by the first quarter of 2015 on their post-2020 plans to reduce emissions. Their 'intended nationally determined contributions' (INDC), a term first used in the 2013 Warsaw conference, may include quantifiable information from the periods of implementation, scope and coverage, planning processes, methodological approaches, to the accounting of emissions from human activity.
Although the Lima Call for Climate Action did not cite a November 2014 IPCC assessment report that urges governments to take the zero emission track, conference delegates gave Felipe Calderon rousing applause when the former president of Mexico alluded to it.
Tackling climate change and growing national economies could be done at the same time, declared Calderon, who chairs the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate.
In quoting a September 2014 GCEC report, 'Better Growth, Better Climate', Calderon proposed 10 recommendations and a change in three economic systems.
First, cities must be compact and connected to prevent urban sprawl. Second, regenerate degraded lands to better feed a growing population. Third, produce energy with clean technologies.
The investments needed for a low-carbon economy would cost about the same as those for a high-carbon, inefficient and polluting economy. Either way, around US$90 trillion needed to be invested globally in infrastructure over the next 15 years in cities, land use and energy, he explained.
A legally binding agreement to reduce carbon emissions applicable to all parties would be the outcome in the next UN climate conference in Paris in December 2015. The intended agreement would take force in 2020 after the termination of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol that only legally bound developed nations to reduce emissions.
The Paris agreement would determine what all nations, developed and rising economies, should do to cut carbon emissions and safeguard the earth's climate system.
The coming agreement should address issues such as the legal framework, mechanism on the transparent accounting of country-by-country emissions reduction, technology transfer, financial pledges and use of the new Green Climate Fund that had pledges of $10.2 billion by December 2014. In Paris the collective emission reduction pledges must ensure that global warming does not exceed the 2 degrees Celsius threshold of pre-industrial levels.
Given that the Paris agreement takes force in 2020, Indonesia has to determine what the country's post-2020 emission reduction plan would be. The government already is implementing two initiatives, the national action plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (RAN GRK) and the REDD+ program to reduce emissions by saving forests and peatland. These actions are to reduce emissions by 41 percent by 2020 as against business-as-usual levels.
After Lima and before Paris, Indonesia's homework is to draft an emissions reduction plan that is part and parcel to an overall development strategy.
The working group on international negotiations at the National Council in Climate Change (DNPI) would hold meetings by February with related ministries and agencies to decide on its INDC, said Rachmat Witoelar, DNPI executive chair and Indonesia's chief delegate in Lima.
In putting substance to a low-carbon development strategy, President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo has made a couple of significant moves. Jokowi has merged the forestry and environment ministries with a focus on conserving forests and reducing emissions from deforestation. An early directive from Siti Nurbaya Bakar, the new Environment and Forestry Minister, is to place a 6-month moratorium on new logging licenses.
On a Nov. 26 visit to Riau, a province ravaged by peat fires early in 2014, Jokowi ordered a review of the permits of firms that converted peatland to oil palm and acacia plantations. In Meranti Island district, he ordered the damming of canals to restore moist peatland. Drained peatland converted to oil palm estates becomes brittle-dry peat and is vulnerable to fire.
Any new low-carbon growth strategy would have to factor in commitment by major planters to practice zero-deforestation palm oil. That's part of the homework.
The writer teaches at Dr. Soetomo Press Institute, Jakarta.
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