RI-Australia climate negotiation
The Jakarta Post, Yansen , Queensland | Tue, 06/24/2008
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd recently visited Indonesia, after a stop in Japan. Several matters were discussed during his meeting with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, including climate change. The two agreed to sign a bilateral agreement on forest management and carbon trading, which aims to alleviate the effects of global warming.
Climate change is a key issue for the Australian government right now. The prime minister has created a new ministry in charge of climate change. Minister Penny Wong is now busy dealing with the Murray-Darling Basin drought.
Global warming is believed to be the cause of this drought, due to less rain in the southern part of the country, resulting in less water supply for this watershed. This drought is predicted to have a significant impact on the country’s future water reserves. Australia will suffer more if global warming continues to rise at a high rate. The country has also experienced severe droughts due to natural problems, such as El Nino.
It is, hence, not surprising that Prime Minister Rudd has made tackling climate change as one of his government’s main focuses. To show his commitment, Rudd ratified the Kyoto Protocol as one of his first acts as prime minister and attended the Conference of Parties (COP) 13 on climate change in Bali in December last year.
The ratification of the Kyoto Protocol by Australia has a great political significance. Australia is one of the largest greenhouse gas emitting countries. A study by Dr. Michael Raupach of CSIRO, an Australian research institution, showed that the country, which has 0.32 percent of the world’s population, produces about 1.43 percent of total global carbon emissions.
This means that pollution levels created per person is just below the United States. Australia’s carbon emission growth rate today is twice that of the Unites States and Japan.
Therefore, talks on climate change issues with other countries are critical for Rudd’s administration. The importance of Indonesia, in this case, is not only because it is a close neighbor of Australia but also because Indonesia is home to one of the largest tropical rainforests in the world. Deforestation and degradation of tropical rainforests contribute about 20 percent of global total carbon emissions.
Australia has offered Indonesia technologies and human resource development to mitigate global warming, with a focus on conservation of the rainforest. Australia has developed a national carbon accounting scheme. Indonesia could learn from its neighbor. This country has also included climate change issues in its educational grant packages. Scholarships are offered for Indonesian students to study aspects of climate changes. Human capacity-building, hence, is a vital element in dealing with the problem.
The question is then how should Indonesia respond to such matters? Discussing global warming with Australia is very important at this stage. This becomes more relevant after the launch of the REDD (reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation) mechanism. Unlike the earlier clean development mechanism (CDM), REDD regards activities to prevent deforestation and forest degradation as a vital element to slow global warming. Indonesia can gain financial benefits from this scheme.
Many people are skeptical about the prospects of REDD, because it could divert from the main issue of global warming, i.e. the fossil fuel-driven economy. However, as Indonesia suffers many problems due to deforestation, this scheme could be utilized in a beneficial manner.
Compensation from preventing deforestation can be invested to lift people living near forests out of poverty. Benefits from carbon credits might be also used as a reason to reject forest conversion for economic activity, for example mining. The REDD mechanism provides a chance to save our tropical rainforests without denying the importance of the economic aspect.
As a developed country in our backyard, Australia is a potential market for carbon trading. The bilateral agreement between these two countries, therefore, has to be followed up. But Indonesia needs to prepare its domestic infrastructure to manage collaborations on carbon reduction schemes. Without a well prepared agenda, Indonesia will never become a key player in the global carbon market.
The writer is a lecturer at the School of Forestry, University of Bengkulu, and a doctoral candidate at James Cook University, Australia. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org