Indonesia's Concrete Steps to Fight Climate Change

Indonesia steps to reduce emissions: less forest and land fires, oil palm plantations moratorium, rehabilitation of forests, peat lands and mangrove.

Seasons come and go leaving weather phenomenons that are increasingly chaotic. Massive floods and landslides hit various places in the northern hemisphere. Countries that were once thought to be able to manage their natural environment and spatial planning carefully, such as Canada, Japan, South Korea, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, France, and even Norway, can no longer avoid flooding. 

Not to mention the attacks of hot air waves and wildfires. In Canada, more than 500 thousand hectares (ha) of forest were burned. In Russia, 1.5 million ha of forests were also burned. Even in the United States, 3.5 million ha of forest were destroyed by wildfires in 2021 alone. The US is now known as a country prone to floods, forest fires, and tropical cyclones (hurricanes).

Jokowi planted a mangrove tree
President Jokowi talks with residents while planting Mangrove Trees in Tritih Kulon Village, North Cilacap District, Cilacap Regency, Central Java. (Photo: Antara)

Weather is no longer a country-by-country phenomenon, but rather the impact of the global climate which has now been disrupted by climate change. Carbon emissions and other greenhouse gases need to be curbed so that climate change doesn't get worse. The world community is also moving to fight climate change, with a joint pledge through the 2015 Paris Agreement. The implementation of this agreement is collaborated by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which is under the auspices of the United Nations.

In the UNFCCC scheme, the fight against climate change is to reduce carbon emissions and other greenhouse gases. These greenhouse gases trap solar radiation energy in the atmosphere, and cause the air temperature to increase. The latest report shows that the concentration of CO2 in the air has reached 417 ppm as of February 2021, which means there has been a 50 percent increase since the last two centuries.

Critical concentration levels of 450–500 ppm are in sight. Nevertheless, the impacts of climate change are already being felt. The air is hotter and causes more water vapor in the atmosphere, which trap even more heat. Extreme weather appears in various forms, namely the erosion of icebergs in the polar rings, rainstorms, hot air waves, cold winds, extreme droughts and other extreme phenomenons.

The rate of increase in greenhouse gas concentrations needs to be curbed, and if possible reduced, so that the negative impact does not escalate further. The movement against climate change cannot be carried out only by certain countries. There must be a global movement. Of course, with different contributions from each country.

Energy Mix and Mangrove Forest

Indonesia is considered to be serious about taking part in the climate change mitigation movement. The use of renewable energy sources continues to be encouraged in electricity generation to reduce carbon emissions. Even though it is difficult, the target of the electric energy mix of 23 percent in 2025 and 28 percent in 2030, continues to be pursued.

The report on the achievement of the energy mix has become one of the highlights of the "Annual Report 2021", which was released by the Office of the Presidential Staff (KSP) and the Ministry of Communications and Informatics under the title "Indonesia Resilient, Indonesia Grows". It states that the energy mix is ​​carried out by, among other things, the operation of a Hybrid Power Plant, which combines solar, diesel and mini-hydro energy sources, wind power, geothermal, bioenergy, and hydroelectric power plants.

Until now, the mixed energy level is still around 11 percent of the total electricity generated in the country. An additional 2,000 MW of low-carbon power plants are needed to meet the target of 23 percent of the energy mix by 2025. Indonesia also wants to become a carbon neutral (net zero) country by 2060.

Government of Indonesia also continues to reduce the incidence of land and forest fires in effort to minimize carbon emission. In the 2021 report, it is stated that carbon emissions from forest and land fires can continue to be suppressed in line with the control of forest fires in Indonesia.

In 2018, Indonesia's forest and land fires caused the emission of 162.6 million tons of greenhouse gases equivalent to CO2 into the earth's atmosphere, and that number jumped to the level of 624.1 million in 2019. However, throughout 2020 emissions fell to 40.2 million tons, and in 2021 until August, the emission was recorded 29.6 million tons.

The Ministry of Environment and Forestry noted that forest and land fires in the past six years have fluctuated with a downward trend. The coverage of forest and land fires cases was respectively 438 thousand ha in 2016, decreased to 165 thousand ha (2017), then increased to 529 thousand ha in 2018. The number significantly jumped to 1.649 million ha in 2019, but decreased to 296 thousand ha in 2020. Until July 2021, fires have ravaged 160 thousand ha of forests and lands. 

Another action taken by the government is policy improvement on deforestation and forest rehabilitation. The step taken by the government is to conduct a moratorium on oil palm plantations. There are no more new permits for the clearing of oil palm plantations on forest areas. This moratorium has been in place since 2016, but has only been confirmed through Presidential Instruction number 8/2018 which is valid for three years. However this moratorium has ended last September, but it is likely to be continued.

It is intended that by 2045 Indonesia will still have 41.1 million ha of primary forest, including 15 million ha on peat land. So, the palm oil moratorium was accompanied by a policy of reforestation of forest areas (on mineral soil) covering ​​500,000--550,000 ha per year, and restoration of peat areas covering ​​300,000 ha per year.

The additional target is the prevention of fires on 1.7 million ha of peat land, some of which are now surrounded by oil palm plantations. Rehabilitation of forests, peat forests, and mangroves is a practical step to store carbon in forest biomass.

Enough? Not yet. In the last four years, the government has also been busy rehabilitating mangrove forests. The target is that by 2024, as many as 630 thousand ha of mangrove areas will be green and lush again. Indonesia is the owner of the largest tropical mangrove forest in the world with a coverage of up to 3.49 million ha. 

Apart from the forestry sector, Indonesia is also responding to the issue of climate change by encouraging the electric car and motorcycle industry as well as batteries for automotive.

Appreciation John Kerry

Indonesia's concrete steps to fight climate change, through reforms in the forestry sector, received appreciation from John Kerry, US Vice President in the era of President Barack Obama (2008-2016). John Kerry became a special envoy on Climate Change in the Government of President Joe Biden. He praised the performance of President Jokowi and Minister of Forestry Siti Nurbaya Bakar in tackling climate change.

"Under the leadership of President Jokowi and Minister Siti Nurbaya, Indonesia has made progress in reducing deforestation," said John Kerry, in a video uploaded to Youtube to welcome the annual climate change summit, commonly known as the Conference of the Parties (COP). , which will be held in early November 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland.

He also expressed his appreciation for the mangrove restoration program promoted by Indonesia in the last 4 years. In addition to having a positive impact on reducing carbon emissions, the rehabilitation of forest and mangrove areas, according to John Kerry, is also beneficial in maintaining biodiversity. ''Because Indonesia has high biodiversity,'' he said.

Furthermore, John Kerry also sees Indonesia as a large growing country, a member of the G-20, which has a high commitment to combating climate change. For that reputation, President Joe Biden invited President Jokowi and 10 heads of government in other G-20 countries, to a virtual conference of the Major of Economics Forum (MEF) on Energy and Climate 2021, which was held on September 17, 2021. G-20 countries to unite opinions on crucial issues that will arise at the annual climate change conference.

At the MEF last September, Indonesia joined the US and a number of European Union countries, agreeing on a commitment to reduce methane emissions by 30 percent by 2030. "That commitment will be brought to the 26th Climate Change Conference in Glasgo," said John Kerry.