After Paris – “Opportunities rest in the space for dynamic interactions”, Farhan Helmy

After Paris – “Opportunities rest in the space for dynamic interactions”, Farhan Helmy

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Date: 25th April 2016
Author: CDKN Global
Type: Feature
Countries: Asia, Indonesia
Tags: COP21, Nationally Determined Contributions, Paris, UNFCCC

Indonesia is one of the key developing countries for the success of the Paris agreement, to the point that some speak of it as ´pivotal´. It is not only one of the most populous countries in the world, but also one of the biggest carbon emitters, and contrary to what happens in many smaller developing countries, Indonesia needs to take decisive actions on mitigation to support a shift towards a sustainable development globally. Farhan Helmy, Chair of the Thamrin School of Climate Change and Sustainability, speaks to CDKN's Miren Gutierrez and Mochamad Indrawan, CDKN's Strategic Advisor for Indonesia about how the conversation after Paris has been part of an increasingly dynamic Indonesian national process.   This is one of CDKN's After Paris: Perspectives from developing countries.

The Paris Agreement created an ambitious mandate for the global community. Does it change the national conversation in Indonesia about action on climate change? If so, how?

In Indonesia, a substantive outcome will depend on the dynamics of national and subnational entities alike. For instance, in order to be successful, Urban Low Emissions Development Strategies (known as Urban LEDS) need to have the backing of the individual heads of districts and municipalities, and likewise, activities to reduce emissions from deforestation and other forest degradation, known as “REDD+”[1] needs commitment at the subnational level, including enforcing the rights of local communities.

We talk of the ‘means of implementation’ for the national climate plans that were included in the Paris Agreement, and these include funding schemes, capacity building activities and technology transfer. Many of these ‘means of implementation’ are not necessarily within the domain of governments. Non-state actors need to establish systems for monitoring, reporting and verifying progress against national targets.

Eventually, the social media revolution must be factored in since it has helped the public to take a more critical stand on how development should take place. Social dynamics have led the government to increasingly occupy the roles of regulator and facilitator. The government may facilitate and mediate between local communities and their proposed requirements, for instance.

Could you mention some concrete plans being devised in mitigation and adaptation?

Three key institutional elements must be consolidated before 2020: (1) action on mitigation and adaptation, (2) putting in place a monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) system, and (3) generating the means of implementation.

On (1), Indonesia’s 2011 action plans for greenhouse gas emissions mitigation defined no less than 70 activities, including emissions reductions in the forestry and energy sectors.

Regarding (2) MRV systems and other processes, Indonesia has been developing a greenhouse gas emissions inventory. It is also working on its BUR (Biennial Update Report)[2], and SIDIK, which is the country’s system to generate vulnerability information. At the same time, BAPPENAS (the Ministry of Planning) has developed a mechanism to monitor, evaluate and report on development plans which have implications for the environment and the climate. Financing instruments have been developed, included the establishment of the Indonesia Climate Change Trust Fund, and markets have been created by the Joint Credit Mechanism, the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), and the voluntary carbon market.

On (3), the means of implementation, the focus on capacity building and technology transfer is already captured in the national action plan for greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, which also includes training for writing up subnational mitigation action plans.

Taking about Indonesia´s ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contribution’ (INDC)… What will it take to get from ‘intended’ to ‘implemented’? What are the big opportunities and challenges?

Challenges are manifold.  There needs to be effective engagement with multiple stakeholders.  Climate change responses should be integrated in the context of development.  For instance, there is an increasing acknowledgement that emissions reduction can be a good part of development. And this would require effective, consolidated master planning.

Decision processes should be based on the varied interests of the different stakeholder groups. Further, inclusive governance needs to be translated into working plans, for instance, determining how the government and diverse sets of non-state actors could put into place the common greenhouse gas emissions accounting system, or at least a protocol for data and information exchange.

By 2020, all these elements must be consolidated. By then, we must know how to mainstream climate into development plans. Before that, tools must be agreed. However, barriers exist. For instance, it has to be determined whether climate finance should be the responsibility of the Ministry of Finance exclusively, or whether MRV systems should be tackled only by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (known as KLHK), or whether an alternative  mixed approach is needed in order to make things more fluid and functional than structural.

The opportunities rest in the space for dynamic interactions. Consolidation is the beginning.  For instance, multi-sectoral institutionalisation of trust funds is now progressively being discussed.

