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12 Years to Exceed 1.5 Degree

This article was published in Kompas.

Global emission data for 2014 (WRI, 2018) places Indonesia as the fifth largest carbon emitter with 2,470 MtCO2e (megaton of CO2 equivalent). In its global commitment to reduce carbon emissions, Indonesia aims to reduce its emissions from an estimated 2,869 MtCO2e to 2,037 MtCO2e by 2030 through various emission management measures. This commitment is set out in the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) received by the UNFCCC in 2015, which is part of the Paris Agreement scheme.

To be able to fulfill this commitment, Indonesia has strengthened its low-carbon development endeavors through the establishment of the Strategic Environmental Assessment of the Medium-Term Development Plan 2020-2024, which is planned using emission intensity as one of the parameters. The emission intensity reflects the amount of emission produced (tons of CO2 equivalent or tCO2e) in increasing Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The lower the intensity, the better the quality of low carbon development.

The analysis of greenhouse gas emission data from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (KLHK) and GDP from the Central Bureau of Statistics in 2014 shows that Indonesia emits 174.53 tCO2e for every one billion Rupiah increase in its GDP. In comparison, India and China produce far lower emission levels for comparable increases in GDP at 106 tCO2e and 73 tCO2e. As a result, Indonesia recorded a total GDP of US$ 890.8 billion in 2014, far smaller than India’s and China’s at $2.04 trillion and $10.48 trillion, respectively.

Let’s take a look at emission intensity at the provincial level. For instance, the emission intensity in Bengkulu, which runs a plantation and agriculture-based economy, is 2,042.49 tCO2e with a GDP reaching Rp24.6 million, while DKI Jakarta, which relies on a service-based economy, has reached 37.60 tCO2e in emission intensity with a GDP of Rp174.7 million. Based on the two examples above, we can see that the economic characteristics of each province affect the amount of emission produced.

As such, the national and regional development strategies and programs must be designed to reduce emissions effectively while achieving optimum economic growth. This is the essence of low-carbon development. Effective emission reductions were highlighted in the IPCC report published on 8 October. This is in line with the mandate of the Paris Agreement, which calls on countries, including Indonesia, to plan more ambitious emission reductions in 2020.

The IPCC report underscores the difficulty of maintaining global temperature rise below 1.5°C. However, we have the adequate technological capacity, scientific understanding and financing capabilities globally to address climate change. What is needed is political will and leadership from each country. At this rate, we only have 12 years to go until we reach the 1.5°C threshold.

What is Indonesia currently doing and what can it do to effectively reduce its emissions in that short amount of time?

First, develop a medium-term development plan that mainstreams low-carbon development across sectors and levels of government. For example, the use of renewable energy definitely requires collaboration between, among others, the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, the Ministry of Industry, the Ministry of SOEs, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry as well as government officials at the provincial and district/city levels. Orchestrating that kind of collaboration requires the abandonment of sectoral and regional egos and efficiency of development spending through integrated planning and budgeting across sectors and administrative regions.

The role of BAPPENAS (planning), the Ministry of Finance (budgeting), and the Ministry of Internal Affairs (regional implementation) will be key in ensuring effective and efficient collaboration. The President needs to be in charge of this collaboration, seeing that the climate change and emission reduction agenda will ensure the success of government’s programs. Without mitigation and adaptation to climate change, it will be difficult to achieve food security, provide job opportunities or reduce the frequency of disasters.

Second, Indonesia’s NDC names energy as the largest source of emissions starting from 2026. Therefore, the transition from fossil-based energy to renewable energy is an absolute must. The IPCC report states that emissions from human activities must be reduced to 45% by 2030 and 0% by 2050. To that end, a significant decarbonization of the energy sector is necessary. Renewable energy needs to provide up to 70-80% of electric supply by 2050.

This year, Indonesia has recorded a renewable energy mix of 12.5% from a target of 23% set for 2025. This is a necessary target that can be increased more ambitiously. For example, encouraging the demand for solar electricity to reach 1 GW by regulating solar panels for households and industry will encourage growth in domestic supporting industries and reduce the cost of electricity production from renewable energy to a point that is cheaper than the electricity supplied by PLN. This will accelerate the transition to renewable energy.

Third, in line with the expansion of renewable energy, coal use also needs to be phased out systematically and in a planned manner. Coal-generated electricity will become more expensive, especially if emissions are to be reduced by implementing clean coal technology.

Indonesia needs to heavily invest in renewable energy such as wind and solar power, which are becoming cheaper. In this case, the government’s leadership in ceasing investment in coal-fired power plants is key.

Fourth, emission absorption needs to be started in addition to its prevention. Forest and land restoration including peatland is a natural way of absorbing emissions while nurturing and maintaining water reserves, biodiversity and other environmental services. Restoration also has economic benefits. A WRI study titled New Restoration Economy (2018) and the Bonn Challenge initiative affiliated with the United Nations (2011) shows that every $1 spent on land restoration will generate economic benefits of up to $30. Indonesia has more than 24 million hectares of critical land that needs to be restored.

Indonesia is in the need of leadership that is visionary and in favor of a sustainable future so that it can strongly and consistently reduce emissions while maintaining good economic growth. Twelve years before the global temperature reaches 1.5°C is a short period of time. We should not waste it by compromising the future of the Indonesian people.

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