Asia & Pacific

  • Is Indonesia setting realistic targets on GHG emissions?

    Aretha Aprilia


Speed read

  • In 2009, Indonesia set a target of 26 per cent carbon emission reduction by 2020

  • Global emission sources per sector contradict Indonesia’s actual sector emissions

  • The national plan, the RAN-GRK, also needs to consider infrastructure developments

Indonesia should revisit its targets to reduce carbon emissions under a UNFCCC global deal, says Aretha Aprilia.

Indonesia, extremely vulnerable to climate change, is also the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, which must tangibly deliver on its target to reduce carbon emissions. [1]

At the G20 meeting in Pittsburgh and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of Parties 15 in Copenhagen in 2009, Indonesia’s president committed itself to achieve the target of 26 per cent reduction of carbon emissions by 2020. Further emissions reduction of up to 41 per cent is expected to be implemented with international support.

But many consider these targets to be over ambitious. It is questionable whether Indonesia can achieve its targets, which are not backed by prior studies that support meeting them.

Indonesia’s energy plan

The Warsaw climate conference in November 2013 advised all countries to prepare their contributions to reducing or limiting emissions under the forthcoming 2015 Paris Agreement. All parties agreed to put forward their intended contributions well in advance of the Paris conference in December 2015, or by the first quarter of 2015 if they are ready to do so.

Since the contributions are “intended”, this implies that once they are tabled, there will be a period when they could be revised to ensure that the contributions are sufficient to keep global warming below two degrees Celsius. [2]

In relation to this, the Indonesian government devised a national action plan for GHG emission reduction called the RAN-GRK (Rencana Aksi Nasional Penurunan Emisi Gas Rumah Kaca). The RAN-GRK set the level of national greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by year 2020 in each sector. It also determined the sectoral and financing programs to achieve the targeted scenario (BAU or with international support).

Under the RAN-GRK, the forestry and peatland sector has the highest emission reduction target (0.67-1.04 Gton CO2e [gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent]), followed by other sectors such as waste (0.05-0.08 Gton CO2e), energy and transport (0.04-0.06 Gton CO2e), agriculture (0.008-0.01 Gton CO2e), and industry (0.001-0.005 Gton CO2e).

But the decision on target setting is in fact subject to further scrutiny.

According to the energy research firm Ecofys, global GHG emission rates show that the industrial sector is the largest GHG emitter (29 per cent), followed by transportation and land use (both with 15 per cent), energy (13 per cent), residential housing (11 per cent), commercial/public buildings and agriculture (both with 7 per cent), whereas waste only accounts for 3 per cent of GHG emissions. [3]

This is quite the opposite in Indonesia. While the industrial sector is the world’s largest GHG emitter, it is the smallest in Indonesia. The waste sector, the smallest GHG emitter on the global scale, has the second largest GHG emissions in Indonesia.

This might be due to the fact that global GHG emission estimations mostly represent industrialised countries, which emit a large portion of GHG emissions. However, Indonesia’s emission reduction target is based on its actual proportion of GHG emissions per sector.

GHG from new infrastructures

It is also important that emissions by residential housing and commercial public buildings be taken into account, especially considering that the new administration of President Joko Widodo is proactive in providing low-cost housing (rumah susun) for lower income groups.

The target is 50,000 units of flats to be built in 2015. The government also targets the development of 2.2 million units of residential houses within the next five years. [4,5]

In addition, the government plans to develop new infrastructure such as sea tolls that intend to strengthen interisland connectivity and accessibility. The plan is to connect five major harbours in Indonesia — Medan, Jakarta, Surabaya, Makassar and Sorong. [6]

With the harbours being connected, large vessels would be able to move interisland with ease but resulting in higher emissions. The plan also includes building electricity infrastructure for remote areas — from the outer islands to the border region.

These new development plans, while necessary for economic growth, would evidently impact on  GHG emission rates. Thus, the GHG emissions derived from new infrastructure developments need to be accounted for, particularly in developing countries with high growth rate such as Indonesia.

The economic growth and infrastructure development now accelerating under the new administration may therefore juxtapose efforts to mitigate climate change. There should be ways of quantifying the GHG emissions from infrastructure development as well as the further potential impacts of auxiliary emissions.

Suffice it to say that there is a call to revisit the pre-determined GHG emission targets and to possibly amend these to more realistic levels.

It is also important that Indonesia avoids haste in deciding the UNFCCC‘s “intended nationally-determined contributions” because although the term “contributions” seem voluntary at this stage, they may be deemed as “commitments” in the future.

We should not bite more than what we can chew, and we should also delineate our achievable contributions in the global deal.

Aretha Aprilia is an environmental consultant in Jakarta who recently served as technical expert of GIZ and provided strategy and technical inputs for the community renewable energy grant of the Millennium Challenge Account under the United States government.

This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's South-East Asia & Pacific desk.