Indonesia ratifies Paris climate change pact

Tackling deforestation, forest and land fires is key to its success in achieving its targets

Strong efforts to tackle deforestation as well as forest and land fires will be key to Indonesia's efforts to cut planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions, Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar said yesterday, shortly after Parliament ratified the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Indonesia joined dozens of countries, including China, India and Singapore, that have ratified the pact this year. Malaysia is expected to do so early next month, when the pact goes into force globally.

Tackling "land and forest fires can give us the power to lower emissions", Ms Siti said, when asked how the deal might affect Indonesia's fight against land and forest fires.

Under the pact, agreed on last December at a major UN conference in Paris, Indonesia is committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 29 per cent by 2030, and up to 41 per cent with international support, including technology and finance. The Paris Agreement sets a goal of limiting rises in average surface temperatures to "well below" 2 deg C above pre-industrial times, ideally below 1.5 deg C.

Ms Siti said the government has made "concrete" plans to cut emissions, but did not elaborate. "International support is very good, but what's most important is systematic work from Indonesia itself and the people's readiness to change."

Indonesia, one of the world's top greenhouse gas emitters, produced 760 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents in 2012. The figure reached 1,981 million tonnes if the effects of deforestation and other land use changes were included, according to data from a global environment think-tank, World Resources Institute.

The government faces international pressure to enforce land management reforms after massive fires blamed on oil palm and pulp and paper businesses sparked a regional haze crisis last year.

But the forestry ministry's senior adviser, Mr Arief Yuwono, said Jakarta's commitment to tackle fires is "very clear", and that President Joko Widodo's field trips to affected areas "indicate all machines of bureaucracy must do something".

Green groups said land and forest fires contribute over 60 per cent of the country's carbon emissions, especially from clearing peatland using the cheap slash-and-burn method.

They welcome the long overdue ratification, but consider the government's pledge "ambitious".

Still, Greenpeace Indonesia forest campaigner Annisa Rahmawati said she is optimistic the government will meet its targets if it cracks the whip to ensure greater transparency and stronger law enforcement to weed out rogue companies and crooked politicians.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 20, 2016, with the headline 'Indonesia ratifies Paris climate change pact'. Print Edition | Subscribe