As part of its commitment to the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, Indonesia has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 29%-41% against business as usual scenario by 2030. Further, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change elaborated that if global warming exceeds beyond 1.5 C, we will see increased risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.

Even though the current global cumulative NDCs from all countries will result in lower greenhouse gas emission, global temperature will still increase approximately 2.6-3.1°C by 2100. Thus, the need for countries to submit more ambitious emissions reduction target has never been more pressing.

Indonesia, a country that contributes a significant amount of greenhouse gas emission, is no exception. Papua and West Papua, provinces rich in forests cover, are vital. The two provinces combined have more than 33 million ha of forest cover, accounting for more than 80% of the total land area. In 2018, the Papua and West Papua governments signed Manokwari Declaration, in which the governments commit to allocating at least 70% of the land area as a protected area. If Indonesia can do so, along with restoring degraded lands in protected areas, Indonesia can avoid 2.8–3.3 gigatons of carbon dioxide emissions. That means saving the Papuan forests would take Indonesia to meet its Paris Agreement target, which is to avoid 0.8-1.1 gigatons of carbon dioxide by 2030.

To achieve such objective, decision-makers from different sectors and across different level, from provincial to the lowest level of governance, must be involved to formulate and implement climate policies on the ground.

Evidence-Based Development Plan in West Papua

Evidence-based development plan is an approach that relies on an iterative process of systems thinking using the best available data, including locally generated datasets, solid information, and local knowledge, to build a locally-sensitive development plan. This approach emphasizes on the significance of science as the basis of the development plan documents. Here, we showcase three ways needed to create an evidence-based development plan.

First, conducting a series of collaborative studies, involving multi-stakeholders such as local governments, academic institutions, private sectors, NGOs and CSOs. Such collaboration would bring a rich perspective to the table while ensuring that the development plan does not leave anyone behind. A potential study includes developing a roadmap to allocate a minimum of 70% of land in West Papua as protected area, which requires mapping out forest and land concession distribution and status as well as investigating land suitability of the assigned concessions. The analysis should also put into account factors such as spatial, economic, sociocultural, and ecological aspects.

Second, conducting a series of training to strengthen development planning skills for government and non-government actors. One such training includes Systems Thinking and System Dynamics to model development scenario. The systems thinking is a way of looking at phenomena as a system in which inter-relationship exists between its components, while system dynamics is a method used to understand a system that changes over time. System dynamics modelling allows us to assess different policies outcomes and to find the best scenario to achieve development goals, such as delivering an emission reduction target, meeting the economic growth target, or both.

Third, enhancing data availability and accessibility through platform development, capturing necessary data to develop an evidence-based development plan, such as economic growth, population growth, human development index, deforestation and forest degradation, land use, land cover, land-based concession, and emission factor across sectors.

Streamlining National Policies into Sub-national Development Policies

Aside from implementing evidence-based development plan at the sub-national level (in this case West Papua), it is also necessary to translate national initiatives or policies, such as national emissions reduction plan (NDC) and Low Carbon Development Initiative (LCDI) in the sub-national development plan.

In West Papua, several sub-national interventions to measure contribution of the province towards the national emissions reduction plan have taken place. One such intervention includes supporting regional academics and researchers to develop a brief to enhance Indonesia’s emissions reduction target in the NDC, describing and quantifying sectors in West Papua Province that can contribute in emissions reduction, delivering trainings on the systems thinking approach used by the national government to develop the low carbon development initiative, and providing a repository platform for all climate-related data to serve as a reference point to conduct studies and develop policies.

Currently, West Papua has signed and is committed to Low Carbon Development Initiative (LCDI), which will soon be translated into its provincial level Mid-term Development Plan. LCDI has identified policies that balance economic growth, human welfare, and environmental sustainability. Done right, LCDI can bring Indonesia an average GDP growth rate of 6% a year until 2045, higher than current business-as-usual, as well as a greenhouse gas emissions reduction of almost 43% by 2030, exceeding the country’s current national climate targets.

Involving key stakeholders in West Papua – including their local knowledge systems and sociocultural aspirations—in the national low carbon development is crucial to bring welfare for the Papuans as well as to meet Indonesia’s climate action targets. Indonesia needs to mainstream evidence-based development plan that supports low carbon development in West Papua, and in other provinces, to align with actual needs on the ground, while positioning local key stakeholders to become the main agent of change.