Running Out of Time, Again

Source : The Jakarta Globe- December 19, 2011
By Agus Purnomo & Yani Saloh

The UN climate change conference in Durban, South Africa, ended with an extension of the Kyoto Protocol and a commitment to put a new arrangement in placeby 2015 and in force from 2020. An extra two days of negotiations were worth the effort, as finally the world agreed that both poor and rich countries should cut their greenhouse gas emissions under a global pact with “legal force.” This is a big achievement for climate negotiations.

The Durban outcome was a product of compromise, especially for the world’s largest emitters, China and the United States. For some this is historic, for othersdisappointing.

Some see the Durban agreement as still benefitting developed nations. The youth and civil society contingent at the summit loudly demanded that their leaders listen to the people rather than to polluters. Many leaders proclaimed that they had acted to save future generations. In reality, however, this is far from true.

Indonesia’s delegation head, Rachmat Witoelar, said it was our moral obligation to ensure that the world did not suffer from a climate crisis. The world has to work together to achieve global solutions to address climate problems with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.

Developed countries should take moral responsibility for the historic emissions they released as their economies grew, and because poor nations will suffer most from climate catastrophe. In climate negotiations, rich nations tend to dictate the economic growth of poor nations, which are aiming to grow their economies as
developed nations have.

Indonesia has been consistent with its prior statements after becoming, at the G-20 conference in Pittsburgh in 2009, the first developing country to pledge voluntary commitments to reduce emissions. In the past year, at least six policies were issued by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to adjust regulations in line with
national emissions reduction targets.

What has Indonesia received for this? Mostly criticism from local and international NGOs, as well as its own legislature and the private sector, mainly for decisions that are considered damaging to the economy or, on the contrary, deemed insufficient to fulfill the country’s commitments.

What did developed countries do? Not much but hide behind their economic and political reasons, or the global financial crisis. It is tough to find justice in the climate regime if richer countries dictate that developing countries curb their economic growth while rich countries will not change their attitudes.

China, in tandem with India, insisted that richer countries act faster to curb emissions. At the same time, developing countries need to reduce poverty and raise living standards. Developing countries expect assistance, both financial and technical, from developed countries to achieve growth through low-carbon economic
development.

Compromise in the global climate regime is difficult to achieve, as intrigues and vested interests abound. A “fast-start fund,” promised in Copenhagen two years ago as part of a long-term Green Climate Fund financing scheme, has been slow to take shape. The distribution of a $30 billion green fund to developing countries was
blocked by the United States. The US negotiator in Durban cited inadequate transparency of its governance as the reason.

A global climate plan should not be about money “begged for” by developing countries, but about morality and justice for the climate. As for Indonesia, the $1 billion the country is receiving as part of a deal with Norway to reduce emissions from deforestation is nothing compared with the revenue that Indonesia could earn from
forestry, mining and agriculture in forested areas. What Indonesia sacrifices is an example of following through on a moral obligation.

In the global arena, Indonesia’s forests play an important role in a climate change solution. Indonesia has the opportunity to cut down its forests, to convert the land into food-producing farms to feed global demand — or to implement REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) schemes as a way to achieve productivity without cutting down the trees. But if recent history is any guide, money doesn’t, as they say, grow on trees. The province of Aceh has had a moratorium on logging for more than four years, but has still received no REDD money to compensate for its efforts.

The president has shown his leadership and courage to inform the world that Indonesians are willing to be part of global climate solutions by protecting their forests and peatlands. In September, Yudhoyono reiterated his commitment to protect Indonesia’s remaining forests during the final three years of his presidency.

The Durban climate talks ended with agreements to work toward a legally enforceable deal by all countries, to go into effect by 2020, and to work toward identifying a global goal for substantially reducing global emissions by 2050. The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, stated that we are running out of time. The truth is that 2015 or 2020 are already too late, and action should have started a long time ago.

If Indonesia, as a developing country, is brave enough to declare its commitments, where are the developed countries? We need leadership from developed countries that are brave enough to say: “Let’s do it, for the sake of all.” Agus Purnomo is special adviser to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on climate
change. Yani Saloh is Agus’s assistant.

Link : http://www.thejakartaglobe.com/commentary/running-out-of-time-again/485224

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