Indonesia vows to tackle marine pollution


Thomas Wright, The University of Queensland

It is wet season in Bali, Indonesia, a popular tourist destination for Australian, Russian, German, Chinese and Japanese visitors. The Conversation

As the rain pounds down on banana leaves and rice fields, the rivers fill up and irrigation systems overflow. With it, the water masses bring trash in bulk: anything from food wrappers and plastic bags to bottles and other domestic waste.

To tackle the issue of marine pollution, several organisations got together in Nusa Dua – a popular tourist destination – and other locations across Bali to stage the largest beach clean-up the island has seen.

Around 12,000 volunteers collected 40 tons of garbage at 55 locations, according to the One Island, One Voice campaign page.

While the beach clean-up was a hugely successful awareness campaign and a great promotion which highlights the efforts done around the island, it is only a drop in the ocean of global marine pollution.

Plastic pollution in Indonesia

In recent years, Bali has seen growing environmental problems such as pollution and freshwater scarcity. Popular tourist destination Kuta beach is regularly covered in waste. Most of this is plastic that washes ashore during the rainy season.

The island’s garbage dumps are reportedly overflowing,. This makes solid waste management a pressing issue. Substantial groundwater resources are predicted to run dry by 2020, threatening freshwater resources.

On top of that, Indonesia is the world’s second-biggest marine polluter after China, discarding 3.22 million metric tons of waste annually. This accounts for 10% of the world’s marine pollution.

The effects marine pollution has on ecosystems and humans are beginning to be well documented. Marine scientists have found harmful consequences of marine pollution to sea life, ecosystems and humans.

Plastic can kill ocean mammals, turtles and other species that consume it. It can also poison food and water resources, as harmful chemicals leach out of the plastic.

It poses threats to human health as well. Plastics leach cancerous toxins. After being consumed by marine species, they enter the food chain, eventually ending up in fish we eat.

Marine plastic pollution is a global problem and Indonesia’s beaches present pressing examples to study the socio-economic effects this has on coastal communities.

Most vulnerable to marine pollution left out of global discussions

Last month, The Economist held the fourth Oceans Summit in Bali.

The summit was attended by state leaders such as Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla, representatives of major global economic organisations such as Citigroup managing director Michael Eckhart, and celebrity and entrepreneur Adrian Grenier.

Speakers and panels discussed a number of topics, including the “blue economy” and how companies and governments can participate in this marine-based sustainable industry.

During the summit, the Indonesian government announced it will pledge US$1 billion to curb ocean waste by 70% by 2025. It’s an ambitious objective, which shows dedication and commitment to a plastic-free future.

But not all voices are heard in this global debate. Many Bali-based environmental organisations engaged in education programs were not represented at the summit. Those economically most vulnerable to pollution – such as beach vendors, fishermen and others employed in the marine tourism trade – appear to be left out of the conversation.

Marine pollution and tourism

The Indonesian government plans to boost tourism and increase national visitors from 9.7 million in 2015 to 20 million by 2020. Such increases in visitor numbers and population will raise consumption and waste production, further pressuring the island’s infrastructure and ecosystems.

With tourism as the island’s largest economic sector, many Balinese people depend on foreign visitors to earn an income. Some tourism operators are concerned that if the plastic problem increases it will damage this industry. They fear tourists will stop coming to Bali if it is too polluted.

Marine communities may also suffer negative socio-economic consequences, as fishermen can lose their livelihood and tourism operators lose their customers.

While some tourism operators understand that clean beaches are key in attracting international tourists, the expected growth is likely to further stress Bali’s environment.

What is being done?

Efforts by activists, community groups and NGOs to clean beaches play a key role in protecting Bali’s environment. But they are only a temporary fix and don’t tackle the causes of this global problem.

Such groups are leading the fight against over-development and pollution through protests, clean-up events and educational programs.

Campaigners from Bali-based environmental youth group “Bye Bye Plastic Bags” advocate for an island-wide ban on plastic bags. They also spoke at the Ocean Summit.

And while they convinced Bali’s governor to commit to make the island plastic-bag-free by 2018, continued development of legislation, regulation and industry guidelines is needed to save Indonesia’s waterways from drowning in waste.

Thomas Wright, PhD Candidate in Anthropology, The University of Queensland

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Indonesia and Australia are sleeping ocean superpowers


Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, The University of Queensland and Jamaluddin Jompa, Universitas Hasanuddin

In many ways, Australia and Indonesia represent ocean superpowers. The two neighbouring countries share huge marine resources and opportunities. At the same time both face increasing challenges to their oceans and coastal regions brought about by climate change and over-exploitation.

