RI’s chances in climate-change tasks
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 Kyoto Protocol seems no longer feasible since the biggest polluters, namely the US and China, keep themselves away from legally binding agreements until the end of next year. Canada, one of the supporters of the Kyoto Protocol, just pulled out of the protocol’s commitments. The establishment of the Ad Hoc Working Group may benefit major polluters to delay their commitments in cutting their emissions; however, it may result in a more agreeable legally binding instrument.
Negotiations on climate change still have a long way to go. The Durban Platform may not be so historic. Nevertheless, there are still positive signs. At the beginning, there had been no expectation that the Durban conference would result in a new climate pact. This climate conference was also overshadowed by the economic crises faced by several European countries.
The other important result from the Durban conference was the initiation of the Green Climate Fund (GCF). The fund is designed to help developing countries mitigate, and adapt to, the possible impacts of climate change. This scheme could end up providing US$100 billion-a-year funding. The main challenge from the scheme, however, is how to prevent the GCF from becoming a negotiating tool for rich countries to buy off support from poorer nations.
Indonesia, like many other developing countries, faces an increasing challenge with climate change. Climate-linked agricultural problems, lack of coastal disaster management and the increase of carbon emissions due to deforestation are the prime challenges for this country that need to be addressed. With regards to deforestation, Indonesia is an avid supporter of the reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation plus (REDD+) scheme. During the Durban conference, no specific talks were held on the subject, although REDD+ financing is included in the GCF.
According to its mandate, the establishment of a governing body for the GCF is expected to be ready by mid-2012. It may well need another year until the required funding and the mechanisms for the GCF are available. Therefore, to guarantee a significant contribution from Indonesia toward the establishment of the GCF and climate change mitigation and adaptation, RI’s REDD+ should be hailed as a success story.
The success of Indonesia’s REDD+ projects may attract more developed nations to support the green scheme. However, there are still many things that have to be done to ensure success. In mid-2011, as part of the REDD+ scheme, a presidential instruction was issued ordering a two-year suspension on new permits to convert primary forests and peatland. However, the debate about the effectiveness of the forest conversion moratorium is still raging. Many of the parties involved do not fully believe that they will benefit from the temporary suspension policy.
Conservationists raised a concern about the exclusion of degraded secondary forests in the temporary ban. For them, the exclusion seems to be an open invitation to exploit secondary forests. The palm oil association, on the other hand, also expressed their opposition to the moratorium since it includes peatland. It is believed that a suspension on converting peatland will hold back the development of a promising “golden era” of oil palm. The challenge for the government is to prove that the temporary suspension really reduces the rate of deforestation.
As the temporary ban to convert primary forests and peatland is part of the RI-Norway REDD partnership, the other important issue for the Indonesian REDD+ program is the right to claim carbon emissions. If we refer to the Letter of Intent (LoI) in 2010 between the two countries, there was no clear point on this issue. This uncertainty could support a cynical view that the green scheme is only an exit strategy for developed countries to hoodwink developing nations.
The possibility that the REDD+ program will neglect the indigenous rights of traditional communities, which live in the forests, is another important element that needs to be addressed. The government has been given a mandate to serve their own people, not foreign interests. Therefore, the acknowledgement of indigenous people’s rights must be included as a key element if the REDD+ program is to be successful.
Ensuring the success of the REDD+ program should become one of the main points of attention for the government in its climate change programs in 2012. Our contribution through the green scheme may not only be significant for climate change mitigation, but also for conserving our remaining tropical forests. This will in fact provide us with further benefits of preserving our biodiversity and genetic pools.
The government, nevertheless, needs to rethink its willingness to fully embrace market and carbon-offset mechanisms to finance REDD+ projects. Naturally, the projects need large amounts of funding; however, they could easily turn into a new type of “green-washing”. Developed nations or private industries may need flexibility to fulfill their emission-reduction targets, but if they only shift their carbon responsibilities to developing nations, the scheme will not work. They won’t have kept their side of the bargain, namely to solely invest in green schemes. The GCF must be in one package with the new legally binding agreement to cut carbon-emission levels. Otherwise, our shared tasks and responsibilities to save the earth will remain a dream.
We believe that the earth has limits in supporting human life but the process toward the end might be able to be slowed down. Abdülhamid Çakmut, a Turkish Sufi master, once said, “We take care of our bodies to live a longer life. We should do the same for the world. If we cherish it, make it last as long as possible; we can postpone the judgment day.” In short, every nation must put more effort into preserving our shared habitat.
The writer is an ecologist at the University of Bengkulu and is an Australian Leadership Awards fellow.