On the international stage, Indonesia can claim with some justification that it is leading the way in advancing the climate change agenda. In the last month alone, Indonesia has been active in:
- Putting the role of oceans on the climate change map as well as signing the Coral Triangle Initiative (discussed in last week’s blog);
- Releasing the world’s first REDD rules on how tradable carbon credits will be generated, detailing where REDD projects can take place and who can do them. Although questions have been raised as to how the carbon credit revenue will be shared between the project developers and the government, these rules are nevertheless a milestone in making the REDD scheme a reality;
- Linking any future REDD scheme with a concerted effort to address illegal logging, going as far to suggest that illegal logging could undermine REDD.
… Domestic Gloom
On the domestic front, however, concern is growing that Indonesia is not so committed. As pointed out by this blogger, even though the Presidential elections are next month, climate change is conspicuous by its absence from the election campaign. This is despite the dangers faced from rising sea levels and increased incidents of forest fires (which have already started and are projected to worsen significantly this year). Furthermore, the current economic crisis has resulted in a budget deficit totalling US$13.47 billion. Plans are afoot, however, to plug this gap with loans that are expressly allocated to climate change. As Basah Hernowo, the Bappenas director of forestry and water resource conservation says while the French and Japanese have agreed to give additional loans of $100 million, on top of the $500 million already agreed, towards reduction measures, “the government will use the money to cover the budget deficit”. And the reason given? “The loans for climate change issues have cheaper interest rates compared to other loans”.
This is extremely disturbing and raises the question of what the donor countries will do, especially as there is a monitoring mechanism in place to ensure that the money is spent on climate change projects. It also brings a more negative spin on the international achievements listed above: it suggests that internationally Indonesia is pushing the climate change agenda in order to secure more revenue for the general budget. While it could be argued that it is up to Indonesia to decide what it spends its budget on, one would expect enlightened self-interest to make climate change a top domestic priority. The signs so far however are not promising.