As a first step in living up to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyonos pledge to cut the countrys carbon emissions, a number of official documents have been released by the government.
The documents mostly aim at coming up with careful analyses, strategic planning and priority setting for the country before real action can be taken to reduce emissions by 26 percent by 2020.
These include the Finance Ministrys Green Paper and the Indonesia Second National Communication under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) published by the Environment Ministry.
The latest is the Indonesia Climate Change Sectoral Roadmap (ICCSR) released on March 31, 2010.
The ICCSR is meant to provide direction for next years Medium-Term Development Plan 2010-2014 and for subsequent national development plans until 2030, emphasizing challenges in key climate-change-mitigation-related sectors such as forestry, energy, agriculture, transportation and industry.
The question now is whether these documents have provided the right guidance, strategy and priority setting for subsequent real action to take place.
Looking at the ICCSR produced by the National Development Planning Ministry with support from various sectors it manages to state the current problems in key sectors, namely forestry, energy and transportation, that contribute to the countrys massive carbon emissions.
For instance, in elaborating mitigation aspects in the forestry sector, the document has explicitly acknowledged the causes and drivers of deforestation and forest and peat degradation.
The causes include the conversion of forests and peat lands to perennial plants (e.g. oil palm and pulpwood plantations), annual cropland, energy and mining activities in forest lands, while drivers include, among others, the price of commodities, labor markets, land rights insecurities, demographic growth and development policies.
Clearly naming the causes and drivers of deforestation and forest and peat degradation is an initial but crucial step for the country to find and develop appropriate solutions.
A similar example explained the mitigation aspects of the energy sector. The document clearly stated that special attention needs to be paid toward the power sector since it is a consumer of huge amounts coal that will only continue to grow, especially when new coal-fired power plants become operational as part of the 10,000 MW Power Program Phase I and Phase II.
The acknowledgement of these problems indicates that the government realizes that without clear policy intervention and application of specific measures, the level of carbon emissions from this country will increase significantly in the coming years.
Therefore, it is important that, in an umbrella document like the ICCSR, the government should come up with indicative and stronger policy guidance to further address emissions reduction.
It appears, however, that this is not yet the case.
When discussing strategies for mitigation schemes in peat lands and forests, for example, the document touched on general policies but shied away from cascading these.
The document has also not yet clarified some essential changes needed in governance systems or the involvement of key stakeholders so that policies can be properly implemented.
For peat lands, the ICCSR has proposed three scenarios: Law enforcement and best practices; peat land rehabilitation and fire prevention; and revision of land allocation, forest conversion and land swaps; but it has not declared remaining peat lands as critical and off limits to conversion.
For forestry, the document proposed three strategies: Sustainable forest management (SFM), reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) and plantations, but it was not so clear regarding what scheme would receive priority.
Many credible reports and observations state that halting forest and peat clearance is a far more effective intervention than planting trees to reduce emissions.
Hence, REDD and avoiding peat lands conversion must be made a priority since the rate of deforestation still outweighs the rate of reforestation around 0.8 to 1.09 million hectares of annual deforestation rate compared to 0.3 to 0.6 million hectares of reforestation.
Another intervention required to be more visible is cross-sectoral sustainable and responsible land use development.
If done responsibly, the agreed land use will take pressure off forests and peat lands by increasing the productivity of existing crop estates and optimizing the use of abandoned lands.
This of course requires the involvement of other sectors. Although the ICCSR has acknowledged the need for cross-sectoral intervention in addressing carbon emissions in forests and peat lands, clear directions and steps need to be elaborated on further.
In the mitigation aspects of energy, transportation and industry sectors, the document provided important strategies such as the promotion of energy efficiency and the development of renewable energy.
In spite of this, there were a few discussions in the document to adjust pricing policies and undertaking electricity reform.
Current energy pricing structures have so far led to the irresponsible use of energy resources, and to some extent, rendered some energy sources scarce.
This has led to difficulties in attracting the private sector to invest and use renewable energy or promote energy efficiency because of the competition with some highly subsidized energy sources, most notably fossil fuels.
In general, the release of the ICCSR is an important first step.
However, there is a long and challenging road ahead to ensure the success of Indonesias contribution to climate change mitigation.
The immediate challenge that lies ahead is for the country to move to the second step, which is to put these printed words into action.