March 18, 2022
JAKARTA – When scientists and environmentalists from across the world convened in Stockholm 50 years ago, climate change was not part of the narrative. The same year, and 10,000 kilometers east of the Swedish capital, Indonesia was a low-income nation, with its biodiversity richness at its pinnacle and lush tropical forest covering more than half of the archipelagic nation’s land masses.
Fast forward to today, Indonesia has become one of the global economic powerhouses, not least illustrated through assuming the Group of 20 presidency this year for the first time ever. Nonetheless, Indonesia is also one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change, following increased global pollution, as well as higher population density and an unsustainable rate of consumption.
Indonesia is not an isolated case in terms of facing challenges in achieving sustainable environment management and resilience to climate change. Indeed, despite the commitments made under the Paris Agreement, the actions on the ground are only able to control global warming to 2.7 degrees Celsius rather than under the 2-degree goal in the Paris Agreement. Of the over 16,000 key biodiversity areas that have been identified to date, 39 percent are entirely outside protected or conserved areas and 42 percent have only partial coverage.
With this in mind, and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda is less than eight years away, we believe the Stockholm+50 conference provides a perfect opportunity for Indonesia to advocate its priority areas to tackle climate change: sustainable human consumption through the development of a circular economy and through sustainable ocean management, not least by reducing marine plastic debris.
This low-emission, low-waste economic paradigm is not new to Indonesia. The Southeast Asia’s largest economy by gross domestic product completed its in-depth study on the circular economic model last year through the partnership of United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Danish government. The study is projected to serve as the foundation for the country’s first circular economy action plan, which will result in the creation of 4.4 million new jobs and the generation of US$45 billion in additional income by 2030.
Recognizing the tremendous potential, the Indonesian government cited circular economy as one of the top priority policies and actions, as the country aims to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
On sustainable ocean management, Indonesia has recorded notable progress. Approximately 24 million hectares of marine protected areas have been created by 2020. Even though it only covers 7 percent of the overall area, the expansion of the protected area is a step in the right direction.
There has also been an improvement in compliance with international regulations on marine commodities to maintain sustainability. UNDP Indonesia was particularly involved in the certification of pole-and-line and handline fishing, as well as skipjack and yellowfin tuna.
Another critical issue that Indonesia has lately made headway on is the decrease of marine plastic waste. The world’s archipelagic nation has set a target of decreasing marine plastic waste by 70 percent by 2025, and according to the most recent official estimates, a drop of approximately 15 percent happened between 2018 and 2020. Another policy advocacy that Indonesia can put to the forefront is stronger gender-responsive intervention into the climate finance mechanism and green economy principles. This is crucial because many women in Indonesia’s forest areas and rural areas rely on forestry, water, and climate-vulnerable agriculture for a living. Women, particularly the poorest, lack crucial resources to prepare for and adapt to climate emergency, such as land, finance, and knowledge and technology.
It goes without saying that the government alone cannot and should not be the sole advocate for these two climate emergency issues. Active cooperation from the business sector and civil society is required and we need to see more extended producer responsibility (EPR) being implemented in more nations, and more companies around the world need to adopt environmental, social, and governance (ESG) report.
Sweden has a wealth of experience in this area. The Scandinavian nation aspires to be one of the first fossil-free welfare states in the world. To achieve this, all actors in society must actively work to cut emissions, and we can see how the business sector is not only willing to undertake the green transition, but also sees competitive benefits in being at the forefront of it.
Driving climate-smart policy opens up new business possibilities, lowers costs by improving energy and material efficiency, and boosts sales by increasing customer demand for green products.
Sweden is also close partner of UNDP’s Climate Promise initiative which supports 120 countries around the world in taking bold steps to cut emissions and fulfill climate change objectives.
In less than three months, Stockholm+50 will kick off, as gathering nations work out the next milestone in saving our planet. And setting the scene in the Swedish capital could not be more fitting. The Stockholm conference in 1972 was the first UN gathering that established the crucial link between economic expansion and global pollution, human consumption, and environmental degradation. As the link becomes inexplicably evident, the upcoming 50th anniversary should serve as a reminder of the critical work ahead in combating climate change.
Indonesia, with its growing geopolitical and economic stature, now has a solid chance to push for concrete solutions that matter most for a prosperous world in the next 50 years.