The climate talks in Durban have just ended. The meeting not only hosted the 17th Conference of Parties (CoP-17) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change but also the 7th Session of the Conference of Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties (CMP-7) to the Kyoto Protocol.
After two weeks of negotiations, the delegations came up with a resolution called the Durban Platform. The platform orders the establishment of an Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action. This working group will be mandated to develop a legal instrument, which will be applicable to all parties. The “new” protocol, or legally binding agreement, is expected to be ready by 2015 and to be effective by 2020.
The Jakarta Post, September 22, 2011 The Brunei Times, September 23, 2011
Forest fires and haze have become an annual problem for Indonesia. During the dry season, forest fires always occur, especially in Sumatra and Kalimantan. Haze covers the sky; causes problems for the transportation sector; reduces economic activities; and stimulates health problems.
The problem has not only become a domestic affair but also affects Indonesia’s reputation in other countries. Singapore and Malaysia are two of the most adversely affected foreign countries due to the smog generated from the forest fires. This is called negative externalities by economists. We might still remember how the Malaysian government sent hundreds of fire squads, called “Bomba”, to help Indonesia to fight forest fires in 1997. The forest fire tragedy that year was one of the worst forest fires in Indonesian history, in which the smog even reached Thailand and the Philippines.
We have witnessed several tragedies in banking sector in Indonesia lately. Irzen Octa, the holder of credit card issued by a multinational banking company, died while discussing his credit card bill with debt collectors. Separately, Malinda Dee, a former Citibank employee, allegedly embezzled from her customers.
At the same time, our society has also been suffering from massive ecological calamities. Flash floods resulting from deforestation have become a never-ending story. Ecosystem catastrophes as a result of poor mining practices are commonplace. People in Sidoarjo just marked five years of misery caused by the Lapindo mud tragedy. There are clear signs that the balance of our natural ecosystem is in peril. The latest caterpillar population boom is also part of that indication. These are signs of significant disruptions to the natural processes.
“All we have yet discovered is but a trifle in comparison with what lies hid in the great treasury of nature”, said Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, the father of microbiology. Van Leeuwenhoek discovered bacteria in 1676. More than three centuries later, there are still much that is unknown and undiscovered about bacteria.
What van Leeuwenhok said is also relevant to what has been happening in Indonesia. Caterpillar population explosions have occurred in many regions across the country after the first outbreak occurred in Probolinggo, East Java. There has been no single reason as to why the outbreaks have occured. The fact that the incidents involve more than one species of caterpillars is also interesting. There are many questions, such as why have only the numbers of caterpillars exploded and not the numbers of other insects that share the caterpillar’s habitat.
The intensity of natural disasters and weather anomalies across the globe seems to be increasing. We saw unusual winter in Europe which was caused by snow storm at the end of 2010. This event created massive chaos in the transportation sector across the continent.
The La Nina phenomenon in early 2011 had created more rain across the Pacific and the southern hemisphere. Flooding has been widespread from Brazil in South America to Australia. In Brazil, the recent floods claimed more than 500 casualties. Australia also experienced widespread flooding from the state of Queensland to Victoria. Brisbane suffered huge losses after the Brisbane River was filled by mega tons of rainwater. In Indonesia, flooding occurred in many places on all major islands, from Sumatra to Papua, killing many people.
Amid news about a massive 9.0 Richter scale earthquake and a powerful tsunami that have hit Japan, there was little reporting about a flash flood that struck Pidie Regency in Aceh. Scores of people died, hundreds of homes were devastated and many residents were displaced (The Jakarta Post, March 14). Torrential rain around Halimon Mountain, a place where Hasan Tiro proclaimed the free Aceh movement in 1976, created an inland tsunami which washed away several villages in Tangse district.
When the governor of Aceh, Irwandi Yusuf, visited the location, he insisted that illegal logging was the main cause of the flooding. Illegal logging is truly a kind of forestry-related crime that has significant economic and ecological impacts. Thousands of hectares of forests have been damaged by this activity. As a result, environmental destruction has become worse and natural disasters such as flooding have become commonplace.
Climate change has undeniably become one of the greatest global issues in decades. There is no such single issue that has brought so many countries to sit together to talk about the problem, even though from many different points of view and perspectives. Along the way, apprehensions about rising global temperatures, which initially were purely scientific, have now become more political (see Anthony Gidden, The Politics of Climate Change, 2009).
Early this December the climate change Conference of Parties (COP) 16 was undertaken in Cancun, Mexico. Although many are doubtful about the outcomes of the Cancun meeting, this COP is still an important milestone for dictating the future direction after the Protocol Kyoto ends in 2012.