Indonesia Has Key Role in Climate Change Battle, Says IPCC

    Climate science and sustainability experts have called on Indonesia to take a leadership role in the fight against climate change, and say the country could play a key part in tackling the issue.

    By Andreyka Natalegawa on 09:24 pm Jun 24, 2015

    Jakarta. Climate science and sustainability experts have called on Indonesia to take a leadership role in the fight against climate change, and say the country could play a key part in tackling the issue.

    Swiss climate scientist Thomas Stocker, co-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) working group, believes that Indonesia has a crucial part to play in combating climate change and will need to play an active role at future forums.

    “Indonesia has a key role in future discussions, as a country that is geographically unique with a number of islands, climate regimes, and ocean conditions,” Stocker said on Tuesday.

    The comments come as anticipation grows ahead of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, which will be held in Paris this November. Nations that signed the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will attend and the conference aims to execute a legally binding and universal agreement on climate change.

    “Indonesia hopes that the Paris conference will deliver meaningful commitments in terms of combating climate change through emissions reduction,” said Fabby Tumiwa, executive director of the Institute for Essential Services Reform.

    According to the Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research report 2014, Indonesia released 0.5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2013 alone. The amount is equivalent to greenhouse gas emissions form 105,263,158 passenger vehicles. Indonesia’s per capita emissions in 2013 were 2.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide per person, an increase of 75 percent in a twenty three year period.

    Stocker, who is a candidate in the upcoming race for chairman of the IPCC, said ending reliance on fossil fuels is an essential step that Indonesia and the rest of the world must take.

    “It’s going to be the fourth industrial revolution. From mechanization, electrification, digitalization, to [sustainability],” Stocker said.

    “We must make the move towards sustainability.”

    The IPCC, which was established in 1988 with the backing of the UN, is an inter-governmental panel that produces assessments on climate change, providing reports and recommendations to policymakers. As an internationally accepted authority on environmental issues, the IPCC plays a crucial role in forming the scientific foundation for contemporary discussions on climate change.

    In a statement issued after summit meetings in Germany earlier this month, the world’s G7 nations emphasized that “deep cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions are required with a decarbonization of the global economy over the course of this century.”

    Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UNFCCC, noted that “governments are committed to reach an agreement that sets down the pathways and the supporting structures for a century-long transformation that allows all countries to reach a sustainable, clean energy future.”

    Indonesia at Risk

    The need for Indonesia to decarbonize in the face of a growing climate crisis has become readily apparent, experts note. In 2014, the IPCC released its Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), containing important lessons for Indonesia and other nations on the dangers of unchecked climate change.

    For example, the continuing degradation of marine ecosystems as a result of climate change was highlighted as likely to have a significant affect on Indonesia, a nation exposed to coastal hazards and dependent on coastal resources for livelihoods.

    Kurniawan Sabar, campaign manager for Friends of the Earth Indonesia (WALHI), believes Indonesia must take cautionary measures against rising sea levels.

    “As an island nation, Indonesia will be very susceptible to changes in the Earth’s oceans. Smaller islands in the archipelago could be lost to rising waters if climate change continues unchecked,” Kurniawan said on Wednesday.

    Moreover,  the IPCC  report found drought-associated fires brought on by changes in precipitation cycles were likely to increase the vulnerability of agriculture, forestry and human settlements, particularly in peatland areas. “If weather patterns and seasonal changes become more unpredictable, farmers in Indonesia could suffer,” Kurniawan added.

    Indonesia’s lagging fuel and energy efficiency could also spell disaster in coming years, experts say.

    “More effort needs to be done in terms of the way we use energy for transport, for electricity. We still have to catch up to our peers. Decisions by the government to limit subsidies granted to fuel for transport is a very good step,” Fabby said.

    He added that “the government should work towards better investment, better education, and incentives and disincentives to reduce inefficient use of resources and carbon emissions.”

    Indonesia’s actions in handling its forests have also caused distressed the international community, particularly with regard to the controversial slash-and-burn farming techniques popular with local farmers.

    Slash-and-burn methods, which involve the burning and leveling of forest land to create fields can have an immensely destructive effect on local ecosystems.

    In 2013, the large-scale burning of forests in parts of Sumatra and Borneo produced record levels of haze and pollution in the region, impacting air quality across Southeast Asia.

    Highlighting the essential role that Indonesia’s rainforests play in absorbing global carbon dioxide emissions, Stocker warned of the dangers that continued deforestation could have on the environment.

    “Deforestation is creating a lot of carbon emissions, because you’re changing the use of the land to a surface that is not capable of holding as much carbon as before. The difference ends up in the atmosphere,” Stocker said.

    In 2014, a NASA-led study found that forests and other land vegetation sites were capable of removing up to 30 percent of human carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere during photosynthesis.

    International cooperation

    In order to grapple with issues of climate change, Indonesia must continue to work with the international community, experts say.

    “Science knows no boundaries. Scientific activities cross all kinds of boundaries. It is really a global endeavor,” Stocker said.

    Stocker stressed the importance maintaining strong ties with regional initiatives, like the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), and the Alliance of Small Island States in furthering discussion on climate change.

    “Bio-diversity, ocean management, the chemical composition of water, these are all things that do not stop at borders.

    “All countries have to come together to find a way forward that is acceptable and leads us on the right development path for the next 50 to 100 years.”

    Stocker’s comments were echoed by Kurniawan.

    “There must be a commitment from Indonesia and other nations to take responsibility together and enact strong measures of climate change mitigation.”

    Despite challenges ahead, Stocker believes Indonesia is well suited to contribute to sustainability efforts, thanks in part to the strength of local research initiatives.

    “The capability in analyzing climate and weather conditions and the level of detailed information available on a real-time basis leaves Indonesia extremely well prepared,” said Stocker, who visited the Indonesian Agency for Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics (BMKG).

    “Indonesia reflects what we want to achieve on a global level, with scientific information going to policymakers and the public, becoming the base for their decisions.

    “If you have that capacity in your country that’s already a key advantage.”

    Thomas Stocker is currently visiting Indonesia in his capacity as Switzerland’s nominee for the position of IPCC Chair. The IPCC Chair will be elected at the panel’s 42nd session, to be held in Dubrovnik, Croatia this October.