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Indonesia plays dual roles in climate change issues

Published on 5 June 2014 Indonesia

Jakarta (Antara News) - As an archipelagic country with vast forests and maritime areas, Indonesia is unique as it is most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, but simultaneously offers crucial solutions to curb the climate change problem.

The impacts of climate change are apparent in Indonesia, such as rising sea levels, change in precipitation patterns, decrease in agriculture and fishery production, drought, flooding, and an increase in occurrence of some vector-borne diseases.

Indonesia, like other developing countries, is worst hit by the impacts of climate change because its peoples livelihood heavily depends on natural resources, and therefore, the country has the utmost interest in preserving its forest and marine ecosystems, both of which play a major role as carbon sinks.

In September 2009, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono made a commitment to reduce gas emissions by 26 percent of business-as-usual levels by 2020, but with international support, Indonesia can reduce emissions by as much as 41 percent.

"In the spirit of thinking outside the box, in September, this year, Indonesia declared an emission reduction target of 26 percent of business as usual by 2020, and this can be increased to 41 percent with enhanced international assistance," President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono noted in his speech while addressing participants of the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), in Copenhagen, in December 2009.

To help realize the commitment, the government established the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation REDD (REDD) task force in May 2010. Welcoming the commitment, the Government of Norway signed a Letter of Intent (LoI) with Indonesia on May 26, 2010 and pledged to offer assistance worth US$1 billion for the implementation of REDD.

Covering a total area of nearly 2 million square kilometers and having a population of almost 250 million, Indonesia is one of the worlds mega biodiversity nations with rich forest and marine resources. The nation has around 137 million hectares of forest area or the worlds third-largest forest area after Brazil and Congo.

About 17 percent of all species in the world can be found in Indonesia, although it forms only 1.3 percent of the Earths land surface. The country has around 515 mammal species, 122 species of butterflies, 600 species of reptiles, 1531 species of birds, 270 species of amphibians, and 28 thousand flowering plants.

Currently, around 50 percent of the worlds total carbon reserves are in Indonesias forests and peatlands. Indonesias tropical rainforests have a total carbon storage of 60 gigatons (billion tons). However, at the same time, Indonesia has been accused of being the third-largest carbon emitter after the US and China by contributing around 20 percent to the carbon emissions, particularly through forest fires.

In 2013, the government established the REDD+ Agency to replace the REDD task force. The REDD+ has been viewed as a global solution to tackle climate change and it will not only help preserve biodiversity but also support the welfare of the surrounding community.

REDD+ is an alternative mechanism that will help cut global carbon dioxide emissions in developing nations. Under the scheme, forested nations will receive financial incentives for protecting their forests. The plus sign in the programs name refers to additional financial incentives given to countries that will launch projects to plant trees, conserve forest areas, and boost carbon retention.

Last year, the government also extended forest moratorium for two additional years to prevent new clearing of primary forests and peatlands and protect over 43 million hectares of primary forests and peatlands.

The government issued the Presidential Instruction No. 10 /2011 on forest moratorium for the first time in May 2011. The renewed moratorium is positive news for global efforts to combat climate change.

In addition to forests, the oceans, which cover around two-third of the worlds surface, also partly provide a solution to the climate change problem. The oceans play a significant role in the global carbon cycle as they not only represent the largest long-term carbon sink but also store and redistribute carbon dioxide. Some 93 percent or 40 Tt of the Earths carbon dioxide is stored and cycled through the oceans.

Indonesia is one of the worlds largest maritime countries with about 5.8 million square kilometers of marine territory. Former maritime affairs and fisheries minister Fadel Muhammad has compared Indonesias marine and coastal ecosystems to the Amazon rainforests for their role as carbon sinks.

During the World Environmental Affairs Ministers Meeting in Bali, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Executive Director Achim Steiner in February 2010 presented the UNEP Award of Leadership to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for promoting and conserving marine ecosystem management.

President Yudhoyono said he accepted the award as a recognition to the efforts taken by the Indonesian people in managing the marine ecosystem.

Source: Antara News | 1 June 2014