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Commitments of Presidential Candidates to Sustainability

Discussions about environmental issues on presidential debate fell into different thematic topics. Unfortunately, an important environmental problem like climate change was not mentioned at all. In fact, this problem is caused by multiple interlinked drivers and led to complex risk of impacts such as floods, storms, drought, and diseases. Environmental topics need to be discussed under the notion of sustainability which crosscuts an array of sectors.

Sustainability is a process of maintaining change in a balanced environment, in which the exploitation of resources, the direction of investments, the orientation of technological development and institutional change are all in favor in supporting sustainable development. Commitment to sustainability requires strategy of ecosystem governance. Ecosystem governance manages four integrated environmental services; provisioning the production of food, water, and energy; regulating the control of climate and disease; supporting cycles of nutrient and oxygen; and offering socio-cultural benefits. Examples of those services will be explained below.

Under the current administration there are at least two efforts on sustainability have been achieved. First, the decline of the number of forest fires by 95% in the last four years and reducing deforestation rate by 60% have contributed to climate change mitigation and the provision of clean water. Second, policy of social forestry and agrarian reform have reduced land use domination by corporation and has shifted 2.51 million hato community. This achievement offers socio-economic benefits for rural community. The homework for the upcoming president is how this achievement can be sustained and improved?

Inside the missions

Yayasan Madani Berkelanjutan (YMB) and Wahana Lingkungan Hidup Indonesia (WALHI) reviewed environmental commitments of both candidates from of the respective candidate’s vision and mission. YMB found that Jokowi has 20% environmental-related topics in his Nawacita II and Prabowo has 17.6%. The gap between the two is not too far. But then how their programs are integrated under sustainability concept and considering trade-offs between sectors?

In Nawacita II, Jokowi’s commitment to sustainability is mentioned in three missions on equal and just development; sustainable environment; and human rights protection. The sustainable environment mission contains three action programs about integrated spatial plan, climate change mitigation, and environmental rehabilitation. He focuses mainly to improve land use governance of forest and peatland by providing more equal access and law enforcement. This priority is in-synced with the strategy of village-based environmental governance.

Similar with Jokowi, Prabowo promises to improve sustainable forest governance, law enforcement, and equity land use. This second candidate sees agrarian reform as a mean to improve community welfare and to support productivity in plantation and forestry sectors.

Related to forest governance, Jokowi promises to continue support for legal aspects, economic empowerment, law protection, sustainable resources management, and conservation education with indigenous people. On the other hand, Prabowo does not mention anything about the protection of indigenous people rights toward land use.

Regarding renewable energy (RE), besides biofuel, Jokowi prioritize the agenda of local-based RE development. This point implies the space to boost decentralized energy system. Yet, this endeavor needs to be supported by financial situation of state companies and policymakers to regulate the price of oil fuel, as well as supportive investment conditions. Meanwhile, Prabowo emphasizes expansion on biofuel through sugar palm, cassava, sweet potato, sago, sorghum, coconut from 10 million ha degraded forest. However, this solution doesn’t consider the risk of emission increase from that large-scale land conversion, trade-off with food security, and potentials for tenurial conflicts.

Governing Ecosystem services

Both candidates need to see the governance of natural resources as part of governing ecosystem services in low carbon pathways. Sustainable practices are required to manage the use and extraction of natural resources, such as minerals located underground, water that flow from the mountains to the rivers, and land for agriculture and productive forests, in such a way that we emit the lowest possible greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, trade offs among those practices must be taken into account.

Ecosystem governance needs understanding about how ecosystems respond to environmental challenges in order to develop solutions and strategies that can support the sustainability of social-ecological systems. Maintaining and restoring ecosystem services are necessary to create resilient ecosystems that support all life. For example, RE development should be integrated within the framework of energy transition, climate action, and economic diversification. Climate change mitigation can be integrated with sustainable agriculture through energy-agriculture nexus. This integration will support production of food and energy, regulating climate, and balancing nutrient cycles.

That kind of example is hard to find in both candidates’ mission. Both candidates do not consider industrial pollution, palm oil plantation, tenurial conflicts and relationship among those topics. The root of the agrarian conflict is often due to overlap regulations on agrarian, forestry, agriculture, and coastal area. Harmonization of these regulations is needed to complement Jokowi’s 51 million land certification for agrarian reform.

In addition, sustainable palm oil practices are also important for environment and development. Prabowo and Sandi should use their benefit of running some palm oil companies, to endorse certification for sustainable palm oil. While Jokowi should consider trade off between palm oil moratorium with biofuel expansion.

Environmental missions brought by Prabowo are still contradicted with their action programs. Converting damaged forest to be industrial forest is potentially expanding the problem of land use inequality and the growth of monoculture crops. This problem can drive back deforestation. Prabowo has to consider those trade-offs.

Furthermore, governing ecosystem services needs transparency on information and data about permit system and monitoring and evaluation. One existing example could be in the form of implementation of One Map Policy geoportal that could serve as a transparent information system for land permits and concessions. This could act as instruments for policy decision making that is crucial to support transparency of public institutions towards information and data.

Lastly, ecosystem governance requires cross-sectoral cooperation. Poor coordination and sectoral ego should be fixed with a centralized coordination using abovementioned platforms. Commitment to sustainability requires political will and collaboration between the grassroots and the elites to govern ecosystem services for balancing economic growth with environmental protection and social justice.

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