Ambitious Net Zero Emission for Indonesia: a Wishful Thinking?

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Laila Afifa

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  • By: Linda Yanti Sulistiawati, Senior Research Fellow, Asia-Pacific Centre of Environmental Law (APCEL), NUS Law National University of Singapore, and Assoc.Prof of Faculty of Law, Universitas Gadjah Mada, Indonesia. Kuki Soejachmoen, Executive Director and Co-founder, Indonesia Research Institute for Decarbonization (IRID)

    On April 23, 2021, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo attended the Leaders’ Summit on Climate which was held virtually. He opted to shy away from declaring a net-zero emission while most leaders promised tougher measures to address the matter.

    Net-zero means achieving a balance between the greenhouse gases put into the atmosphere and those taken out such that there is no net gain in atmospheric carbon (www.nationalgrid.com). Reaching net-zero applies the same principle, requiring us to balance the amount of greenhouse gases we emit with the amount we remove. This begs the question: Why is this very hard for a developing country like Indonesia?

    So far, Indonesia has been relying on (among other sectors) its development on the energy, and LULUCF/land use and land-use change sectors to boost its economy. Not surprisingly, these sectors are also the highest per-sector emitters in the country. So why is this net zero-emission concept important; and is setting an ambitious goal, as requested by the Paris Agreement, wishful thinking for Indonesia? There are a few points that we would like to put forward.  

    Firstly, consider Indonesia’s National Determined Contribution (NDC) and Net Zero Emission. The government has committed to reducing emissions by 29% from the business-as-usual scenario by 2030, or 41% with international assistance, known as its first NDC, under the Paris Agreement. Unfortunately, there are views that Indonesia will stick to the same NDC even though the Paris Agreement regime is asking countries to push for greater ambitions for their NDCs. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its’ “Special Report: Global Warming 1.5” warned that global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate. We need to understand that our current NDC is not designed to motivate an ambitious goal of Indonesia’s Net Zero Emission. We need a more ambitious NDC.

    Secondly, look at Indonesia’s energy sector. Even though analysis shows the energy sector’s share is projected to increase to over 50 percent of total emissions by 2026–2027 (http:wri-indonesia.org), the sector has already set up some general planning to help us attain Net Zero emissions. The General Planning for National Energy (RUEN) and General Planning for National Electricity (RKUN) stipulates that Indonesia must reach a 23 percent primary energy mix from renewable energy sources by 2025. Indonesia needs to be more ambitious in this target and has to rethink its dependency on fossil fuels. This is not only due to high emissions but also to economic reasons. Shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energy is not impossible for Indonesia, and most probably would bring more financial support to Indonesia. Such a transition needs to be just, which is also very possible and has been shown in some countries. Such ambitious plans with strong political support will be key for Indonesia to reach Net Zero Emission earlier than 2060.

    Third, the land use and land use change (LULUCF) sector of Indonesia, has been the highest emitting sector in Indonesia particularly due to deforestation and forest degradation. However, in 2021, the Government declared that we have managed to cut down the deforestation rate to 75%, the highest in two decades. Experts suggest this is due to the current land-use policies including a forest moratorium, peatland restoration, land and forest restoration, and social forestry, as well as the current pandemic situation and very wet weather from 2020-2021. Strong governance, strict regulations and policy implementation, as well as deterrent law enforcement, are needed to maintain this momentum. If Indonesia can keep up this low rate of deforestation and forest degradation, reaching ambitious Net Zero Emission before 2060 is a high possibility. 

    Lastly, the notion of reaching Net Zero Emission is not as impossible as it seems. Even China, the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter, has committed to a net-zero emissions goal by 2060, and other major emitters such as Japan and South Korea have pledged to do likewise by 2050. Indonesia needs to show future generations that we too can be ambitious in reaching Net Zero Emission. First, we need to intensify our NDC in a manner so that it would reflect a high political will to reduce emissions and reach Net Zero Emissions. Second, we need to control our highest per-sector emitters, such as the energy and LULUCF sectors. Better yet, we need to shift the current dependency on fossil fuel energy to renewable energy and maintaining our good streak of keeping deforestation and forest degradation low. Third, combined efforts from the GoI, private sector, external financing support, local community, and all stakeholders to strive for ambitious Net Zero Emission are crucial. Striving for a better world does not only need a whole village, but a whole country, and a whole world.

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