Recently, marine scientists from Australia and Indonesia identified possible areas of collaboration for their countries to solve these challenges.

The scientists came together at the inaugural Australia Indonesia Science Symposium organised by the Australian and Indonesian scientific academies. We were conveners for the two-day discussion between the Australian and Indonesian marine experts.

The scientists highlighted at least eight potential areas of collaboration on marine science and climate change:

  1. Scientists from both countries believe it’s important for Australia and Indonesia to work together to understand the impact of climate change on marine resources, and to create solutions. Climate change is causing rising sea levels and surface temperatures as well as ocean acidification. These have resulted in the bleaching of corals and mortality that affect livelihoods in both countries. Both scientific communities urge their governments to do more to rapidly reduce greenhouse gases.

  2. They pointed out that Australia and Indonesia should look into developing a strategy to reduce CO₂ and other emissions by maximising their coastal ecosystems and oceans as carbon sinks.

  3. The scientists recommended the two countries explore ways to increase cooperation and knowledge sharing in new technologies for the rapid monitoring of key marine resources. Many breakthroughs in technologies, such as image recognition, neural networks and machine learning, are set to rapidly reduce the time and costs of detailed reef monitoring.

  4. The two scientific communities also suggested the countries work together to advance the sciences to better manage migratory species such as turtles, sharks and other megafauna.

  5. They recommended a holistic approach to developing coastal fisheries. These fisheries require the development of whole-of-system thinking, with integrated management/governance that recognises the multiple uses and activities across space and time.

  6. They noted that development of national parks has been successful to a substantial extent in both countries. But more work must be done in both countries. Baseline datasets need to be developed in order to detect and respond to present and future impacts.

  7. The scientists see a need for Indonesia and Australia to develop greater cooperation on research, innovation and business development. The links between science and innovation and the blue economy need to be strengthened and reinforced.

  8. They identified a need and interest to develop a regional partnership to collaborate on problem solving in the ocean space and to develop databases that readily available to multiple cultural and language groups.

Why is this important?

Both Australia and Indonesia are heavily dependent on their extensive coastal regions and oceans for their food, income and well-being. The ocean holds enormous economic potential, which runs into billions of dollars each year.

Australia’s ocean spans over 13 million square kilometres – an area twice that of Australia’s landmass. Indonesia’s ocean stretches across almost 2 million square kilometres and the country is endowed with one of the longest coastlines of the world – almost 100,000km long!

An estimated 70% of Indonesia’s population, or around 180 million people, lives on this coastline. Similarly, 85% of Australia’s population lives within 50km of the coast.

But marine ecosystems of both countries are facing threats of over-exploitation and destruction.

Pollution from chemicals and plastics has begun to choke entire coastlines, destroying ecosystems and opportunity. At the same time, ocean ecosystems such as coral reefs, kelp forests and mangroves are disappearing at rates up to 2% per year from many coastal areas.

Most fisheries are under-performing. According to the FAO, 80% of the fish stocks are fully exploited or are collapsing. That is, we are getting much less than the sustainable yield should give us.

On top of this, ocean ecosystems and fisheries are severely threatened by climate change – through ocean warming and acidification. These impacts – from the deepest sea to our coasts – are threatening to foreclose on our future ocean wealth and opportunity.

The blue economy

The World Wildlife Fund recently estimated the asset value of the ocean to be US$24 trillion – which if it were a country would be the seventh-largest economy on the planet. This oceanic “wealth” fund delivers US$2.5 trillion in benefits to humanity each year – an economic activity associated with the marine economy that is growing three times faster than Australia’s GDP.

Increasingly, countries and businesses are turning to the ocean to generate novel industries and opportunities for food and income. Termed the “blue economy”, there is increasing focus on better using ocean resources to feed our hungry world.

By 2050 the world’s population will have added 3 billion people and will reach 9 billion. To feed those extra 3 billion people the Food and Agriculture Organisation has indicated that food production must increase by 70%.

The FAO has said that 80% of the required production increases will have to come from increases in crop yields, with only 20% coming from new farmlands.

But the stark reality is that the rate of growth in yields of the major cereal crops has been steadily declining – from about 3.2% per year in 1960 to 1.5% today. Consequently, we must find another alternative or risk ecological disaster as we turn more and more parts of the world’s crucial ecosystems into food production systems.

And it is much more than a matter of simply finding more food.

For industries, such as tourism, new fisheries, energy production and the development of new pharmaceuticals, the blue economy represents an enormous untapped potential.

Tackling the future as Marine Team Indonesia and Australia

It is critical to strike a balance between harvesting the economic potential of our ocean and safeguarding its longer-term health and well-being.

