1 October 2009: Indonesian government bold on climate

I was preparing the statistics page on Indonesia (see Indonesia – climate and energy statistics) yesterday, when I heard the dreadful news about the first earthquake in Sumatra. There has now been another. Clearly, earthquakes are not caused by climate change and, obviously, dealing with the consequences of these ones is currently more important than anything else. However, because the speech on Tuesday by President Yudhoyono of Indonesia, in which he announced plans to cut his country’s emissions by more than a quarter by 2020, was bold and progressive, it deserves to be highlighted.

Indonesia is the world’s third largest greenhouse gas emitter – after China and the USA. This is due to the clearing of rainforests and peatland, much of which is done to produce palm oil. With international support, Yudhoyono said that Indonesia could reduce emissions by as much as 41% (see Bigpond News: Indonesia to cut greenhouse emissions).

He did not spell out the policies to achieve this, but would include expansion of renewable energy, such as geothermal power (which Indonesia already uses quite extensively) and reduction in deforestation. Yudhoyono said that Indonesia’s forests could be changed “from that of a net emitter sector to a net sink sector by 2030”.

Deforestation is responsible for about 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The Indonesian and Brazilian governments have said that they are quite prepared to do all they can to halt forest destruction, but cannot do so without very significant financial assistance from rich countries. The Copenhagen Summit is unlikely to produce a final deal on a Kyoto Protocol, although it could and should produce an outline agreement. And a top priority for the US and EU should be to give much more money for forest protection. This would be the best way to reduce climate damage very quickly.

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