Saturday, December 10, 2011

Measuring the success of Indonesia’s involvement in Durban

The global climate change negotiations — underway from 28 November to 9 December in Durban, South Africa — have people asking once again whether countries around the world will agree on solutions to tackle climate change.

It is also an appropriate event to assess the involvement of developing countries like Indonesia, and particularly to understand whether their involvement in this UN climate conference will significantly contribute to a successful outcome.

Durban, hosting the 17th session of the Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), will certainly pick up from where last year’s UN climate change negotiations in Cancún, Mexico, and the subsequent inter-sessional meetings left off.

But now the central challenge is to see whether governments involved in Durban will build on the progress achieved in Cancún or withdraw from this promising path and allow short-term national interests to shroud the negotiations. The Cancún Agreements form the basis of the largest collective effort to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to date, with national plans formulated under the banner of the UNFCCC, thus helping ensure accountability.

The package encompasses finance (with the Green Climate Fund and fast-start financing), the Cancún Adaptation Framework, a Technology Mechanism (to support action on mitigation and adaptation, and facilitate low-emission economies) and a formal incorporation of REDD+ (stating clearly that the framework to address deforestation is not only about reducing emissions but also halting and reversing forest loss). It is critical that governments involved in the negotiations, especially Indonesia, lock in the progress of the Cancún Agreements and push for their implementation.

Indonesia, as a resource-rich country striving to develop its economy, alleviate poverty and deal with climate change, has a lot at stake through its involvement in these climate change negotiations. For instance, it is critical to Jakarta that further implementation of the Cancún Adaptation Framework is negotiated. Ensuring the establishment of the Adaptation Committee is the first step toward this. The committee’s establishment will send a strong signal to vulnerable countries affected by climate change, including Indonesia, that governments around the world are serious about helping these countries confront the impacts of climate change.

Indonesia also needs to work hard with other parties to negotiate the realisation of fast-start finance and the Green Climate Fund. The former incorporates pledges made by developed countries to mobilise new and additional resources, amounting to US$30 billion for the period 2010–2012, to help mitigation and adaptation in developing countries. The Green Climate Fund will support projects, programs, policies and other activities in developing countries, using thematic funding windows. But with a number of developed countries facing short-term financial challenges, negotiations on finance are likely to be difficult. Specific to the Green Climate Fund, Indonesia must work together with other tropical-forest nations and like-minded countries to lobby for a special window for REDD+ under this fund.

Tropical-forest nations such as Indonesia have already piloted REDD+. The Indonesian government has produced several policies and strategies to guide its development and implementation, including the introduction of a moratorium on new permits to convert forests and peatlands to other land uses. But this may not be sufficient. Tackling deforestation involves different actors, sectors and layers of governments. These entities are known to have competing interests over land use. Without the provision of clear incentives, it is a Herculean task to persuade these actors to change the patterns of land use in Indonesia. A special window of funding for REDD+ at a global level would certainly provide more than a moral boost for tropical-forest nations to advance their REDD+ development at a national level and on the ground.

Adding to already tough negotiations on finance, Indonesia and other developing countries must also remind parties at the Durban conference about the importance of identifying sources of long-term finance, which are needed to cut GHG emissions and support the adaptation efforts of vulnerable countries. Climate change is going to be a long-term phenomenon and countries like Indonesia will suffer if mitigation and adaptation efforts are formulated only with a short time frame in mind.

And with the need for long-term commitment and action on climate change, Durban is crucial to producing an agreement — or at least a convincing direction — toward a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol. This is especially urgent as the Protocol’s first commitment period — which regulates developed countries’ commitment to cutting their GHG emissions — will end in 2012. The agreement on a second commitment period to the Kyoto Protocol will also help persuade big emerging economies and other countries to set out a clear mandate for a comprehensive and legally binding agreement.

In Durban, the climate talks are at a crossroads. Governments, including that of Indonesia, and other parties have a long road ahead if they are to demonstrate their seriousness about addressing dangerous climate change. The costs of climate change — socially, environmentally and economically — are high. A delay to act will prove ruinous. Indonesia’s delegation has no choice but to commit to continuous hard work and provide real leadership to guarantee a successful outcome in Durban’s climate negotiations.

By Fitrian Ardiansyah PhD candidate at the Australian National University and the recipient of the Australian Leadership Award and Allison Sudradjat Award. East Asis Forum

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