It will be a 'make or break' conference, according to special envoy Wimar Witoelar. (AFP Photo/Philippe Desmazes)

Indonesia Optimistic About Outcome of Paris Climate Talks


OCTOBER 13, 2015

Jakarta. Indonesian officials are convinced that the country has plenty to gain from the highly-anticipated global conference on climate change in Paris this December, although they are aware that tough, "politically charged" negotiations lie in store at the "make or break" convention.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is set to host the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21), where countries are expected to come up with a legally binding and universal agreement to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius.

Prior to the conference, each country has been asked to submit its post-2020 intended climate actions, a document known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, or INDC.

These INDCs will already be discussed this month.

"The COP21 is a make-or-break moment for the world because this is where we decide on what to do, starting 2020, to prevent extinction [of life on earth]," Rachmat Witoelar, the president's special envoy for climate change, told journalists gathered in Jakarta on Tuesday.

"Just like what Ban Ki-moon said, this generation is the first and last generation that can overcome the harming effects of climate change. If we fail to do so, it's game over for us," Rachmat added, referring to the secretary general of the United Nations.

'The real negotiating period'

In the run-up to the Paris conference, the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform (ADP) will have its last meeting between Oct. 19 and 21 in Bonn, Germany, where negotiators from all nations are working to develop an agreement based on the submitted INDCs under the UNFCC that would be applicable to all.

Nur Masripatin, director general for climate change mitigation at the Environment and Forestry Ministry, said Indonesia would send 24 representatives to the three-day meeting in Bonn, which she dubbed as "the real negotiating period."

She also said Indonesia's negotiating team would have a final meeting on Thursday evening before leaving for Bonn.

"Our negotiators will work around the clock during the ADP meeting and later for the Paris conference, we will almost double the number of negotiators," she told reporters on Tuesday.

What about the haze?

Asked how Indonesia's current haze crisis would affect the country's position in the global conference, Nur said that forest and land fires would be left out of the negotiating process because these do not happen in all countries.

"That topic will be included in the talks on reducing carbon emissions," she said.

However, she also warned the haze situation would greatly affect the government's performance later on, when the ministry evaluates the impact of the highly polluting smog on the country's efforts to cut carbon emissions.

'Cautiously optimistic'

Rachmat said that Indonesia was ready to use its "plentiful ammunition" when having to negotiate during the "politically-charged" discussions on the INDCs with any country that might try to scuttle a global agreement in Paris.

"We have our allies and we will ask them to help us out in communicating with some countries that have conflicting views [in the negotiations]," Rachmat said, without wanting to name names.

"I'm cautiously optimistic that the COP will benefit Indonesia and also the world, so long as all nations agree to implement their INDCs," he added.

'Energy mix policy'

On Sept. 24, Indonesia officially submitted to the UNFCCC its INDC. The country has announced it will cut emissions by 29 percent by 2030, a 3-percent increase from its previous commitment. With international help Indonesia is aiming at a reduction of 41 percent.

To reach the target, Indonesia will focus on the energy sector, citing its "energy mix policy" for the period between 2014 and 205o, which states that renewable energy will contribute 23 percent to the nation's total by 2025.

Recently, however, activists have complained that the government seems to be counting on highly-pollutant coal to fire most of the power plants that are going to be built in the coming years.

Peatland management

"With its INDC, Indonesia wants to develop a climate resilience in fulfilling three strategic commodities, namely energy, water resources and food," Sarwono Kusumaatmadja, chairman of Indonesia's steering committee on climate change, said during Tuesday's press conference.

Sarwono also called on the Indonesian government to help the country's negotiating team for the Paris talk by immediately improving its management of peatlands, which are often set on fire to make way for plantations.

This causes massive haze that has been polluting the air in large parts of Indonesia for months as well as in neighboring Malaysia and Singapore.

"Peatland burning has contributed 63 percent to Indonesia's carbon emissions," Sarwono said.

Six provinces in Sumatra and Kalimantan — Riau, Jambi, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan and South Kalimantan — have declared a state of emergency because of the fires and haze.

Environmental group Greenpeace has estimated that the amount of carbon emitted in this year's fires might exceed that of 1997, when Indonesia was the third-biggest carbon producer (after the US and China) with 0.81 and 2.57 gigatons of the pollutant, or equivalent to 13 percent to 40 percent of the entire world's annual fossil fuel emissions.

"If we can show the world we can manage these peatland fires, this will boost Indonesia's bargaining power at the COP21," Sarwono said.