Reflection on Youth Forum in Indonesia Pavilion, COP21

Reflection on Youth Forum in Indonesia Pavilion, COP21

Spot me at Youth Forum in Indonesia Pavilion, COP21

Spot me at Youth Forum in Indonesia Pavilion, COP21

While I was still in Malaysia preparing for COP21, I received a short email from Adrian and Lastrina asking if I am keen to share my climate initiatives and experiences for the coming Youth Forum event organized by Indonesian Pavilion in COP21.

Well, the moment I say “Yes” is the day I am glad I did it.

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High Level Meeting on Climate Resilience

High Level Meeting on Climate Resilience

This is Maldives. One of the 48 Island Countries that are prone to climate-induced disasters. They are small and fragile. Inhabited with 345,023 people. Adapted from Google Map.

Maldives: One of the Small Island States that are vulnerable to climate-induced disasters. They are small and fragile. Inhabited with 345,023 people (World Bank, 2013). Image Adapted from Google Map (2016)

It was yesterday’s High Level Meeting on Climate Resilience that sparked my interest of wanting to understand climate change impacts on small islands, least developed countries (LDCs) and African Countries and the importance of Paris Agreement to these countries.

“We are learning from our failures. Most of our initiatives come from our hard lessons. Politically and physically. More towards physical i.e. climate induced disasters.” says, Ban Ki Moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations.

According to IPCC and other scientific studies, climate change impacts are growing and heavily affecting small islands and least developed countries. For instance the islanders are suffering from sea level rise, salt-water encroachment onto their fertile soil, ocean acidification, depletion of marine food source, coral reefs’ destruction and many more.

On the other hand, least developed countries such as African continent are experiencing huge challenges in the area of water, agriculture, health, coastal and preservation of biodiversity due to the impacts of climate change.

“As a Pacific Island nation, we are forced to adapt to climate change not by choice but necessity. For us, capacity building is our priority challenge. Talk about being climate resilience. What does climate resilience mean to the small island? Resilience means to build better livable island. How are we going to adapt to this while we are eroding. What we are facing already since 2011 to 2015 is the warmest period on the record. This year is the hottest weather ever.”says, Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi, Prime Minister of Samoa.

He further explained his concern over the sea-level rise. According to third conference of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in Samoa, it is reported there is an estimation of sea-level rise up to four times the global average and this continues to be the most pressing threat to their environment and socio-economic development with annual losses at the trillions of dollars due to increased vulnerability.

In the meeting, Samoa and other island nations agreed to support Paris agreement if they recognize the vulnerability of the islands and warrant protection.

For small islands and LDCs, Paris agreement is essential as these are vulnerable countries with minimal resources compared to most of us living on the land that are thousand times larger. Aiming for ‘1.5 degree Celsius’ is crucial for them to ensure survivability of their people. Tuvalu countrymen put high hope on Paris agreement. If there is no global action today (in reference to Paris Agreement), 75% of its people would want to leave Tuvalu. (There are only 9,876 people inhabiting in Tuvalu! source: World Bank, 2013).

Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Egypt’s president defends Africa’s interest on climate change. The cost of putting Africa to low carbon growth is no less than $USD 12 billion dollars a year until 2020. African continent lacks the means and resources that will boost their economic development. Hence, Africa emphasized the urgency of adaptation with due consideration of huge challenges in this regard where, adaptation is part of global responsibility.

During this high level meeting, Netherlands agreed to contribute directly of Euro 50 million to climate resilience projects for small island states and LDCs whereas German has contributed Euro 1 billion worldwide on climate resilience projects.

Written by: Jolene Journe T.

Long term solutions to end Indonesia’s forest fires and haze?

Long term solutions to end Indonesia’s forest fires and haze?

Herry Purnomo, Project Leader - Political Economy of Fire and Haze in Indonesia, CIFOR giving a short introduction on political economy of fire and haze in Indonesia

Herry Purnomo, Project Leader – Political Economy of Fire and Haze in Indonesia, CIFOR giving a short introduction on political economy of fire and haze in Indonesia

Since 1990s South East Asia has been facing the issue of trans-boundary haze and 2015 is considered among the worst ever. This is an inevitable phenomena as palm oil industry is booming and is anticipated to grow to $88 billion by 2022 and Indonesia is the main regional player of this industry. 