Indonesia is one of the biggest recipients of climate finance, with more than US$430.9 million according to the Climate Fund Update. Most of it, more than US$412 million, is dedicated to mitigation projects… How do you expect this to evolve? In fact, the Climate Action Tracker rates Indonesia’s Nationally Determined Contribution (‘NDC’ - the plans submitted to the UNFCCC in advance of the Paris climate summit) as ‘inadequate’. Do you see this changing?

Indonesia has developed scenarios both unconditional, and conditional to international support being available. For instance, Indonesia´s INDC had scenarios of 29% and 41%, respectively[3].

Indonesia does not necessarily lack resources. However, its leverage will be stronger if there is substantial pressure from other global players (for instance, this could happen if the funding for the REDD+ agenda comes from international quarters). ‘Development partners’ (Editor: also known as ‘international donors’) actually have a substantial contribution to make. To implement REDD+, governance must be adapted to common norms and values, such as clear land ownership and tenurial rights as well as inclusive processes. International development partners often champion and help to institutionalise these values.

The Paris Agreement calls for limiting average global temperature rise well below 2C, as close to 1.5C as possible. Indonesia´s emissions are among the highest in developing countries, and growing– what hope to see economic growth and human development with lowered emissions in the specific case of Indonesia? Concretely how do you go about reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector, addressing food security and climate change, as well as sustainably increasing agricultural productivity?

To begin with, there must be effective efforts in developing green infrastructure. Here there is also space for consolidation.  For instance, the use of information and communication technologies, and progressive urban engineering can allow an accelerated transfer of goods and services without necessarily increasing energy consumption.  The needs for MRV systems, for example to estimate an individual’s use of motor vehicles, may also be applied in the near future.

Measures are also under way in order to increase efficiency and sustainability in agriculture.  There is an emphasis on adaptation and mitigation as co-benefits, with attention to enhancement of soil carbon stock, and integrated farming systems (including biogas). Integrated field schools promote the systemic intensification of rice production, including organic and bio-pesticides.

On land use, and land-use change and forestry (known as LULUCF), the drive to undertake REDD+ is already an achievement. One particular challenge to watch is the recurring peat fires. The valuable establishment of a national Peat Restoration Agency needs to be backed by strong support, including funding.

Have you any reflections on how the process Indonesia went through to come up with its NDC will affect what happens next?

Firstly, Indonesia’s NDC was made at a time of transition, with the merging of ministries of environment and forestry, which included consolidation of four climate change and REDD+ related institutions into one directorate general under the new Ministry of Environment and Forestry (KLHK). There is also the Ministry of Planning (BAPPENAS), which is tasked to treat climate change as part of development.

The equation for the NDC should represent multiple stakeholder interests. Yet, the NDC had to be formulated before effective consolidation of the KLHK happened, and thus deeper elaboration and consultation would have helped. The NDC process ended up targeting potential sectors for action. It may be updated by taking into account the most recent dynamics, such as increasing forest fires and the birth of Peat Restoration Agency, as well as decreasing prices of fossil fuels and contemporary government policy, which encourages an increase in switch to gas.

One idea that the Ministry of Planning championed is the evaluation of the national action plan for greenhouse gas mitigation prior to revisiting the NDC.

The SDGs have many climate-related components, as well as a dedicated climate goal. What are some of the ways that the SDGs will influence the planning and practice of development in Indonesia in the coming years?

To see climate change as part of planning and development, leadership has been concentrated in the hands of one institution that is responsible for development, in this case, BAPPENAS. Subsequently, climate action must be captured in the larger development framework, e.g. what are the implications of a 29% emissions reduction for employment, health and other areas of development that are part of the SDG commitments?


For further reading:

Image: Indonesia, courtesy CIFOR.


[1] According to the UN REDD Programme, “Indonesia’s forest land comprises 60 % of the country’s land area, which makes it the third largest area of tropical rainforest in the world… The Government of Indonesia estimates that, for each year between 2003 and 2006, around 1.17 million ha of forest was cleared or degraded”.

[2] Countries need to periodically provide information to the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) on their GhG emissions in the form of “National Communications”.

[3] The Climate Action Tracker has rated Indonesia as "inadequate". “Indonesia put forward an unconditional 2030 GHG emissions reduction target  of 29% below business-as-usual (BAU) including LULUCF emissions and a conditional 41% reduction below BAU by 2030 (with sufficient international support)”. See

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