Unfortunately, despite the economic value of these opportunities, the marine resources of Australia and Indonesia are at serious risk of being degraded before we develop these opportunities.

There is a great opportunity and imperative for Australia and Indonesia to join forces to solve these critical challenges.

But to solve the problems, we need greater knowledge about our ocean wealth. We also need to build the capacity to understand and sensibly exploit these ocean resources.

All this means more people and infrastructure. We also need to promote greater regional knowledge and regional information exchange. We need to come together much more regularly to swap ideas and develop new solutions and approaches.

And if we do, then the power of our respective oceans will be unleashed for the greater good.

The Conversation

Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, Director, Global Change Institute, The University of Queensland and Jamaluddin Jompa, Professor and Dean of Marine Science and Fisheries, Universitas Hasanuddin

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Good news for the only place on Earth where tigers, rhinos, orangutans and elephants live together


Bill Laurance, James Cook University

Conservationists and environmental scientists are used to bad news. So when there’s some really good news, it’s important to hear that as well.

While the battle is far from over, there has been a series of breakthroughs in the long-running battle to protect the imperilled Leuser ecosystem in northern Sumatra, Indonesia – the last place on Earth where tigers, orangutans, rhinoceros and elephants still live alongside one another.

The government of Aceh Province – which controls most of the Leuser ecosystem and has been subjected to withering criticism for its schemes to destroy much of the region’s forests for oil palm, rice and mining expansion while opening it up with a vast road network through the forest – has agreed to a moratorium on new land clearing and mining.

The Leuser ecosystem.
Global Forest Watch, Author provided

This is huge news, and it’s clear that both the international community and Indonesia’s federal government have played big roles in making this happen. Indonesian President Joko Widodo deserves a great deal of credit for this accomplishment, which he has been pushing for many months, not just in Aceh but elsewhere in Indonesia too.

It is the culmination of an almost three-year battle by the Alliance of Leading Environmental Researchers and Thinkers (a scientific group I founded and lead) as well as many other dedicated researchers and conservationists.

Sumatran orangutans have lost huge areas of forest habitat.
Richard Whitcombe

Set in stone?

Moratoria can always be cancelled or weakened, but the chances of that happening seem increasingly remote. In a speech at last month’s signing of the Paris climate agreement in New York, Indonesia’s environment and forestry minister, Siti Nurbaya, underscored her commitment to the Leuser moratorium.

It seems unlikely that she would make this statement at such a high-profile event if there were any significant possibility that the moratorium will collapse.

Sumatran elephants.
Gudkov Andrey

And the news gets even better. Last week, Aceh’s deputy governor, Muzakir Manaf, declared that he will provide full support for ground-level measures needed to enforce the moratorium.

That is critical, for two reasons. First, it shows that the Aceh government is strongly behind the moratorium. Second, a moratorium is just a piece of paper unless there is real on-the-ground enforcement to ensure that illegal land-clearing, poaching, mining and other activities don’t continue unabated.

Limiting palm oil

A final piece of good news is that Nurbaya has confirmed her intention to halt completely the granting of new permits for oil palm plantations in state-owned forests right across the country.

To be clear, this doesn’t mean that oil palm plantations won’t keep expanding in Indonesia. There are thousands of existing permits encompassing many millions of hectares of native forest. Indeed, Indonesia has previously announced plans to clear a further 14 million hectares of native forest by 2020, mostly for oil palm and wood-pulp production.

But at least it means that the avalanche of new oil palm permits is coming to an end, for which both Widodo and Nurbaya deserve credit.

Rainforests being felled for oil palm in central Sumatra.
William Laurance

Not over yet

The fight to conserve Indonesia’s mega-diverse forests is far from over. The nation’s plans for massive road, dam and mining projects – many in forested areas where they can open a Pandora’s box of problems such as illegal poaching, logging and forest burning – is enough to frighten even the most sober of observers.

Fewer than 100 Sumatran rhinos survive in the wild, making it one of the world’s rarest species.
Lynsey Allen

But for today, at least, we can celebrate a very significant victory for conservation, and give credit to the many people who have worked to raise the profile of Leuser, including the actor Leonardo DiCaprio, who visited recently.

Few have had more impact than Ian Singleton, director of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program. In a recent interview, Singleton laid out a remarkably compelling and detailed argument for saving Leuser, and for the surprisingly limited economic benefits its exploitation would generate for the local Sumatran citizens.

The economic and environmental think-tank Greenomics Indonesia also deserves a big round of applause for its efforts to facilitate this groundbreaking achievement.

But while we’re congratulating ourselves and others, we shouldn’t forget to keep a close eye on Leuser to ensure the promised moratorium really does take effect, and that one of the most important wild places in the world still survives.

