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FEATURE: Indonesian youth take action on climate change after the Paris Agreement

Via Apriyani and M. Rayhan Krisnadi give their insights into the role that youth can play in addressing climate change challenges in Indonesia. They are both student activists at Universitas Indonesia, and Via is also supporting CDKN’s activities in the country.

Youth involvement in addressing climate change, one of the most pressing issues in the 21st century, is crucial.  Climate change issues are extensive and continuously evolving and so require commitment across generations. In Indonesia, the involvement of youth in responding to climate change issue has begun.

Youth for Climate Change (YFCC) Indonesia, a youth community established by the now defunct National Council on Climate Change,  annually holds a Youth for Climate Camp (YFCC). This camp has been successful in accommodating youth interest in climate change at the national level. Further on the ground activities such as communal planting of mangroves on the coast of metropolitan Jakarta have been developed for the youth, and spearheaded by youths of the environmental organisation Sahabat Alam.

Though useful to some extent, these activities are too centralised and dominant, in our view.  There is a great gap in such activities at the sub-national level, in terms of knowledge transfer, capacity building, experience and know-how. In addition, the government could still do better to facilitate and foster a youth movement.

The issue of climate change after the 21st Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC prompted some Indonesian youth to improve awareness of climate change among youth and stimulate contribution by the youth. Universitas Indonesia Youth Climate Day organised by Greaction in cooperation with Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF) and the student executive board of Universitas Indonesia was held for two days from 26-27 February 2016 in Universitas Indonesia Convention Center, Depok, West Java. CDKN supported Universitas Indonesia in organising the event and sponsored exhibition booths highlighting climate change issues and responses in Indonesia.

The event allowed the youth to gain inspiration from leaders in the field of climate change and improve their knowledge and understanding of opportunities to combat this pressing issue.

Opportunities in the time of the ‘demographic dividend’

Dr. Nur Masripatin, Director General for Climate Change of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Republic of Indonesia stated enthusiastically that the government is committed to raising youth capacities for climate compatible development. The Ministry had shown their commitment by providing special platforms for youth in the Climate Festival ( held earlier in the year. Dr. Nur Masripatin emphasised that every generation must have the strength to be the solution for environmental problems, and most importantly be able to unite the strengths of each generation.

Professor Emil Salim (Professor of Economics, Universitas Indonesia), is Indonesia’s doyen of sustainable development and an eminent personality.  He gave insights on Indonesia’s potential from when Indonesia will reap a demographic ‘bonus’ between 2015-2035. Sustainable development can be achieved by raising the capacities of youth through education and health, raise the ‘Green GDP’, reduce non-renewable energy intensity, raise energy efficiency, and develop renewable energy as a base of sustainable development. Prof. Emil added that Indonesia now needs youth leaders of today to become future leaders of a “prosperous, equitable and environmentally clean sustained Indonesia” by 2045.

Dr. Sunaryo, research associate at the Research Center for Climate Change at Universitas Indonesia explained that the impact of global warming is very real, and will be felt by all, especially the future generations. Youth participation is needed to help determine current decisions, which will then impact future lives.

Voices of youth 

Talented young artist and Indonesia’s environmental ambassador Tasya Kamila, aged 23, the only youth speaking at the forum, spoke very clearly about what youth can change in their daily lives. Youth can mitigate climate change by reducing fossil fuel consumption, saving energy, using public transport, carrying out waste management to reduce, reuse, and recycle, avoid the use of plastic, and plant trees. Decision-making and policy formulation would not be complete without the involvement of the youth. Youth have the right to be heard on their aspirations. Tasya reminded the youthful audience that collaboration is very important in the efforts to mitigate climate change. Ressa Herlambang, aged 31, a notable Indonesian singer also pointed out the power of youth in mitigating climate change. His commitment on this issue is not just verbal. Despite his busy schedules, he is known to make an effort to spread the spirit of protecting our only Earth through concrete actions such as joining several youth movements for environment.

Experience in climate finance and innovation

Dr. Erwin Widodo (Director of the Indonesia Climate Change Trust Fund) shared Indonesian Climate Change Trust Fund’s experiences from 2010 which focus on three priority windows: Land-based Mitigation, Energy, and Adaptation and Resilience. ICCTF aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through financial support for the programmes of reforestation/rehabilitation of degraded lands, restoration of degraded land into community forest, orchards energy and agro-forestry, management of degraded peat-land low carbon and productive, and management of conservation areas sustainable.

Mochamad Indrawan, the Country Engagement Lead for CDKN in Indonesia shared the discourse for climate compatible development, and drew examples from the field on how local actors can turn themselves into innovators.

Space to contribute

Youth are the subject, not just the object of development, especially in this climate change era. Prof. Emil Salim, who is considered among the wisest persons in Indonesia, explained that youth must be prepared.  A good way to interpret this would be for youth to follow climate change issues, and take concrete action through activism and community approaches.  Different Ministries can provide effective facilitation to achieve these actions.  For instance, the Ministry of Youth and Sports may dedicate a portfolio agency to focus on climate change, especially to facilitate youth roles and leadership in climate change.  The Ministry of Education may make a concerted effort to reform the  education system to allow a balanced academic endeavour with the spirit and abilities to doing things on the ground, and more independently.  Ministry of Research and Higher Education may incentivise youth to engage with climate change in ways that they have never done before, including in activism, and innovation, in the way of true public intellectuals. Only with fundamental changes can the ‘demographic bonus’ be reaped for the good of Indonesia, and the world.

Photo Courtesy: CIFOR

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