Author : Nirarta Samadhi

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Youth, Sustainable Eating, and Climate Change

Three youths from Myanmar were awarded the first winner in the UN Global Pulse Lab’s Big Ideas competition for climate action this year. They developed an application that enables users to measure methane emissions from the food they eat, including beef, chicken, pork and insects. What’s striking is the fact that these high schoolers understand the impact of shifting the diets from resource-intensive animal protein such as beef to environmentally friendly animal protein such as insects to mitigate climate change.

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Land Swaps for Peatland Restoration?

The Government of Indonesia deserves high praise for its numerous commitments to protect and restore peatland over the past several years. At the start of this year, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (KLHK) announced the Ministerial Regulation No. 40/2017 regarding government facilitation of Industrial Tree Concessions (HTI) within the framework of the management and protection of peat ecosystems.While the Government Regulation No. 57/2016 on the management and protection of peatland obligate the enterprises to protect peat areas under a conservation status, the aforementioned Ministerial Regulation provides a compensation scheme for HTI companies by allowing them to seek for land swap – to obtain substitute land for their working areas that falls into conserved peat ecosystem category.

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Crowdempowering to Solve Environmental Problems

One day in 2015, Saripah, a 22-year-old young girl, said softly: “Mother, I’m having a hard time breathing.” Saripah’s mother, Siti, immediately took her to a hospital, but unfortunately her daughter soon died of lung failure. Her respiratory organs looked dark although Saripah never smoked. Siti said that the smoke from peatland fires had killed her daughter.

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A One True Map, Not a ‘No-one’s Map’

If we try to look back and think about why fires are such a regular occurrence in Indonesia, we should know that the problem lies in how we manage our forest and land. This weak forest and land governance is often influenced by inaccurate, incomplete and outdated reference maps, causing issues such as slow spatial planning process, overlapping of concessions and licenses as well as growing conflicts involving local communities.

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Indonesia and Acute Energy Crisis

The appointment of Arcandra Tahar as the energy and mineral resources minister signaled strongly that the focus of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo had shifted back to oil and gas, as well as coal.

This can be observed by several steps taken by minister Arcandra in his first 20 days working, including extending Freeport’s license to export concentrates, resuming negotiations regarding the Masela block and Indonesia Deepwater Development (IDD) projects, as well as cancelling the launch of feed-in tariff (FIT) solar power.

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Less Beef Is Better for Us

For the majority of Indonesians, Ramadhan is not only a month of spiritual journey, but also the time when they experience recurring food price hikes, which are largely caused by skyrocketing demand for certain foods.

To address this annual issue, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo last week assembled his economic ministers to implement a series of actions to curb food prices in the market, especially of beef. In a market mechanism of supply versus demand, a high demand for beef by a large number of the population indeed creates significant economic benefit for some people, but one needs to look beyond that.

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Commentary: Emissions From Indonesia’s Fires Reach New Highs, but Solutions Are Within Reach

Indonesia’s forest and land fires have reached a new level of global significance. New analysis published this week by Guido van der Werf, lead scientist with the Global Fire Emissions Database, indicates that since September greenhouse gas emissions from the fires exceeded the average daily emissions from all US economic activity. Extrapolating from van der Werf’s estimates, these emissions are likely to add about 3 percent to total global greenhouse gas emissions from human activities for the year. The emissions from fires so far in 2015 are more than three times higher than expected by Indonesia’s national planning agency.

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Indonesia’s Climate Plan Signals A Half-Hearted Promise

Mimicking the sky above most of Sumatra and Kalimantan after widespread forest fires in the past several weeks, Indonesia’s post-2020 climate mitigation commitment ‘known as an Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC)’ remains hazy. Formally released last Thursday, Indonesia’s INDC shows the country’s intention to continue addressing climate change beyond 2020, albeit still lacking the robust information needed to safeguard effective implementation.

The pledge, submitted globally ahead of the Conference of Parties (COP) meeting in Paris in December, contains an unconditional target of 29 percent emissions reduction by 2030 compared to the business-as-usual scenario, or 41 percent provided international assistance. With this, Indonesia has cemented an extension to its voluntary 2020 mitigation goal, joining over 60 other countries that have announced their INDCs’ including the top two emitters, the US and China.

As the world’s sixth-largest greenhouse gas emitter, Indonesia could significantly contribute to the global action of curbing warming to 2 degrees Celsius. Meeting this predefined limit ‘based on a consensus by the international scientific community’ is extremely critical to avoid some of the most catastrophic consequences, such as rising sea levels, flooding and drought.

