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Reviewing Indonesia’s Emission Commitment

This article originally appeared in The Jakarta Post.

Rain began to fall last Oct. 26, putting out most of the forest and peatland fires. The Environment and Forestry Ministry has reported that 2.6 million hectares of land were burned between Feb. 1, 2015 and Oct. 28, 2015, with emissions reaching 1,100 million tons of CO2 equivalent.

In the Forest Reference Emission Level (FREL) document, the ministry also revealed that Indonesia emitted 593 million tons of CO2 equivalent annually from 1990 to 2013. This figure was estimated based on deforestation, forest degradation and peat decomposition in forested areas. This figure, however, does not take into account the fires across forests and peatlands. Hence, the average annual emissions produced in 23 years were much lower than those produced by fires in 2015 alone.

Indonesia has used various references for developing its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC), one of which was the FREL document. However, due to time and technical constraints, the emissions data on forests and land fires were not included in the INDC’s emissions calculation. Considering the high emissions produced by the fires, the INDC clearly requires a revision. But can the INDC be revised? If so, when? What are some other items that need to be reviewed? How can we assess the substance of the INDC with regard to last year’s Paris Agreement on climate change?

Article 3 of the Paris Agreement emphasizes that the INDC structure is universal for all countries. This suggests that not only does the agreement embrace countries to commit to emission reductions, but it also has reinforced the global emissions trajectory in the long run, unlike previous climate-related agreements that never did so. For instance, Indonesia had vowed in 2009 to cut emissions by 26 percent from business-as-usual levels by 2020, but the country did not elaborate on what should be done after 2020. Other agreements also reported that reviews were conducted to meet the reduction target, but no explanation was provided on how the review was conducted.

The Paris Agreement set a target to keep the global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius on pre-industrial levels. It also calls for a strengthening of efforts to limit the temperature increase further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Additionally, all countries agreed to aim for net-zero emissions post 2050. In order to meet this long-term target, countries are required to submit their Nationally Determined Contribution ( NDC ) every five years post-2020 and set more ambitious goals for every submission. Another important point is the establishment of global stock-take, a strong process for countries to regularly assess their climate actions implementation. This process is enabled by the accounting and measuring, reporting and verification ( MRV ) scheme that has been synchronized globally. All of these points distinguish the Paris Agreement and give it a promise to meet the global emission reduction target.

Countries have agreed to review and increase their climate actions every five years. Apart from submitting NDCs every five years, Article 14 of the agreement states that countries should assess their climate actions implementation and take stock every five years. The first global stock-taking will be in 2023, but countries have agreed to begin the process in 2018 to review their emissions reduction and to inform their 2020 NDCs.

The global stock-taking on Indonesia would definitely take into account the 2015 forest and peatland fires, which have not been addressed in the INDC; thus this will present challenges. Therefore, what Indonesia needs to do is to recount its reference emissions level carefully and transparently while redrafting stronger climate action plans. Indonesia needs to develop a solid MRV scheme to be synchronized with the global MRV scheme, as currently it doesn’t have one.

Financing adaptation to climate change has become part of low-carbon sustainable development, and climate risks will grow as a norm in the program and budgeting scheme of international funding organizations. Thanks to this, Indonesia could speed up improved governance on the utilization of forests, land and other resources. Such improvements would include increasing the productivity of smallholder oil palm farmers, utilizing forests for indigenous people and restoring peatland. But is Indonesia’s climate fund management institution ready to support this? The existing agency, the Indonesia Climate Change Trust Fund (ICCTF), has yet to show any capability to fund climate action plans massively. While the Finance Ministry will establish a funding agency for REDD+ ( Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks ), it is not clear when it will be established, and most importantly, it still needs to prove its capability.

Another positive sign of financing adaptation comes from the energy sector. Shortly after the Paris Agreement was announced, stock prices of companies in the renewable energy sector jumped. This was a sign that financial institutions have begun to shift to a low-carbon and sustainable development. However, is Indonesia ready to adapt by reviewing the 35,000 MW electricity program currently dominated by high-emitting power plants? Adaptation plans in energy must be accelerated and strengthened to create incentives for more affordable renewable energy-based technology.

The climate agreement provides sufficient time for Indonesia to prepare a solid foundation for the implementation of the NDC in 2020. Indonesian leaders should take advantage of the opportunities and the spirit of global collaboration to meet its emission reduction goals.

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