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Jakarta Post

Prioritizing key to climate change battle in Indonesia

  • Jensi Sartin

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Fri, July 31, 2015   /  05:48 am

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID)'€™s latest pledge to award US$5 million to Indonesia is encouraging news. If the Indonesia Climate Change Trust Fund (ICCTF) uses it to address the right problems, the money could make a huge difference. This is important not only for Indonesia but for the world. Indonesia is predicted to play a key role in the global battle to stop climate change.

But what are the real problems? When it comes to climate change, the global community might feel overwhelmed as it seems as though there is too much to fix. The answer, then, lies in prioritizing.

In Indonesia, there are three main agenda items that should be tackled first. Unsurprisingly, these three items were there before climate change issues popped up into mainstream consciousness, when there were no funds available to address them.

With the new incoming support, first we need to improve the governance of the extractive sector. The mining sector, especially the mineral and coal industry, has become one of the main culprits in creating environmental degradation. This is not just because they '€œhelp'€ the human race to access fossil fuels and other resources that used to safely rest underground.

The ways in which licenses are granted and the ways in which this industry operates are highly questionable and far from transparent.

Recently, a civil society organization coalition coordinated by Publish What You Pay Indonesia found that based on recent assessments by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) there are more than 5,000 mining licenses and permits that are still in non-clean and non-clear (CnC) status.

The CnC indicates whether a company'€™s activities are in line with the government'€™s policies concerning environmental protection, land rights, tax and non-tax financial obligations to name just a few.

Besides their failure to pay their financial obligations to the government, one hectare out of every 4 ha of mining area is situated in conservation and protected forests.

In total, there are more than 6 million ha (twice the size of Belgium) given over to mining licenses operating illegally in forestry areas. With these licenses, the industry clears hectares of trees and damages forests that are important for absorbing green house gases.

The above coalition has urged the government to review and improve the current mining license awarding system, and review all licenses operating in conservation and protected forests. Also, development of spatial information systems that are publicly accessible will reduce the likelihood of overlapping licenses in forestry areas.

In addition, there is an urgent need to improve resources to enforce the implementation of good mining practices. This includes enforcing their environmental obligations to rehabilitate mining areas and conduct post-mining activities, something few companies are currently doing.

Second, we must accelerate meaningful recognition of customary forests owned by indigenous peoples and treat them appropriately. It is estimated that nearly half of Indonesia'€™s forest is customary forest. Based on the Constitutional Court'€™s decision in 2012, indigenous peoples'€™ customary forests should not be classed as state forest areas.

Helping indigenous peoples to secure their rights to customary forests through clarifying land claims, integrating that forest into spatial planning and conserving the areas can boost efforts to reduce further forest degradation.

It also means collaborating with indigenous communities who own the forests to improve existing forest management and halt forest loss. For instance, helping local communities to reduce, monitor and manage forest fires and reduce controversial slash-and-burn farming techniques.

Third, there must be efforts to better manage marine and coastal ecosystems. Over the past several months, the public has been entertained by the dramatic move by President Joko '€œJokowi'€ Widodo'€™s Cabinet to literally sink vessels that practice illegal fishing in Indonesia'€™s waters.

However, in the context of climate change, more should be done, such as strengthening the marine parks. Indeed, a well-managed Marine Protected Area (MPA) could be one of the best available strategies in providing refuge for marine ecosystems in the face of climate change.

Based on the rating system developed by the Marine and Fisheries Ministry, most MPAs have an inadequate system to ensure appropriate enforcement, surveillance and monitoring of fishing and other activities that may affect the ecosystem.

In addition, MPAs should also be improved by research that focuses on testing and evaluating the best practices to sustainably manage and benefit from coastal and marine ecosystems. For example, how should Indonesia build up the resilience of coral reefs and coastal, ecosystems to climate change.

The public, specifically international donors, might feel unsure about what exactly should be the priorities for Indonesia. It is also true that there is corruption.

However, we should give the benefit of the doubt to the political will of the current administration. At least in his first year in office, Jokowi has shown the public that he will really pull up his sleeves to make things work and get all things done. Hopefully he will do the same for climate change.
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The writer is a researcher at Reef Check Foundation Indonesia and Publish What You Pay Indonesia. He is a 2014 Aspen New Voices fellow of the Aspen Institute.

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