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Jakarta Post

Don'€™t leave RI in the dark ages of coal

  • Hindun Mulaika

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Sat, August 15, 2015   /  10:19 am

The people of the low-lying islands of Kiribati '€” an island nation in the Pacific Ocean '€” are among the least responsible for climate change, and yet are most exposed to the consequences of it. Its President Anote Tong has made a bold move: He is calling on all nations to abandon all new coal mines and coal mine expansions.

For President Tong and his people, every high tide now carries the potential for flooding. They know first hand that climate change is not just an environmental crisis '€” it'€™s also a human rights disaster.

Yet as their neighbor, Indonesia is the biggest exporter of thermal coal (rivaled only by Australia). How can we continue to rely so much on coal at a time when leading scientists agree that 80 percent of coal reserves must remain underground if we are to have any chance of protecting ourselves and our children from climate chaos '€” or to have any chance at protecting nations like Kiribati, the Marshall Islands and the Philippines?

With over 18,000 islands Indonesia is also among the most vulnerable to climate change from sea level rises, ocean acidification, and extreme weather events. Our addiction to coal is also having terrible health impact on our population.

Existing coal plants in Indonesia cause an estimated 7,100 premature deaths every year according to research by Harvard University and Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

And this number could climb to over 28,000 per year if the Indonesian government goes ahead with an ambitious rollout of more than one hundred new coal-fired power plants.

International investors already see the writing on the wall. The international divestment movement which have captured the biggest funds such as the Norwegian Pension Fund and the World Bank, who have committed to not financing coal assets, will make finding finance for coal increasingly difficult.  

Why is Indonesia locking itself into a future with coal, when the largest historical coal users such as China and US are cutting down their reliance on coal due to its health impacts and contribution to climate change?

We need to seize the global momentum for renewable solutions to energy demands. For example, the latest report from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis has shown that India'€™s falling prices of solar are making imported coal a more expensive source of electricity generation.

India is adding 175 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2022, including 75 GW of solar, while China is targeting 800-1000 GW of non-fossil energy, mainly renewable energy, by 2030.

President Joko '€œJokowi'€ Widodo'€™s current vision, will force us into a future dependant on coal.  We need regulations that encourage entrepreneurs and small businesses to take up solar energy, and encourage investment into renewable energy sources in Indonesia. The question for President Jokowi is now whether we are a part of the solution for building a sustainable future, or will we be left in the past.

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The writer is climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace Indonesia.

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