A young activist carries a placard that reads Life On Mars during protest againts climate change in front of Jakarta City Hall on Nov. 27, 2020. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)

Last-Minute Rescue for the Environment


DECEMBER 22, 2020

The incoming US administration is expected to realign its environmental policies for the global fight against climate change, returning to its original direction during Obama and prior administrations.

President-elect Joe Biden is commited to reverse Trump administration's policies on climate change after the latter reversed US efforts to protect the environment. In 2017, Trump had the US withdrawn from the Paris Agreement, a global effort on limiting gas emissions and keeping the average global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celcius, preferably 1.5 degrees Celcius, above pre-industrial levels.

From US position of international prominence in the support of the climate deal, Trump has downgraded and dismissed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officers and replaced them with climate change non-believers and skeptics. It will soon be ascertained that Biden should revamp EPA with competent personnel.

Biden has appointed former senator and secretary of state John Kerry as the special envoy for climate change. This way, Kerry would join hundreds of voices -- including Indonesia and other Western countries -- in the Paris Agreement. Hopefully, this momentum will carry forward the fight against climate change and form a new policy thrust, especially after the pandemic ends.

Kerry will also have the added power of a cabinet position and seat on the National Security Council. But he has to move fast because the US will hopefully rejoin the Paris Agreement. Biden also proceeded with a change in personnel in EPA, which now consists of protectors of industries -- especially oil -- and people who use the natural environment as economic resources only.

He will go back to the years of Obama administration when they looked at natural resources as the nation's overall strength and not only for the economy. Especially with the worsening global warming and depleting national resources.

Countries across the globe first adopted the Paris Agreement in the 2015 Paris Conference. The accord was later ratified in 2016 in a UN special session. The US at the time was one of the leading proponents while Indonesia was a strong leader in the developing world.  The agreement was the result of hundreds of intended nationally determined contributions (INDCS).

We hope Indonesia will no longer be without a strong ally. Because if Kerry is active as a special envoy, he can devote special attention to Indonesia. With his knowledge and intelligence on climate change, he will see Indonesia as a crucial country to be supported and vice versa internationally. This is because Indonesia has forces formed to fight climate change. Indonesia also truly welcomes Kerry's appointment.

One important item on the agenda will be new energy. The US is working on solar power and other forms of new energy. Whilst Indonesia is interested in pushing forward the move for low carbon-consuming hydropower that is environment-friendly, such as the run-of-river technique. The US and Indonesia can join forces to speed up its development and mobilize public understanding.

Reversals in energy policy will be taken both implicitly and explicitly. The Trump administration has been agressively pushing the case for conventional energy such as coal and oil, often ignoring environmental protection. The Biden administration now has to look forward for new energy to take its rightful place through innovation and technology to unleash massive water resources without exacting high resource costs.


Wimar Witoelar is the former presidential spokesman during the late former president Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid era.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Jakarta Globe.