Indonesia is in a battle against time as it ramps up efforts to cut greenhouse gases.

Indonesia is in a battle against time as it ramps up efforts to cut greenhouse gases.

23 August 2010

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Indonesia — Scientists reported August 17 that coral reefs off the coast of Sumatra are dying at an alarming rate due to a rapid rise in ocean temperatures, threatening the livelihood of millions of people who depend on the reef fisheries. The Asian nation, ranked the third-largest emitter of carbon dioxide, continues to struggle with illegal logging, a direct contributor to climate change.

But Indonesia is also pushing hard to address the problem, bolstered by international funding earmarked for forest protection. Indonesia’s up-and-coming Climate Change Center, funded in part by the United States, will play an integral part in its campaign to reduce emissions.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono last year pledged to slash carbon dioxide emissions 26 percent by 2020, the most ambitious goal set by any developing nation. A national center that can help government officials access the best climate science and know-how will help the country reach its target, said Hugo Yon, chief of the Environment, Science, Technology and Health Unit at the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta.

“We’ll be trying to fill the gap between science and policy,” Yon said of the new center the embassy is spearheading. “Everybody agrees that’s what’s missing in Indonesia today. There are many separate discussions with all players in climate change, and they’re not always based on sound science. There’s also a lot of politics involved. So the idea here is to get all policymakers together and [work] out the issues.”

The climate center, which received an initial $7 million in U.S. funding under the U.S.-Indonesian Comprehensive Partnership announced in June, is already in business even though it doesn’t yet have a building. In July, a delegation of climate experts from the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency traveled to Jakarta under the auspices of the Indonesian Climate Center to consult with Indonesian government officials. The topic during their three weeks of meetings was MRV — short for measuring, reporting and verification of emissions.

MRV is a critical task required under REDD+, the United Nations-led plan aimed at reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. The purpose of MRV programs is to ensure that forest protection policies are properly implemented and that they meet their goals. Norway, which is funding Indonesia’s REDD+ program, asked the United States to help Indonesia get its MRV activities started, Yon said.

The experts who were called in are people who understand MRV as well as the specific challenges posed by Indonesia’s peat-heavy forests, Yon said. Peat is partially carbonized plants that, if disturbed, release large amounts of carbon dioxide into the air. It’s been estimated that nearly 80 percent of Indonesia’s greenhouse gas emissions are due to deforestation and changes in land use, including burning and drying of peat land.

“We thought our experiences were something they could use,” Yon said. “How do we in the U.S. coordinate our work and how do we maintain transparency?”

In addition to the $7 million allocated to the Indonesian Climate Change Center, the United States will spend $10 million on programs associated with the center, including future public-private partnerships focused on on-the-ground solutions, Yon said. The funding is part of a package of $136 million that the United States has committed to Indonesia over three years for climate change and other environmental programs.

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