For Indonesia, the world's top producer of palm oil, greenhouse gas emissions is a big problem. Thirty-seven percent of the country's emissions come from deforestation -- a process that has in the past supported the country's industrial expansion, but also draws stark criticism from environmentalists. Another 27 percent of the country's GHGs is generated from peat fires, with a prolonged burn that not only increases smog, but also heightens concern for global warming
This week, the government of Indonesia announced that it's upping its effort to reduce carbon emissions, modifying its 2020 goal of 26 percent unilaterally to a 29 percent cut by 2030. It's a bold aim for a country that still has significant challenges with meeting its earlier goals, and as Reuters recently noted, the government has yet to indicate how this will be accomplished.
In 2009, U.N.-REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) launched a number of projects that were aimed at preserving some of Indonesia's substantial forests, including international support and commitments at reducing peat fires. At the present time, some 60 REDD-supported initiatives are various stages of activity in Indonesia, all with the goal of helping the country to fulfill its GHG goals.
But critics argue that Indonesia has not taken steps to reduce its carbon footprint in substantial ways. Last month President Joko Widodo initiated a new coal plant that is expected to be the largest in the region. The new project is part of Indonesia's effort to raise its current power production by another 52,000 megawatts within the next five years. But it also reflects continued difference of opinion between Indonesia and some international partners on the best path to reaching its GHG goals.
In comparison to other countries with substantial tropical forests, Indonesia's former commitment to cut GHGs by 26 percent by 2020 was considered a moderate attempt to rectify a huge environmental challenge.
That may be part of the reason that Indonesia is now stepping forward with an even bolder commitment, months before the start of the U.N. Conference of Parties in Paris, where a global climate change agreement will be brought to the table. Countries that have contributed to Indonesia's stated efforts to reduce emissions will ask questions about the best way to both protect its vitally important crop production, and reduce its ongoing contributions to worsening climate change.
Jan Lee is a former news editor and award-winning editorial writer whose non-fiction and fiction have been published in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the U.K. and Australia. Her articles and posts can be found on TriplePundit, JustMeans, and her blog, The Multicultural Jew, as well as other publications. She currently splits her residence between the city of Vancouver, British Columbia and the rural farmlands of Idaho.