We have understand the effects of haze on environment, health and socio-economics. These issues are ongoing with trans-boundary haze. With all the experts at the forum today, are we able to find the long term solutions to end Indonesia’s forest fires and haze?

Here are some highlights sharing from each expert:

Intro: Understanding the root causes of political economy of fire and haze in Indonesia

Herry Purnomo, Project Leader – Political Economy of Fire and Haze in Indonesia, CIFOR

In 2015, forest fires have caused about 2.6 million ha of land burnt with more than 30 billion dollars of economic losses. 43 million of Indonesians were exposed to haze and half million of people became victims of acute respiratory infections with 19 people reported death.

Some important key points on the root causes of political economy of fire and haze in Indonesia:-

  • Tenure and illegal land market
  • Bad practices of agricultural and plantation development – Interestingly wood plantations are manage by group while oil palm plantations are managed by individual companies.
  • Land politics: Patronage network between business and government – When it comes to land politics, corporate actors are connected to elites at various levels.
  • Land politics for local elections – Hot spots is linked to election. Local elites/cukong who organize farmers are the most influential actors in land transaction.

Q. Are Smallholders to be blame for forest fires and haze in Indonesia?

Mansuetus Alsy Hanu – National coordinator, Indonesia’s Palm Oil Smallholder Union

Smallholders are owners who own the land under 25ha and they manage the land on their own. In Indonesia, there are a total of 60% of the 48,000 are smallholders.Smallholders tend to be in difficult position when it comes to prepare plantation. For now, fire (aka ‘slash and burn’ method’) is the cheapest method to prepare plantation.

Regarding forest fires and haze, smallholders may not be the main cause of it. Smallholders do not receive benefits to convert their crops to palm oil plantation and they do not get assistance or any protection by government locally and nationally.

In terms of solution of reducing forest fires, Mansuetus proposed the need of better mapping for smallholders’ land. There is also a need of strong establishment of relationship between government and smallholders. The government could provide incentives to smallholders who do not use fires to prepare their plantations as an attractive income for the smallholder..

Q. From NGO Perspective: What are the challenges in resolving this Issue?

Jatna Supriatna, Chairman of Research Centre for Climate Change, University of Indonesia.

While getting himself involved in non-governmental organization for 15-20 years. Jatna thinks the problem in dealing with forest fires for the past 20 year is the budget. The budget from government is not easy to be accessible for forest fire issues.

“To monitor the hot spots, there is no budget to access the peatland areas. Fire in the peatland is easily spread – underneath. Go widely. It is very important that we are working in many different form. it is always the dry season we have to be ready. In Indonesia, local governments do not have fire brigade but trucks. We really need to have collaboration with local government and private sectors” says Jatna.

Jatna also highlighted the importance of law enforcement in public area and national protected areas as forest fires occurred in these areas are caused by encroachment.

Q. What can Private Sectors do to prevent forest fires and haze?

Dharsono Hartono, president director of PT Rimba Makmur Utama, Indonesia proposed the key to prevent forest fires and haze is to establish trust among various stakeholders via bottom-up approach.

Forest fires tend to occur in conjunction with El Nino. During El Nino, the canals from east to west of Indonesia will dry up. After the projection of terrible El Nino by NASA in 2007, PT Rimba Makmur Utama has immediately engaged and worked closely with the 6 villages (200 people) to prevent forest fires and haze.

Awareness, trust and transparency are the key values to promote full participation from the communities. Other than providing education to the villagers, PT Rimba decided to go beyond the boundary by training a brigade team prevent and combat forest fires and haze.

Q. The world demanded Palm Oil. What about the Supply Chains of Oil Palm Plantations? Aren’t they also responsible for forest fires?

Agus Purnomo – Managing Director for sustainability and strategic stakeholders Engagement, Golden Agri-Resources, Ltd.

As Indonesia is the largest oil palm producers in the world, supply chains around world are also responsible for forest fires and haze. According to Purnomo, it is common to have problematic growers / companies within the supply chains. In order to prevent this, Golden Agri-Resources is focusing on establishing transparency with their suppliers.Thus far, they have 98% of the mills willing to share their suppliers info and by Dec 2015, they will have 100% visibility of the mills. However, it is difficult to acquire transparency and visibility beyond the mills and these mills source their resources from others.

