A recent report from the Economy and Environment Program for South East Asia (EEPSEA) makes grim reading for anyone concerned about the effects of climate change in South East Asia generally and Indonesia in particular. Combining hazard maps for five climate-related risks (tropical cyclones, floods, landslides, droughts, and sea level rise) with population density and adaptive capacity data, major points of alarm include:

  • Climatic ‘hotspots’ in western and eastern parts of Java (see figure 1.);
  • Java is one of least ecologically protected areas in South East Asia, primarily because it is the most densely populated island in the region;
  • Adaptive capacity to climate change higher than Laos and Cambodia but lower than Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam;
  • Parts of western Java and western Sumatra are extremely vulnerable to climate change;
  • Jakarta is the most vulnerable area in the whole of South East Asia.

These alarming findings confirm an earlier Environmental Ministry report declaring that sea-level rise could put parts of Jakarta permanently under water, including the international airport. Given these disturbing conclusions what can be done?

Tackle Primary Causes: Deforestation

Well it is always good to try and tackle the causes of climate change. One of the key contributors is rapid deforestation, with Indonesia experiencing a ‘boom’ primarily in palm oil cultivation. Perceived incorrectly as a clean bio-fuel, palm oil plantations not only destroy the natural habitat of vulnerable species like the Sumatran tiger and Orangutans, but also adversely affect the local population through land loss. Indeed, altogether deforestation pumps over 2.6 billon tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere, making Indonesia the third biggest source of CO2 in the world.

Reality Bites

This is exactly what the REDD scheme is all about, making money available to prevent deforestation. However as reported in my last blog there has been confusion who will control the inflow of money from donors as well as the disbursements to various sectors. Two further factors suggest government inaction is the way forward. Firstly, the price of palm oil has risen by 70% in the last year making it an integral part of the Indonesian economy. There are plans also to create a palm oil exchange market in Indonesia suggesting that palm oil will be become more important, not less, with time.

Secondly, the Indonesian government has delayed releasing rules aimed at governing the billions of dollars of investment expected to flow into the country in return for carbon credits. Expected in December, these rules were meant to decide who benefits from the selling of REDD credits as well as which forests would be suitable for the scheme. An integral part of REDD is to share the benefits with the local populace which is only to be applauded. But given that it has now been put out for review with no new deadline for release, concern is rising that REDD implementation is stalling in Indonesia and even if implemented will benefit central government over local people.

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