[VOICE] Climate Change and Poverty Eradication

10 December 2010

Climate change presents a profound threat to Indonesia’s vision of a a self-sustaining, self-governing society that secures the health and sustainability of the natural resources and the environment while pursuing socio-economic well-being that is equitable and democratic.

The world’s poorest people are the most vulnerable to climate change though they contribute least to its causes. Without a well-functioning international adaptation regime, they are the ones that will pay the price, and a very high one.  

These poor and developing countries face a quandary on which to prioritize: the development of their economy in an attempt to eradicate poverty, or address the impact of climate change? Poverty is a pressing issue that needs to be tackled immediately. On the other hand, the impacts of climate change should also be addressed promptly because it can increase the severity of the current state of poverty. Indeed, poor people do not have a choice.

Fossil fuel is widely used by developing countries to support their economic growth. In addition to its availability, fossil fuel is also relatively cheap. However, the burning of fossil fuel and its constant use have lead to excessive release of green house gases, resulting in the increase of the global warming hazards.

Based on Indonesia Climate Change Sectoral Road Mapd (ICSSR – 2010) data, Indonesia's total annual GHG emissions of the three major gases, CO2, CH4 and N2O was equivalent in 2005 to about 670 million ton of CO2 (MtCO2e) without LULUCF, or about 1120 MtCO2e if one includes peat fires but not Land Use Change and Forestry (LUCF). Meanwhile, in 2005, Indonesia’s energy sector emitted at a level of 396 MtCO2e, which is about 35.4% of the national total (Second National Communication (SNC) – 2009).

Meanwhile, the Millennium Development Goals aim to halve global poverty by 2015. On the other hand, science tells us that it is necessary for developing countries to join in mitigation efforts.

Thus, how can poor and developing countries continue their economic growth and eradicate poverty, tackling the global impact of climate change at the same time? And the following question then must be: How can the major developing countries like Indonesia can contribute to mitigate when their need to adapt is more important?

This is a challange for developing countries like Indonesia, while mitigation efforts are necessary, this will not be sufficient for it to avoid climate change – given existing emission levels, we will also need to adapt to the consequences of climate change.

Based on the occurrence of disasters recorded  in The Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA)/Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters(CRED) International Disaster Database (2007), the ten biggest disaster events  in Indonesia over the period 1907 to 2007 occurred after 1990 and most of these disasters were weather-related, particularly flooding, followed by drought, forest fire and the increase of endemic diseases.  This shows that weather-related disasters have been  increasing  in terms of their frequency and  intensity.  Economic losses from the ten biggest disasters were almost 26 billion USD, around 70% of which can be attributed to the climate.

Climate change is not another sector, it should be mainstreamed in the development planning. Addressing climate change in the context of development requires effective mitigation efforts, and also a development system that is resilient to long-term climate change  impacts. This effort requires a cross-sectoral approach at regional, national, sub national and local level.

Adaptation efforts must be combined with mitigation, because adaptation will not be effective if the rate of climate change exceeds adaptation capability, and even enhaced action in adaptation will only able to reduce loss and damage fom climate change impact, but not totally eliminate it, thus mechanism to address this residual loss and damage is also important to take place.

This initiative shall be supported by enabling international climate change regime. For a start, two conditions must be met. First, the post-2012 regime must enable greater climate resilience, and adaptation on the necessary scale. Second, it must be designed so that, at the very least, it does nothing to push the critical goals of human development and poverty alleviation further from realization.

So here we are now, in Cancun, while the negotiation process just started in the High Level Segment.  As all the Ministers and Heads of State work in the negotiations, they must keep in their minds the grave consequences of a failure. A successful outcome of ongoing climate change negotiations matters for human rights. A new climate change agreement must be fair, sufficiently ambitious and balance to be effective.

If the recognition of the human suffering to climate change is unable to ultimately mobilize us all to action, what else can do it?

Dear distinguished ministers, ambassadors, and delegates,in this remaining time in Cancun please deliver, we need you here to action, not to hide!

Denia Aulia Syam

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