A general view shows solar panels to produce renewable energy at the photovoltaic park in Les Mees, in the department of Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, southern France in this March 31, 2015. (Reuters Photo / Jean-Paul Pelissier)

Renewable Energy the Key to Achieving Carbon Cuts, Activists Say

BY :BASTEN GOKKON

NOVEMBER 26, 2015

Jakarta. A coalition of Indonesian environmental activists has called on the country’s delegation to the Paris climate summit next month to push for renewable energy-based solutions to slowing carbon emissions.

Indonesia has pledged in its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) to reduce carbon emissions by 29 percent by 2030 from the business-as-usual scenario, a fairly ambitious plan compared to its current target to cut emissions by 26 percent by 2020.

The government plans to focus heavily on emissions reduction through the energy and land use/forestry sectors, according to the INDC.

“Such a target looks hard to achieve when the government has chosen to use coal and natural gas to achieve its electricity generation target in the next five years,” Ki Bagus Hadi Kusuma, the manager for emergency response at the Mining Advocacy Network (Jatam), said at a discussion in Jakarta on Thursday.

President Joko Widodo has targeted generating an additional 35 gigawatts of power by 2019, at least 60 percent of which will come from new coal-fired power plants. The remainder will come from natural gas plants, according to the government’s Mid-Term National Development Plan (RPJMN).

Thursday’s discussion also involved activists from the Indonesian Anti-Nuclear Society (Manusia), palm oil industry watchdog Sawit Watch, the People’s Coalition for Clean Water Rights (Kruha), Women’s Solidarity, and 350 Indonesia.

Dian Abraham, an environmentalist from Manusia, said Indonesia should turn down any offers at the Paris talk to turn to nuclear energy in order to help slow the country’s carbon emissions.

“Nuclear is a better source of energy than fossil fuels, but it’s still far worse than renewable energy,” she said. “Nuclear plants are also dangerous for Indonesia, considering our country is very prone to natural disasters and accidents.”

Astrid Puspitasari, a researcher with Sawit Watch, noted that Indonesia’s INDC suggested the use of biofuels, among others, to reduce carbon emission from the energy sector – a move she said would only lead to the expansion of oil palm plantations, meaning greater deforestation and carbon emissions.

“This year alone we have experienced a carbon emission bomb from fires razing our forests and peat areas [to open up farmland for oil palms]. We don’t want that to happen again,” Astrid said.

Months of wildfires mainly in Sumatra and Kalimantan caused a thick, choking haze that spread as far as Singapore and Malaysia. Carbon emissions from the fires alone exceeded total emissions from the entire US economic activity on several days, according to the World Resources Institute (WRI).

President Joko has since placed a moratorium on clearing of peat areas, and ordered the restoration and conservation of the carbon-rich wetlands over the next five years.

The green activists agreed that renewable energy was the best solution for meeting Indonesia’s carbon emissions target.

“The Indonesian delegation to the Paris summit must take into account shifting to renewable energy to achieve the carbon reduction target,” said Jatam’s Bagus.

Some 400 delegates from Indonesia will attend the 12-day conference organized by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The global summit is expected to result in an international and legally binding agreement to make efforts to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, which scientists believe to be the tipping point for catastrophic climate change.

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