Warming up Indonesia’s climate change policies

Though focused on the country’s recovery from COVID-19, Indonesian policymakers cannot afford to sideline low-carbon development projects and other sustainable development initiatives, writes Hening Wikan .

In 1992, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, known as the “Earth Summit”, was the first wake-up call for countries on the need to unite their forces to achieve sustainable development. 30 years have now passed, but governments around the world still face major challenges in protecting the environment and building disaster-resilient communities, exacerbated by the impacts of climate change.

As an archipelagic nation, Indonesia is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and faces a range of challenges related to sustainable development. In terms of efforts to address these issues, negotiated international agreements have been the focus of policy makers in the country.

Under the 2016 Paris Agreement, the Indonesian government pledged to reduce emissions by 29% unconditionally and 41% with international assistance, compared to the business as usual scenario by 2030.

The government has also incorporated the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions into the National Medium Term Development Plan 2015-2019 (“RPJMN” in Indonesian). They planned to reduce emissions by 26% by 2020. During President Joko Widodo’s second term, the target was increased to 27.3% by 2024.

Several measures have been taken to achieve the objective of the RPJMN, including the establishment of funding for climate change. In general, the sources of this financing are public and multilateral financing instruments managed by a number of ministries, such as the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of National Development Planning/National Development Planning Agency and the Ministry of Environment and Forests (INDEF) .

Government agencies have also used specific tracking systems to plan, monitor and verify their low carbon development (LCD) projects. A study by the SMERU Research Institute in collaboration with the Ministry of National Development Planning/National Development Planning Agency and INDEF found that there were 16,189 climate actions that reduced approximately 23, 46% of cumulative emissions in December 2019.

Since then, the COVID-19 pandemic has posed a major challenge to Indonesia. Government agencies are now focusing their programs more on both controlling the spread of the virus and managing the country’s economic recovery. Climate change policies have not been considered part of this national strategy, although they may provide an opportunity to support economic recovery.

In 2020, the budget for LCD projects decreased by approximately $790 million. This included reductions in subsidies and public service obligations in priority sectors, such as forestry and peatlands, industrial processes and product use, agriculture, coastal and maritime areas, energy, transportation and waste management.

While understandable in the context of the pandemic, the sidelining of long-term emissions reduction policy measures in national budget allocations will have major implications for sustainable development. The study also found that these budget cuts could hamper Indonesia’s ability to meet its emissions reduction target.

The implementation of existing LCD projects has already faced several challenges resulting from supply chain issues, lack of harmonized regulation and use, and insufficient support for the development of green technologies.

To solve these problems, more funding is needed from governmental and non-governmental sources.

In addition to increasing funding for LCD projects, the Indonesian government needs to change its approach to climate change policy.

In Indonesia’s disaster-prone territories, addressing socio-economic vulnerabilities – not just environmental risk – is critical to building stable and resilient communities. This includes developing disaster governance that prioritizes vulnerable groups who may not have the financial capacity to adapt in the aftermath of climate-related disasters.

In February 2021, the worst flooding in five years submerged much of Semarang. The flood damaged properties, displaced 3,066 families and killed three people. For years, low-income households have suffered the most, as many live in hazard-prone areas and lack the resources to invest in risk reduction measures, and disaster governance and policy responses. governmental measures have not been sufficient to reduce the impact.

The impact of climate-related disasters is the result of the intersection between weather events and pre-existing inequalities on the ground. Climate change increases risk, while inadequate disaster prevention policies amplify vulnerability. There is a need to change the policy approach to climate change to be more sensitive to local risks and develop stronger action plans.

JTherefore, it is time for the Indonesian government to take two critical steps to strengthen Indonesia’s climate change policies. It needs to provide more funding for LCD projects and integrate socio-economic vulnerabilities more into its long-term policymaking.

By taking these steps, Indonesia will be able to leverage its influence in the post-pandemic global recovery and will also help fulfill the promise of sustainable development made at the Earth Summit 30 years ago.

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