“All our supply chains are posted on the website. We do not know the particular mill bought by another group. That is something we cannot know before. If we know, we will engage. We will have dialogue and see how we move forward.” says Purnomo.

Golden Agri-Resources is focusing on B2B arrangement. However, policies cause a lot of issues as mentioned by Herry. There is an urging need in getting all stakeholders to be involved to resolve such issue. From government, to local stakeholders, NGOs, companies who are involved in the supply chain. We need to formulate a common goal, better transparency in order to prevent forest fires and haze.

Written by: Jolene Journe T.

The Declaration on Agricultural Diversification

The Declaration on Agricultural Diversification

On 7th December 2015, The ceremony of “The Declaration of Agricultural Diversification” was held at Paris in conjunction with Paris COP21. The ceremony was graced by The Honourable Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, former Prime Minister of Malaysia and YABhg Tun Jeanne Abdullah with an aim to address one of the most pressing issues to humanity – food security.

The Honourable Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, former Prime Minister of Malaysia and YABhg Tun Jeanne Abdullah officiated the Declaration of Agricultural Diversification

The Honourable Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, former Prime Minister of Malaysia and YABhg Tun Jeanne Abdullah officiated the Declaration of Agricultural Diversification

The event was a success and it was also graced by several honorable mentions including Dr. Sayed-Azam Ali, CEO of Crops for the Future (CFF); Dr. Trevor Nicholls, Chief Executive of Centre of Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI); Dr. David Molden, director general of International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development; Dr. José Joaquín Campos A. Director General of Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE) and Dr. Setta Tutundjian, Director of Partnerships & Knowledge Management, International Centre for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA), UAE.

It was 11,500 thousand years ago, we were once the hunters and foragers of the earth. We evolved and moved to an agricultural way of living that lead us to industrialization and green revolution. All these advancement lead to the unprecedented growth of human population and global greenhouse emissions that were projected to increase beyond the “safe limit” of 2 degree celsius targeted by United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Food security is a pressing issue when it comes with climate change. A hotter climate requires more resilient agriculture, food security, enhanced nutrition, environmental sustainability, shared knowledge and poverty alleviation.

The United Nations Sustainable Development Agenda (SDA 2030) has provided a framework for sustainable development via 17 Sustainable Development Goals and many of which relate to agriculture. As yet, there is no plan on how agricultural diversification can contribute to the SDA 2030 for our future climate.

Today, Prof. Sayed Azam-Ali showed us how CFF helps to meet the needs of a hotter world and contribute to SDA which can be done via Global Action Plan for Agricultural Diversification (GAPAD). The purpose of GAPAD is to address the following specific SDGs including:-

  • SDG 2: Zero Hunger
  • SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy
  • SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production
  • SDG 13: Climate Action
  • SDG 15: Life on Land
  • SDG 17: Partnerships for the goals

As we learn that half of our diet comes from four major food crops including wheat, rice, maize and soybean, we also learn that these food crops are grown in a limited number of exporting countries which rely heavily on the high utilization of fertilizers and irrigation. Monoculture is not the solution to address food security, we need diversification.

In addition, when climate changes, people will look to mountains for food security and biodiversity. Animals and plants are migrating when the earth gets hotter. Mountain provides diverse physiology and endemic crops with huge amount of traditional knowledge. Sadly, these treasures are rapidly being replaced with major staple foods. Hence, there is a need of shifting to higher yields of mountain products starting now.

So far, we have identified half a million plant species on the planet and introduced a diversifying agricultural system that will help to strengthen the climate resilient platform for local markets, consumers and producers.

During the declaration, Dr. Trevor Nicholls has highlighted the importance of having agricultural diversification in Africa and South-East Asia regions as agriculture is their main source of income. The common challenges faced by farmers in these regions include lack of climate smart technologies to address new pests and diseases, and availability of fertile soil and water. For him, diversification is a risk mitigation measure. It diversifies one’s diet, and improves one’s income and reduces climate risks.