This is an edited version of a blog post that originally appeared here.

The Conversation

Bill Laurance, Distinguished Research Professor and Australian Laureate, James Cook University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Indonesia: fires threaten to send even modest climate ambitions up in smoke


Sonny Mumbunan, University of Indonesia

At the Paris climate negotiations, Indonesia will bring to the table a target of an unconditional 29% emissions reduction by 2030, increasing to 41% on condition of international assistance.

Indonesia’s emission reduction plan (or Intended Nationally Determined Contribution) is therefore slightly higher than its 2009 commitment to reduce emissions by 26% by 2020.

There are three problems with Indonesia’s INDC. The target is not ambitious; the plan is incoherent; and with the recent massive forest fires in Indonesia that have yet to be accounted for in the INDC it does not accurately reflect emissions for Indonesia.

Such a problematic INDC would affect the global efforts to adequately tackle climate change, since Indonesia is one of the biggest carbon emitters in the world. The forest fires have pushed the country into the top ranks of global greenhouse gas emitters.

Unambitious target

Each countries’ INDCs will determine whether the world can achieve a global target to reduce carbon emissions that can slow down global warming, limiting it to no more than 2℃ relative to the pre-industrial era.

Is Indonesia’s target ambitious enough so that when compared with other countries’ INDCs it can achieve this global target? Not really.

For Indonesia to meaningfully contribute to the global target, Indonesia’s emissions should be stable or decrease even when the nation’s economy grows. The latest assessment from Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggests this way of decoupling GDP growth from emissions growth to be ideal. However, Indonesia may find that difficult to do given that its economies depend on high emission sectors such as agriculture, forestry and energy.

At the moment, Indonesia does aim to decouple its GDP growth and emission rate increase, but only through relative decoupling, through which emissions rate increase is expected to be lower than GDP growth.

In relation to the global target as informed by climate science, the 29% emissions reductions target is not ambitious enough. Furthermore, with the depth of Indonesia’s problems, especially with the recent forest fires, Indonesia’s target should be higher.

Incoherent plan

Indonesia’s climate plan is not coherent. There are no proper relations between different actions, sectors and parts of planning process such as between the allocated budget and mitigation actions.

The incoherence is largely due to a problematic process in producing the INDC.

The 29% target was first produced by the Indonesia Development and Planning Board (Bappenas) using scientifically sound calculations. However, Bappenas was not participative in their process. They involved only a very limited circle of agencies and did not consult with regional governments, the private sector and NGOs. Transparency was lacking in the process and modelling.

The advisory board for Indonesia’s ministry of environment and forestry who prepared the country’s INDC used the result of these calculations to produce the INDC document. The advisory board’s process was more participative. They included more stakeholders to take part in their climate plan.

However, they took the number that Bappenas produced – 29% emissions reductions – from its modelling, and stripped the relations, assumptions and data that Bappenas used to come to that number. As a result, the INDC document entails rich inputs but these are not always connected and even contradict each other.

Forest fires

With these problems, Indonesia’s INDC should be revised. With the recent massive forest fires in Indonesia, the INDC should be more honest and include realistic simulations of peat-land management.

Deforestation and land use activities are Indonesia’s largest source of carbon emissions. Indonesia is the top exporter of palm oil. To expand plantations of oil palms, farmers often use the slash-and-burn techniques to open new plantations. With this year’s El Niño, with temperatures rising above the 1997 levels, the fires were some of the worst of recent times. At one point daily emissions in Indonesia surpassed emissions from the entire US economy as a result of the fires.

The fires will become a critical pretext for the Paris negotiations. They may increase the level of ambition of countries to do more. The issue of forest fires may also spur other countries to help more because the scale of the impact was enormous both for Indonesia and the international community.

Indonesia’s position in the negotiations

At the moment Indonesia seems yet to be prepared for the Paris 2015 negotiations. We have yet to see a specific agenda that Indonesia would like to bring to the table.

This is partly due to the recent organisational change after president Joko Widodo took office last year.

Under former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the focal point for climate change negotiations was the National Council for Climate Change (DNPI). This council often prepared working groups to discuss different negotiation themes, such as financing, transfer of technology, adaptation, and others, ahead of the conference.

Joko Widodo merged the council into the Ministry of Environment and Forestry under a new directorate that oversees climate change. This ministry established the aforementioned Advisory Board.

With the new structure, the new directorate and advisory board did not have enough time to organise working groups that are able to undertake proper preparations. As a result, just days before the negotiation, we have yet to have a so-called Indonesia position for various issues on climate change action.

The Conversation

Sonny Mumbunan, Economist and research scientist at the Research Centre for Climate Change, University of Indonesia

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.