Nowadays, climate change has become a topic that always being discussed every single day. The narration on climate change presently is not only about the root cause and its impacts, but also about the mitigation measures and adaptation measures towards such impacts.
International efforts on climate change marked by the establishment of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1992 and the 1997 Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC. Both of these agreements represent international responsibility for gathering evidence, complying with and reconfirming to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that climate change exists.
In 1992, more than 150 countries attended the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) or known as the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Throughout the drafting process, 154 initially agreed to sign the UNFCCC as a strategy for tackling climate change. The UNFCCC later entered into force on 21 March 1994. Basically, this Convention acknowledges different responsibilities for developed countries, developed countries with special financial responsibilities and developing countries in responding to climate change. The Convention also targets to stabilize greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations at a level that can avoid damage to the climate system. All members of the Convention agree to commit to the points on climate change.
Up to this day, 197 countries, including Indonesia, have become a party to UNFCCC. However, unlike Russia, Indonesia is not a member to the Annex I and II of the UNFCCC given its position as a developing country. According to this Convention, Indonesia along with other member States must periodically provide a special report called “national communication” which must contain the respective GHG emission information and explain the commitments of the Convention, whilst for industrialized countries or known as Annex I members, have additional commitments that they must adhere to.
The UNFCCC mandates all of its members agree to make policies to achieve the goal of returning their GHG emissions to their 1990 level by 2000. Annex I members must also provide periodic reports and provide separate annual reports on GHG emissions, and developed countries enlisted in Annex II must assist developing countries and countries undergoing economic transition in the transfer of climate-friendly technologies.
Given the failure of all member States to reach the minimum goal for GHG reduction by the year of 2000, thus in 1997 UNFCCC members gathered in Kyoto, Japan and issued the Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC. The Kyoto Protocol was formed which legally approved the target of reducing CO2 emissions by 55 percent from 1990 by industrialized countries, by establishing a mechanism that helps these countries reached the target. The Kyoto Protocol on November 18, 2004, after 55 members ratified its emissions, including industrialized countries, officially entered into force, thereby it became more effective and stronger.
The Kyoto Protocol regulates the mechanism for reducing GHG emissions carried out by developed countries, namely Joint Implementation (JI), Emissions Trading (ET), and Clean Development Mechanisms (CDM). JI is an emission reduction mechanism by which Annex I countries can reduce emissions through joint projects. ET is an emission trading mechanism carried out between industrialized countries, where industrial countries whose GHG emissions are below the permitted limit can sell their excess emission allotment to other industrial countries that cannot fulfill their obligations. CDM is a mechanism for reducing GHG emissions in the framework of cooperation between industrialized countries and developing countries. This mechanism aims to enable Annex I countries to achieve their emission reduction targets.
Indonesia strongly supports the Kyoto Protocol by ratifying that Protocol with the Law No. 17 of 2004 concerning the Ratification of the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Indonesia’s active participation as a state party to the Kyoto Protocol enables her to participate and implement JI, ET and CDM within its activities abroad and domestically. However, Indonesia still has a lot of work to do with the implementation of this Protocol. For example, Indonesia needs to adapt to global climate change and prevent climate change, while carrying out sustainable development activities.
In addition, there is also the implementation of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) in Indonesia. The REDD+ is the measures to use financial incentives to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases from deforestation and forest degradation. It includes the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks, which help reduce poverty and achieve sustainable economic growth. The REDD+ strategy in Indonesia aims to manage natural resources in a sustainable manner. One of the successful progresses made by REDD+ in Indonesia is the reduction of deforestation rates below the average in the last ten years. Therefore, the Government of Norway, as one of the largest performance-based payment schemes for REDD+ in the world, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Indonesia in May 2010. Norway has committed to USD 1 billion in value sharing based on the performance of the Indonesian government in executing this REDD+ global initiative.
Domestically, Indonesia has a Directorate General of Climate Change Control, which is one of the work units of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry of the Republic of Indonesia. This Directorate General handles climate change related matters, especially in the implementation of mitigation, adaptation, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, reduction and elimination of ozone-depleting substances, mobilization of resources, inventory of greenhouse gases, monitoring, reporting and verification of climate change mitigation actions, as well as forest and land fire control. With the establishment of the Directorate General of Climate Change Control, there is a new hope for the implementation of climate change control activities that are well managed in support of development goals in the environmental and forestry sectors. The Directorate General of Climate Change Control has also developed an appreciation scheme in the form of the Indonesian Emission Reduction Certification Mechanism for Indonesia Certified Emission Reduction (ICER). This mechanism is for the Government and the private sector to facilitate incentives for mitigation actions through the National Registry System.
Apart of the existence of specialized body governing climate change related topics, Indonesia has also equipped itself with various legal instruments governing the issue of climate change, such as:
· Law of the Republic of Indonesia No. 16 of 2016 concerning the Ratification of the Paris Agreement to The Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change;
· Law of the Republic of Indonesia No. 32 of 2009 concerning Environmental Protection and Management (underlying Climate Change matter under the Ministry of Environment);
· Law of the Republic of Indonesia No. 11 of 2020 concerning Job Creation;
· Law of the Republic of Indonesia No. 6 of 1994 concerning the Ratification of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change;
· Law of the Republic of Indonesia No. 41 of 1999 concerning Forestry.
