No Change in Climate Diplomacy


by. Agung Wardana

With SBY’s second term under way, public expectations are high that his new team will bring work for a wealthy and just society. As a start, the government has made a growth target of 7 percent level and is pushing infrastructure projects massively. Natural this implies more investment, more land conversion, more displacement, more pollution, etc.

A development paradigm based on growth sounds like the only way although we have to pay with environmental degradations and social conflict for livelihoods. Environment, in term of natural resources, is the main menu to invite investors to come, and more than four decades this paradigm has been implemented in this country. Thus, day to day, our local is made more hvulnerable by the business as usual model of development.

Local vulnerabilities, created by over exploitation of natural resources, will become worse by global vulnerabilities that caused by climate change, the biggest environmental problem facing human life today. Indonesia, geographically the biggest archipelago and economically developing country, is one of most the vulnerable country from climate change impacts, especially sea level rise, changing climate pattern, and rising temperature.

A systematic and extraordinary action is needed to survive from the catastrophe. Otherwise, only a few people who has access to power can be exist, and the rest can not adapt with this most challenging moment in human history. The powerless peoples in society will suffer most from the impacts of climate change. Fishermen, for instance, have no money to move to the safer place because their livelihood will be underwater. Peasants, getting hard to get water for irrigation, is being confused by the climate pattern as the result they lost the harvest and turn to be more poor, and it will cause food insecurity.

However, climate change is not only environmental problem, assumed that can be addressed in technical manner, but also a humanity issues that driven by global development model. Thus, it is required to deal with this problem in politics, human rights, and justice perspective both in global and local context. We need a government, especially Minister of Environment, that can consolidate inter-sector in government departments to address climate change.

Surprisingly, Gusti Muhammad Hatta was elected as State Minister for Environment replacing Rahmat Witoelar. He promised to put climate change in his priority action during his first 100-days program (The Jakarta Post, October 24, 2009). This political decision, made by SBY, indicates that putting forestry as the core of climate diplomacy in order to rising money from developed countries. Reduction Emission From Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (REDD), proposed by forest owner developing countries including Indonesia, is growing rapidly as the mechanism to help developed countries to meet their commitment by carbon offsetting that will be decided in COP 15 Copenhagen, next December.

At least, there are two reasons why Gusti Muhammad Hatta be the guy who in-charge in the forest-based climate diplomacy. First, he is well known as an expert in forestry sector, and he also involved in CIFOR, REDD proposing actor. Second, he comes from Kalimantan (Borneo), projected as the center of REDD in Borneo that is the most sexiest place for carbon agent to invest their money under flag “Saving Lung Of The World.” A lot amount of money has been calculated on paper in REDD proposals. Thus, we can see that the decision, made by SBY, seems like a logrolling for REDD proposing actor, and put a friendly guy to greet carbon agents coming.

When give a speech in G20 forum, SBY announced that Indonesia will reduce the emissions to 26 % by 2020, and will switch Indonesian forest from a net source of carbon emission to being a carbon sink by 2030. In general, by 2050, Indonesia will cut emission up to 1 billion tons of carbon. These targets seem like too good to be true if we compare with other pledges made by SBY, in different moment, that government will increase crude palm oil (CPO) production around 40 million tons in 2030. According to WALHI, in East Kalimantan alone, government plans to switch around 1,3 million hectares of natural forest for palm oil plantation and mine. As we know, one of the main causes of Indonesian deforestation is expansion of palm oil plantation on natural forests.

Not yet clear with legal basis of emission reduction in forestry sector, namely REDD, Indonesian Government jumped to other sector which is fishery and marine sector. After World Ocean Conference (WOC), Indonesia started to talk about absorbing carbon in the ocean. Similarly with REDD, the Indonesia government calls for aids from developed countries for conserving coral reef and ocean under recommendation called Blue Carbon Fund. In contrast, tourism sector pushes the expansion of tourism industries in small islands and start to block the beautiful beaches for the tourists. Protecting the forest and the ocean in one hand, at the same time, pushing expansion of palm oil plantation and tourism industries in the other hand, is it possible? Or it is such a hypocrisy in the development models of Indonesia based on where the money goes?

Actually, with or without money from developed countries, forest and ocean should be protected by government as its obligation. There is a pessimism in term of sustainability of protecting the forest if it is based-on economic interest of REDD that is driven by carbon trading mechanism. A fluctuating carbon market price will be influenced the will of the projects. If the price decreases, we do not want to hear that forests have been converted with reason because of forests are not marketable anymore, or have been burned in order to stimulate investors to increase the price of the credits.

Instead of economic-based diplomacy, the next regime should be using justice-based diplomacy to ask the responsibilities of developed countries to cut their emission at least 45 % below 1990 level by 2020, and to compensate the most vulnerable developing countries. We do not have to repeat the failures of market-based mechanism in order to address climate change problems. As we can see, there is no significant emission cut made by developed countries in the first Kyoto commitment. Thus, change the climate diplomacy otherwise mostly powerless peoples will act more than we can imagine!

Agung Wardana is executive director of the Bali chapter of Walhi (Friends of the Earth Indonesia)


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