Climate change is still on the spotlight even though the world has been busy with the COVID-19 pandemic. The impact of the 2015 Paris Agreement which asks each country to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions has been elevated from the National Determined Contribution (NDC) to the latest, more ambitious issue, called carbon neutrality (CN). CN is a state in which carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are considered net-zero. It means that the amount of CO2 emissions released into the atmosphere is approximately the same as those absorbed through various human activities.
The CN issue was increasingly discussed when Donald Trump was replaced by pro-environmentalist Joe Biden. It is as if the world’s locomotives are about to change direction towards a low-carbon green economy. In the first months after his inauguration, Joe Biden invited 40 Heads of State, including President Jokowi, to the Leaders’ Summit on Climate event that took place on April 22-23, 2021. The meeting is likely to have an impact on the global climate change agenda and will be an important milestone in the history of the upcoming climate change negotiation (UNFCCC – COP26) in Glasgow in November 2021.
Position of Emitter Countries
Not too long after the Leaders’ Summit, several countries reiterated their commitment to reducing GHG emissions. Generally, all countries have set 2050 as their CN target. Several developed countries submitted ambitious emission reduction action plans so that the CN could be achieved before 2050. On the other hand, Australia, Russia and Brazil, submitted targets that were lower, or the same as before. China, the biggest emitter apart from the US, has only recently proposed a higher emission reduction target, but it pegs CN by 2060. Brazil, which has the largest tropical rainforest in the world and has enormous carbon sequestration potential, is also not enthusiastic about reducing GHG emissions. On the other hand, Sweden is more ambitious, declaring its determination to reach CN by 2045.
Members of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recommend 2050 as the ideal deadline for CN to prevent a bigger global climate catastrophe. In the national scope, according to the Bappenas, Indonesia can achieve this as long as the amount of CO2 emissions reaches the maximum amount in 2027, and after that it must decrease gradually. A one-year delay in reducing emissions could cause CN postponement of 5 – 10 years. If the peak is reached in 2033-2034, then CN will occur in the years 2060-2070.
Financial support, technology, and human resources are required for CN’s success. Along with the Leaders’ Summit, several developed countries formed a fundraising coalition called LEAF (Lowering Emission by Accelerating Forest Finance). This year, the LEAF is targeted to raise USD 1M to support climate action around the world. Norway, the UK and the US are the engines of the LEAF. The coalition, which is a partnership between the Government and business players in developed countries, aims to increase global climate action. As the name implies, the main goal of the LEAF is to reduce the rate of deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries. However, Indonesia, which owns the third-largest tropical rainforest after Brazil and the Democratic Republic of Congo, hasn’t joined the LEAF. The main reason is that the LEAF uses a different calculation of carbon release and absorption from the method used by Indonesia.
Forest vs Energy
Referring to the NDC, forestry (including peat) and land use are the biggest emitters compared to other sectors, i.e. industry, agriculture and waste. However, less than ten years from now (2030), assuming we do nothing, energy sector emissions will increase significantly, from around 400 thousand GT to 1.7 million GT, or an increase of approximately 4 to 5 times greater than emissions in 2010. On the other hand, emissions from the forestry sector and land use continue to decline from around 650 thousand GT CO2 in 2010 to 200 thousand GT. Thus, by 2030, energy sector emissions are estimated to be more than twice that of the forestry sector and land use.
State and Non-state Actors
Much has been done by the Government, business actors and civil society to prevent the earth’s temperature exceed 2°C or even 1.5°C as requested in the Paris Agreement. Concrete examples of this action are the use of new and renewable energy, conserve existing and good natural forests, reforestation and rehabilitation of damaged natural forests, use of fossil-free transportation such as bio-fuel, development of electric cars using solar power plants (Pembangkit Listrik Tenaga Surya – PLTS) and those sourced from hydro, wind and nuclear power as well as a thousand of other green economy initiatives. Partnerships between State and Non-State Actors are key to successfully tackle climate change. Both of them support each other in implementing a green economy.
It is time that we also put a fair price on carbon; end fossil fuel subsidies and finance; stop building new coal-fired power plants; shift the tax burden from revenue to carbon, from taxpayers to emission polluters; and integrate CN into all economic and fiscal policies. Banks must align their loans with CN objectives, and businesses are required to decarbonize their portfolios. The support of regulations, policies and incentives from the bureaucrats is urgently needed. The Ministry of Environment and Forestry, the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, and the Ministry of National Development Planning are at the forefront of the state actors.
The government cannot do it alone. Partnerships between state and non-state actors, including financial institutions, and business actors in the province / district / city are essential for long-term planning towards CN and ambitious climate action. Business actors, associations, researchers and universities, NGOs, and the general public play the most important roles in implementing policies and clean environmental practices. Currently, there is the Indonesia Low Emissions Network (JIRE) which was initiated by the Yayasan Mitra Hijau (Green Partner Foundation) and is a forum to bring together State and Non-state Actors. This kind of network deserves full support so that a common goal can be achieved better and faster. Hopefully, the commitment to clean Indonesia can be achieved sooner, before the promised deadline.
This article reflects the personal view of Mr Doddy Sukadri, UN CC:Learn Ambassador and Executive Director of Yayasan Mitra Hijau (Green Partner Foundation).