Bicycle in the G20 Presidency Agendas

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Tempo.co

8 February 2022 08:39 WIB

(Left to right) Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan, BPK Deputy Chair Agus Joko Pramono, DPR Deputy Chair Lodewijk F Paulus, Communications and Information Minister Johnny G Plate, Coordinating Minister for the Economy Airlangga Hartarto, Finance Minister Sri Mulyani, Bank Indonesia Governor Perry Warjiyo, Chair Business 20 Shinta Widjaja Kamdani and Co Chair Youth 20 Michael Victor Sianipar attend the Opening Ceremony of the G20 Indonesia 2022 Presidency in Jakarta, Wednesday, 1 December 2021. The G20 Indonesia Presidency starts on 1 December 2021 until 30 November 2022. ANTARA PHOTO/Hafidz Mubarak A/wsj.

By: Purwanto Setiadi | Freelance journalist and volunteer at Bike to Work (B2W) Indonesia.

The G20 presidency that is entrusted to Indonesia this year is one of a kind opportunity. The position that comes according to the rotation scheme among the members of the intergovernmental forum is a chance to showcase the seriousness in making this world a better place to live—and it is not simply continuing what has been going on all these years. However, judging from just one aspect, any hope with regard to the sincerity of it is wishful thinking at best.

In coincidence with all of the effort to pull every country out of the difficulties caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the work needed to make the world a better place is to promote all possible initiatives to make sustainability principles a reality. The world cannot afford to face business as usual activities in order to achieve economic and social goals, as well as any other field of life, that exploit natural resources and inflict climate crisis as a consequence.

In carrying out its presidency, Indonesia affirms to focus on three main pillars: global health architecture, sustainable energy transition, and digital transformation. They all come with the main theme, “Recover Together, Recover Stronger”. But just about any pillar, particularly the sustainable energy transition, is actually an admonition, if it is not a demand, to Indonesia in the first place.

In other words, the “walk the talk” principle (or “practice what you preach” notion) applies: Indonesia should showcase its earnestness regarding the pillars by actively practicing them—through its policy and, even more, actions.

The fact is there are no indications of such a thing in all of the activities and agendas that will be carried out in relation to the presidency. Concerning the energy transition, specifically, where the hope is that there will be a switchover from nonrenewable energy (or fossil energy) to renewable energy (or sustainable energy), the Indonesian government has yet to roll out convincing actions that are in accordance with its promise to the Paris Agreement and Millennium Development Goals.

The aim to be achieved in such transition is that the glass house gas emissions, especially CO2, could be cut drastically—to the level that, together with other countries’ efforts, enables the avoidance of global temperature rise beyond 1.5 degreeCelsius in the coming decade.

Among the sectors of the economy, the one considered to have a significant role is transportation. Globally, this sector contributes 24 percent of CO2 emissions—nearly three quarters of it comes from motorized vehicles on the road. In this case, there are growing numbers of experts from around the world that agree with the fact that the most realistic way, meaning the result of which is quickly and effectively, is to reduce the use of motorized vehicles and shift the short distance trips in the cities to active travel. Walking and cycling are part of it.

Several countries, and also some European cities, have indeed launched a serious move in that direction, some have started it before the pandemic, some during the pandemic. That said, whoever promotes bicycling as a game changer in the effort to tackle the climate crisis as well as make the world livable admits the main problem is to get policymakers to make their move. There are many hurdles. But there is only one needed actually: political will.

During the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, or COP26, last November, more than 300 civil society organizations as well as non-governmental organizations worldwide joined the campaign led by the European Cyclists’ Federation, which included sending an open letter to governments to recognise the importance of cycling and to boost global cycling levels to cut transport emissions quickly and on a massive scale. Indonesian organization B2W Indonesia was among the signatories of the letter. The campaign has been successful with the last-minute inclusion of active travel and public transport in the Declaration of Accelerating the Transition to 100% Zero Emission Cars and Vans. Regrettably, Indonesia is not among the signatories of the declaration.

The lack of commitment to the declaration apparently continues if we look at the fact that there are no activities as well as agendas throughout the G20 presidency that actually could indicate the seriousness of the Indonesian government with regard to sustainable energy transition. There is enough time, though. But this is true only if Indonesia wants to brush off the impression of lackluster action, or to compensate for the mistake it made at COP26.

There is a valuable thing to start with, namely the Transportation Ministerial Regulation No. 59 of 2020 concerning the safety of cyclists. Since its release in September 2020 there have been several cities using it as a basis to establish facilities to utilize bicycles as a means of transportation and mobility. What the central government needs to do is simply take these early initiatives to a higher level. The government can start with the bold declaration that what has been started by the Ministry of Transportation and is followed by cities after cities around the country is part of its policy designed to cut emissions in the transportation sector and make cities truly livable.

How to formulate activities and agendas to represent such goals in a short stretch of time for the advantage of the G20 presidency? Only if the government believes in the networking and collaborating principles, there are in fact many organizations or experienced bicycle user communities that can be engaged to seek consultations.

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