As an archipelagic state with thousands of low-lying islands and millions of people depending on agricultural activities, Indonesia is one of the most vulnerable countries to the adverse impacts of climate change.

While taking a big step forward by providing a quantified baseline for projected emissions in 2030 (2.9 GtCO2e), it is quite disheartening that the government removed several critical pieces of information from the previous draft circulated publicly, such as the estimated amount of funds required to accomplish Indonesia’s conditional target (previously said to be at least US$ 6 billion), as well as a lack of sufficient detail on the modeling and assumptions used in the baseline.

Since the country promises to sizably increase mitigation ambition with support from the international community, releasing such information is key to building confidence and trust in the scale of its upcoming efforts.

However, Indonesia entailed sectoral targets to curb emissions, including landscape-based ecosystem restoration and 23 percent renewable energy mix in 2025 in its climate plan, among other actions. Given Indonesia’s 2015 emissions profile, where land-based and energy-based activities make up 56 percent and 34 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions, respectively, it makes sense to focus on these top two sectors.

In the land-based sector, Indonesia aims to strengthen the protection and conservation of its remaining forests by reducing deforestation and forest degradation, restoring ecosystem functions and sustainable forest management.

Unfortunately, Indonesia’s INDC did not provide a quantified target for these activities, nor did it elaborate on the country’s plan to deal with its recurring forest and peatland fires, one of the country’s greatest sources of emissions in recent years.

In the publicly accessed draft of INDC, Indonesia has actually proposed a social forestry target of 12.7 million hectares. It is quite disappointing to see that this target is absent from the final INDC submitted to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), as such a target is consistent with the Forest Declaration endorsed by Indonesia during last year’s UN Climate Summit. One of its action plans, the Bonn Challenge, is a global pledge to restore 150 million hectares of degraded land by 2050, where Indonesia could partake with 12 other countries committed to restoring around 60 million hectares of forest and landscape.

Having identified 29 million hectares of non-forested land under its forest estate legal zoning in recent statistics from the Environment and Forestry Ministry, Indonesia should not shy away from putting forward a bold restoration pledge. Such action could provide benefits such as considerably shrinking its land-based carbon emissions and improving people’s livelihoods.

On top of this, Indonesia’€™s moratorium policy that calls for no new licenses for primary forest or peatland conversion could be further reinforced by extending full protection to include secondary forests and existing concessions.

Moreover, Indonesia’s renewable energy plan to quadruple the current renewable energy share of 6 percent within a decade would be a meaningful achievement.

Next to India’s 40 percent and Brazil’€™s 20 percent targets in 2030, Indonesia’s pledge to move to renewables further galvanizes the global trend of phasing out fossil fuels.

With the country’€™s abundance of renewable energy options ‘ranging from geothermal (28,910 MW) and hydropower (75,000 MW) to ocean energy (49,000 MW) potentials’ Indonesia should be able to achieve this target.

A recent call for large investment in coal-fired power as part of the government’s 35,000-MW electricity program, however, suggests that the renewable energy target will continue to compete with fossil-fuel based sources in the near term.

Remaining challenges, such as inadequate data infrastructure, legal framework and unidentified risks of investment, should be addressed as soon as possible, given the identified need of Rp1.60 quadrillion (US$108 million) in investment to achieve this goal.

Indonesia’s climate plan is promising but more assurances are needed to ensure the country will stay on course, especially given that the December conference will serve as a pivotal opportunity for Indonesia to secure support for a comprehensive national climate action plan beyond its 29 percent target following the ambitious scenario.

As published on The Jakarta Post by Nirarta Samadhi and Andhyta Firselly Utami

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Positioning Indonesia’s Climate Commitment On the Global Stage

‘It looks like the plane on which all of us are flying is going down dramatically and quickly, and we are fighting between the business class and economic class and we didn’t save the plane,’remarked Felipe Calderon, chair of Global Commission on the Economy and Climate at an international conference in Jakarta several months ago, referring to the debate over who should pay and act to tackle climate change.

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New Forest Fires Threaten Indonesia’s Protected Areas

Extreme haze caused by forest and bush fires throughout Sumatra and Kalimantan has been a perpetual problem affecting the quality of life and economy of local residents and neighboring countries.

As this year’s dry season approaches, the fires are just starting to pick up, especially in the fire-prone province of Riau in Sumatra, but they are already threatening some of the most biodiverse and carbon-rich ecosystems in the country-protected forests and peatlands.

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