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FEATURE: Renewing commitment to climate-smart SDGs in Indonesia


CDKN’s Dina Khan reflects on a dialogue on the place of climate change in the post-2015 international development framework – the Sustainable Development Goals.

‘It was 22 years ago in Rio that we renewed our commitment to sustainable development and crafted the future we wanted.  But two decades on, that agenda has not been achieved, most likely for lack of a unified development framework to guide implementation.’

These were the opening comments from Prof. Emil Salim in his keynote speech at a well-attended workshop organised by CDKN on 19th March in Jakarta, Indonesia, to explore the linkages between climate change and the post 2015 Sustainable Goals Agenda. 

The approaching expiry date of the millennium development goals (MDGs) in 2015 has brought on much soul searching in the global development community as members reflect over failures and successes of the past. The challenge is to identify a suitable successor to the MDGs, most likely in the form of sustainable development goals (SDGs).

Interestingly, two other international policy courses are linked to the same timeline. Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) are striving to arrive at a global climate deal in Paris in 2015, and in a parallel process, a successor to the Hyogo Framework for Action (the HFA2) on disaster risk reduction and building resilience is also scheduled to be agreed in the same milestone year of 2015. The converging timelines of these parallel tracks has spurred thinking on the issue of harmonisation in global development frameworks and making sustainable development goals consistent with the focus and efforts in all major areas.

Ilmi Granoff from the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) underlined the fact that “climate change is determinative – it will determine whether we achieve our development goals in coming years”, as he presented CDKN’s paper on integrating climate change into the post-2015 development agenda. He went on to add that “…at the same time we are at a stage where managing climate change depends in part on the development decisions that are made.” But even as this inextricable link between climate change, sustainable development, and poverty reduction is recognised, how climate change will feature in the post-2015 goal framework remains unclear.

One option for incorporating climate change into the SDGs is to frame climate change as a standalone sustainable development goal or as a goal that combines climate change with other relevant areas like disaster resilience, water and sanitation, biodiversity, etc. This would certainly put a spotlight on climate change in the SDG process and many would argue strongly for raising the significance of climate change through such a strategy, as was done with gender under the MDGs.

According to Stephen Rodriques of the UNDP, the REDD+ programme in Indonesia could offer useful lessons in considering the standalone option. The government of Indonesia has issued a specific national strategy for managing REDD+ as a priority policy element, supported by a dedicated agency and financing mechanism. At the same times REDD+ strategy and goals are delivered through a genuine multi-agency partnership that enables multi-sectoral collaboration.

On the other hand there is also the option of acknowledging climate change as a cross-cutting concern across the various SDG areas, and ensuring that all goals are climate smart. Relevant targets could be tagged to goals to deliver climate compatible development. This is perhaps a less ambitious approach but nevertheless a practical option for unifying climate change and SDGs into a common framework.

Still others, such as Gordon Manuain, from the Office of President’s Special Envoy on MDGs – Indonesia, argued that it doesn’t really matter whether climate change features as a standalone goal or a cross-cutting ambition, what matters is that the SDGs are actionable and have robust mechanisms to ensure coherence, accountability and enforcement. The SDGs should not simply become another forum for entrenched country positions and unproductive negotiations, instead the cornerstone for all parties must be action and ambitious targets.

Reflecting on challenges to the mainstreaming objective at the country level, Dr. Doddy Sukadri from Indonesia’s National Council on Climate Change (DNPI), advocated moving to green GDP systems in national planning with human wellbeing as the central priority. In other words, countries need social- environment-economic growth accounting models to achieve an SDG agenda that strives for concerted and inclusive policy action.  Wahyuningsih Darajati from the Ministry of National Development Planning
(BAPPENAS) who was looking at the issue from Indonesia’s multi-sectoral perspective, highlighted how Indonesia is one of the leaders in the process and already working on climate change and sustainable development integration in short to medium-term development planning

Nonette Royo from The Samdhana Institute stressed for the SDGs to recognise the role of local level problem-solving and allow local solutions to climate change to emerge.  Along similar lines, Dr Cristina Eghenter of WWF Indonesia thought it important for the SDGs to empower local groups to enable resilience to climate change and advocated for climate change to be mainstreamed into all SDGs and translated into clear actions plans and targets in each country

There were other interesting comments and opinions from the speakers and participants during the discussion. Some thought that developing countries can influence both the climate change and the SDG processes through strong commitment, as Indonesia had done with setting high GHG reduction targets. Leadership and ambition could be bottom up as well, not always waiting for action from the global regime.  Aligning processes is a matter of political will, was another insight heard.

In the end however, it is also important to take an objective view of the advantages and well as disadvantages involved in pursuing an integrated climate change and SDG agenda. For instance, tying SDGs to climate change targets could slow down the agreement process and complicate things by making SDGs address the issue of common but differentiated responsibility that is a core principle of climate negotiations. On the other hand, making climate change central to the SDGs would send a strong signal to UNFCCC negotiators, especially by setting a goal on mitigation that is in accordance with the goals in the UNFCCC process.

As the development community grapples with these issues and seeks best options for the post-2015 era, one thing that is certain is that climate change and development are deeply inter-linked challenges and this relationship requires special attention. We know that not all development interventions are environmentally sustainable and similarly not all climate change related decisions are pro-poor, and  therefore it is critical to ensure harmony between the two policy fields, starting with the SDGs.

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