Dr. David Molden has also highlighted the importance of agricultural diversification in mountain regions especially Afghanistan, India, Myanmar, Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal and China. The highlands in these regions are the largest reserves of ice and snow which generate freshwater that helps to sustain 1.3 billion people living downstream. Notably, there are 3 to 4 billion people relying on these water sources for food production and diversification of agriculture shows to bring more opportunities for women in the mountains as a new source of income.

After listening to the experts, I wonder if we would still have any opportunity to choose in the future if we want to “Eat to Live or Live to Eat”?

“Today, agricultural diversification should not be seen as a choice but a necessity in the future. Climate resilient farming is the future.” – Dr. David Molden.

“Half of the species in the world have helped our ancestors to survive till now. Feeding the hotter world is very timely. We are convinced the benefits of this declaration, for the world” – Dr. Setta

In the end, I could not agree more with Dr. David Molden and Dr. Setta closing statements.

MYD members in support of The Declaration of Agricultural Diversification with The Honourable Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, former Prime Minister of Malaysia and YABhg Tun Jeanne Abdullah.

MYD members in support of The Declaration of Agricultural Diversification with The Honourable Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, former Prime Minister of Malaysia and YABhg Tun Jeanne Abdullah.

Written by: Jolene Journe T.

Developed vs Developing Countries on CBDR

Developed vs Developing Countries on CBDR

Prof. Gurdial on CBDR

Prof. Gurdial on CBDR

Prof. Gurdial, Malaysian negotiator spoke on behalf of Like-Minded Developing Countries (LMDCs), has grabbed attention and applause for defending the rights of developing countries (mainly CBDR-RC). In 1992, the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) establishes a principled basis for differential treatment of countries in the global climate regime with its core principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities” (CBDR-RC). The UNFCCC explicitly notes, immediately following its statement of the CBDR-RC principle, that “Accordingly, the developed country Parties should take the lead in combating climate change and the adverse effects thereof.”

LMDCs emphasized on the importance of having developed countries to fulfil their obligations, historical responsibilities, and accept countries’ differentiation and equity in global climate regime.

“On behalf of LMDC, we know you will not be persuaded by our speech. World changed, but historical emission does not change. Developed countries become prosperous because of historical carbon burning. The division of rich and poor has not change. Half of the world population are represented by LMDCs. Two-third of poverty is also our situation. We need convention that impose these realities. Acknowledge historical realities and differentiation” – Prof. Gurdial

The world has always been changing but developed countries have failed to fulfil the obligations imposed themselves especially in reference to Kyoto Protocol and contributions to Green Climate Fund that has been agreed to jointly mobilize USD 100 billion per year by 2020.  As of November 2015, the Green Climate Fund has only successfully raised USD 10.2 billion equivalent in pledges from 38 countries.

Part 2: Post-COP21 Reflection on CBDR-RC

After the two weeks of intense negotiations and strong advocacy from various party groups like LMDCs, Least Developed Countries (LDCs), G77 and China, African Groups, Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) and other vulnerable and developing countries; the adopted Paris Agreement has showed the inclusion of CBDR-RC in finance and capacity building.

For instance,

Article 9.1 states developed country Parties “shall” provide financial resources to assist developing country Parties with respect to both mitigation and adaptation in continuation of their existing obligations under the Convention.

Article 9.2 Other Parties are “encouraged” to provide or continue to provide such support “voluntarily.”

Article 13.9 Developed country Parties “shall”, and other Parties that provide support “should”, provide information on financial, technology transfer and capacity-building support provided to developing country Parties under Article 9, 10 and 11.

However when it comes to “mitigation”, CBDR-RC is not clearly defined.

Article 4.4 Developed country Parties “should” continue taking the lead by undertaking economy-wide absolute emission reduction targets. Developing country Parties should” continue enhancing their mitigation efforts, and are encouraged to move over time towards economy-wide emission reduction or limitation targets in the light of different national circumstances.

It seems like rich and developed countries are not obligated to be responsible for economy-wide absolute emission reduction targets and there are no mentions in the text on responsibility of “historical emissions” or to “Annex I and non-Annex countries” – which is quite a victory for them as they insist everyone should be responsible on combating climate change. However, these issues I believe will be resurface again probably when the agreement take its effect in 2020.

Nonetheless, there is victory for developing countries as well in successfully maintaining CBDR-RC in some areas of the agreement such as finance and capacity building but not mitigation.

Written by: Jolene Journe T.