Global attention to climate change issues, including in Indonesia, hit a new high in 2007 after leading climate scientists bombarded the public with a string of reports describing the evidence for human-induced climate change as “unequivocal”.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — the United Nation’s global body for assessing scientific knowledge of climate change — issued four reports regarding the issue and its impacts during 2007.
The first report, in February, covered the climate trend; the second, in April, reported on the world’s ability to adapt to warmer planet and the third, in June, revealed strategies for reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
The fourth report, officially launched at the climate change conference in Bali in December, asserted that human activities had accelerated global warming over the past 50 years. It predicted that by 2100, the global temperature could rise by between 1.1 and 6.4 degrees Celsius, compared to the 1990 level, saying such an impact could be “abrupt or irreversible” and no country would be spared. It said the sea level will rise by at least 18 centimeters, triggering more frequent heatwaves, rainstorms and tropical cyclones. Small island states and developing economies, where hundreds of millions of people live in low-lying areas, will first experience the devastating effects of rising sea levels.
In addition to the IPCC’s report, London-based economist Nicholas Stern published a review of climate change’s impacts on the world’s economic situation this year. The Stern review warned that if no action were taken, the overall cost and risks of climate change would be equivalent to losing at least 5 percent of GDP each year.
The final comments came from documentary An Inconvenient Truth by former U.S. vice president Al Gore, for which he won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Since then, thousands of seminars have been held worldwide to discuss the scientific reports and seek ways to combat the severe impacts of climate change and how to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere. Climate issues have been topping the political agenda in developed countries, including the U.S. and Australia.
Kevin Rudd’s recent success in the Australian federal election has been put down by many to his promise to take action on climate change. Australia ratified the Kyoto Protocol a few days after Rudd took office as prime minister.
The latest conference on climate change was held in December in Nusa Dua, Bali, where over 10,000 participants from 189 countries gathered for a two-week meeting to invent a formula to cut emissions after 2012, when the Kyoto Protocol ends.
The Bali conference, the world’s biggest ever conference on the climate change, decided that rich nations should take the lead in cutting greenhouse gas emissions. The Bali road map, designed to succeed the first commitment of the Kyoto Protocol, requires rich nations to make deeper cuts to their emissions.
The conference concluded that developing nations experienced the most adverse effects of climate change due to poor and often insufficient infrastructure and a lack of capacity to cope with the consequences. It said that as the frequency and intensity of drastic weather events were expected to rise, developing nations were expected to suffer the most.
Oxfam International in its Climate Alarm report issued in November said that natural disasters, the vast majority of which are climate-related, have increased more than four-fold in recent decades. It said flood and windstorm disasters alone have risen six-fold, from about 60 in 1980 to about 240 in 2006. It also said that Asian floods alone affected about 250 million people in 2007.
The Bali meeting then agreed on several crucial issues mostly benefiting developing countries such as the adaptation fund, technology transfer and reducing emissions from deforestation, known as the REDD program.
The adaptation fund makes small states island and developing nations, including Indonesia, eligible for money to help them adapt to climate change. The funding, taken from a 2-percent of share of clean development mechanism (CDM) projects, will be managed by the newly set up adaptation fund board, with Mahendra Siregar representing Indonesia. The board will assess adaptation projects from developing countries before awarding the money.
The CDM is the only mechanism allowing developing countries to host green projects to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The amount of carbon cut can be traded to developed nations who have obligations to slash their emissions under the Kyoto Protocol. A ton of carbon is currently sold at between $5 and $10.
The Kyoto Protocol now binds 36 developed nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 5 percent below their 1990 levels.
Indonesia itself will prioritize projects such as building sea walls and training local farmers on new agricultural techniques to enable to adapt to extreme weather changes.
“We will put priority on areas vulnerable to rising sea levels and educate local farmers on new planting methods,” head of the adaptation unit at the environment ministry, Haneda Sri Mulyanto, said.
Extreme weather has caused serious floods, drought and wild fires in Indonesia. Indonesia is the world’s third largest archipelagic country, with 17,500 small islands and a coastline of 81,000 kilometers. Reports have said that in the last decade, drought has dried over 220,380 hectares of paddy land across the country, causing production losses of 190,000 tons of unhusked rice. It is also reported that during the same period, floods had also inundated over 158.787 hectares of land with production losses at 174.000 tons of unhusked rice.
A report from the ministry of maritime affairs and fisheries said Indonesia had lost 24 small islands in the last two years due in part to sea level rises aggravated by maritime erosion from illegal mining activities. The lost islands were in Aceh, North Sumatra, Riau and Papua.
A report from the German-based environment research group Germanwatch and insurance firm Munich Reinsurance lists Indonesia as the world’s third most effected nation by extreme weather events due to climate change after the Philippines and North Korea, last year. It said there were 21 extreme weather events in Indonesia last year, leaving 1,297 people dead.
Meanwhile, the National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas) recorded that in the period of 2003 to 2005, there were more than 1,429 disasters related to weather events across the country. It said the early February floods in Jakarta, which lasted for 22 days, affected thousands of people and destroyed about 1,500 houses.
In terms of REDD, parties to the Bali climate change conference also asserted the urgent need to take meaningful action to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. Countries were asked to support capacity building and to undertake efforts to address the drivers of deforestation, which is regarded as an important component of the future climate change regime beyond 2012.
Environmentalist Fitrian Ardiansyah of the WWF Indonesia praised the REDD scheme as it will significantly reduce emissions from forests, which so far contribute 20 percent of global emissions.
Indonesia has been named as the world’s third largest emitter due to its fast deforestation rate and forest fires.
State Minister for the Environment Rachmat Witoelar said the world should provide financial incentives for Indonesia to protect its forests so as to trap more carbon emissions.
World Bank President Robert Zoellick has promised to raise as much as US$300 million to help developing countries reduce emissions from deforestation.
The Center for International Forestry Research has predicted that developing nations could reap between $2.3 billion and $23 billion per year from avoiding deforestation under the REDD scheme.
The Bali conference also made important progress on the issue of greener technology as part of efforts to mitigate climate change.
Fitrian of the WWF said it was high time for Indonesia to take action to combat and mitigate climate change.
“The Bali climate conference is over, but much still needed to be done both by the government and the community to mitigate climate change.”