The Jakarta Post
President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo has said Indonesia plans a 29 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. How can he meet that target when, in October alone, daily emissions from the peat and forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan equaled the daily average carbon output of the entire US economy?
Further, these annual slash-and-burn peat fires have been carried out deliberately since 1997 when concessions for land use change began to be granted on a large scale.
Mr. President, you have ruled that there are to be no new permits and that there is to be no more opening of new land for peat conversion to oil palm and timber plantations. Your environment and forestry minister has stated that the state will restore over burned land. However, in Tangkiling, Central Kalimantan, on soil where the peat fire has been doused, oil palm seedlings have been planted. Can you explain the law enforcement mechanism here?
Pak Jokowi, your 2015-2019 five-year energy plan calls for the development of 35,000 megawatt power capacity and yet 20,000 megawatts or 57 percent will come from coal-fired power plants and only 2,000 megawatts or 5.7 percent from clean and renewable energy. How can we decarbonize Indonesia in line with the global climate call to reduce carbon emissions when your energy plan will be emitting more carbon from coal?
These are a few of the questions President Jokowi may need to respond to in the wake of the massive underground peat fires; fires that were extinguished only due to the arrival of late October rain.
The UN conference on climate change, now in its 21st year, will be held in Paris on Nov. 30'Dec. 11, a mere two weeks after a series of coordinated terrorist attacks shook the French capital and the world.
The last time an Indonesian President attended this annual Conference of Parties (COP) was in 2009, in Copenhagen. Then president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono announced Indonesia's voluntary commitment of a 26 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2020.
Copenhagen failed to deliver a globally accepted accord to reduce carbon missions. One notable success was the agreement to form a US$100 billion annual climate fund in 2020.
If successful, the Paris conference stands to be a landmark summit with numerous heads of government present. It aims for a legally-binding global climate accord, elusive in Copenhagen, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, effective by 2020.
Both developed and developing nations must comply, unlike the 1997 Kyoto Protocol to reduce emissions for which only developed nations were obliged to meet.
A draft Paris agreement is already on the table, the 90'page Geneva negotiating text. Two major long'term aims of the agreement, not yet officially named, are in mitigation and adaptation, the fundamental inter-linked concepts within climate change.
In mitigation, the work to reduce carbon emissions, the aim is to decarbonize globally so that world average temperatures do not rise beyond 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. So far, the rise is anywhere between 0.85 and 1oC.
A rise above 2 degrees could bring with it a series of irreversible catastrophe; extreme drought, serious water shortage, super-storms, sea-water rise due to melting ice caps and submergence of coastlands and small islands.
The fear that such calamity may occur prompted 20 nations most vulnerable to climate change, participating in the Climate Vulnerable Forum, to plead for a lowering of the temperature threshold from 2 degrees to 1.5 degrees.
Even if mitigation is successful, the earth's climate will continue to change; therefore, adaptation 'minimizing the risks of climate change impact' is the second long-term aim. Climate impacts are those irreversible disasters at their extreme. With regard to adaptation, the Paris agreement seeks to spell out how such vulnerability is to be addressed.
The 195 participating countries and the European Union, party to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, have declared their commitments in mitigation and adaptation. That declaration is in their Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC), a nation's post 2020 climate plan.
Indonesia's INDC sets an emission reduction target of 29 percent by 2030 and 41 percent with international cooperation.
In Paris, Indonesia aims to secure a Paris agreement that supports its post 2020 climate agenda. Indonesia can gain assured international support if it can provide a satisfactory reply to critical questions. Questions concerning the annual haze-causing peat fires as well as outlining specific details, inside and outside the INDC, including the government's carbon-creating energy policy.
The health and livelihood of more than 500,000 people were affected by the toxic haze from August to November in Indonesia. Malaysia and Singapore also suffered.
Indonesia's latest episode of hazardous haze offers an opportunity for Jokowi to prove his leadership steel. A clear plan and pledge to end peat fires and haze by the end of his five'year term in 2019, if not sooner, with tangible action delivered is the test Jokowi should meet.
The writer, who teaches at Dr. Soetomo Press Institute Jakarta, is an environmental journalist.
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