As a consequence of these Laws, the Government of Indonesia issued various Government Regulations on climate change related matters. These regulations are:
· Government Regulation No. 46 of 2017 concerning Environmental Economic Instruments;
· Government Regulation No. 83 of 2019 concerning Provision of Competent Technical Personnel in the Service Trade Sector;
· Government Regulation No. 45 of 2004 concerning the Forest Protection;
· Government Regulation No. 22 of 2021 on the Implementation of Environmental Protection and Management;
· Government Regulation No.23 of 2021 on the Forestry Implementation;
· Government Regulation No. 24 of 2021 on the Procedures for Conducting Strategic Environmental Studies.
Furthermore, the President of Indonesia is also concerned about the negative impacts of climate change for the stability of the people of Indonesia. To that end, he enacted numerous regulations and decrees aiming to ensure the protection of the environment in Indonesia from the impacts of climate change, namely:
· Presidential Regulation No. 16 of 2015 on the Ministry of Environment and Forestry – Directorate General of Climate Change Control;
· Presidential Regulation No. 92 of 2020 on the Ministry of Environment and Forestry;
· Presidential Decree No. 92 of 1998 on the Ratification of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, Copenhagen, 1992 (Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, Copenhagen, 1992).
In conclusion, Indonesia has equipped itself with various laws and regulations concerning the environment protection and climate change mitigation and prevention measures. In comparison with other countries in the world, Indonesia is considered advance in institutionalizing the principles of environmental protection in its national legal system.
Increasing Frequency of Cyclones and Flooding Portends Worse Problems
Sixteen years ago on August 29th, hurricane Katrina struck the Louisiana coast causing widespread damage that was estimated at $125 billion. This year, by a remarkable coincidence, hurricane Ida hit on the same date, again August 29th. The weather service holds the end of August though the beginning of September as the period with the highest likelihood of tropical cyclones hitting the Louisiana coast. In light of this, perhaps the coincidence is not quite as uncanny.
While not as large as Katrina, hurricane Ida was more powerful with winds in excess of 150 miles per hour. That is in line with climate scientists who now believe extreme weather events will tend to increase in both severity and frequency unless something is done about global warming.
Another example has been the heat wave last June in the Pacific Northwest in which hundreds of people died. Canada set an all-time-high temperature record of 49.6 degrees Celsius in the village of Lytton. The chance of all this happening without human-induced global warming is about 1 in a 1000. However, the warming makes the event 150 times more likely.
Following Ida was hurricane Larry. Also powerful, it formed in the Atlantic but luckily for the Atlantic coast chose a path straight north. These recurring extreme weather events have caught the attention of scientists. Thus Myhre from the Center for Climate Research in Norway and his coauthors find a strong increase in frequency and confirm previously established intensity. They collected data for Europe over a three-decade period (1951-1980) and repeated the process for 1984-2013. This historical data also allowed them to develop climate models for the future, and, as one might imagine, the future is not rosy.
Expanding their horizon, the authors note that historical and future changes in Europe follow a similar pattern. This does not hold when including the US, Japan and Australia which are likely to experience bigger changes. Given intensity and frequency going hand in hand and also that the study considered natural variability alone, we can only dread the inclusion of human forcing through climate drivers like greenhouse gases.
For coastal residents, sea level rise adds to the hazard. Worse, it is now a problem for people several miles inland. In South Florida, drainage canals are used to return water to the ocean after storm and flooding events; the difficulty now lies in rising sea levels that hinder the efficiency of the drainage canals.
Residents as far away as 20 miles inland have noticed water coming up their driveway, a new and frightening portend of the future. The South Florida Water Management District oversees the canals. It raises and lowers the gates controlling flow to the ocean or vice versa. Thus they can open the gates to release flood water from storms to the ocean.
The problem now is that the ocean level in the Atlantic during some storms is higher than the water level inland so they cannot open the gates — that would simply bring in more water.
All of these happenings are clearly not a happy future prospect … unless we take global warming seriously and act soon.
Human activity the common link between disasters around the world
Disasters such as cyclones, floods, and droughts are more connected than we might think, and human activity is the common thread, a UN report released on Wednesday reveals.
The study from the UN University, the academic and research arm of the UN, looks at 10 different disasters that occurred in 2020 and 2021, and finds that, even though they occurred in very different locations and do not initially appear to have much in common, they are, in fact, interconnected.
A consequence of human influence
The study builds on the ground-breaking Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment released on 9 August, and based on improved data on historic heating, which showed that human influence has warmed the climate at a rate that is unprecedented in at least the last 2,000 years. António Guterres, the UN Secretary-General described the IPCC assessment as a “code red for humanity”.
Over the 2020-2021 period covered by the UN University, several record-breaking disasters took place, including the COVID-19 pandemic, a cold wave which crippled the US state of Texas, wildfires which destroyed almost 5 million acres of Amazon rainforest, and 9 heavy storms in Viet Nam – in the span of only 7 weeks.
Whilst these disasters occurred thousands of miles apart, the study shows how they are related to one another, and can have consequences for people living in distant places.
An example of this is the recent heatwave in the Arctic and cold wave in Texas. In 2020, the Arctic experienced unusually high air temperatures, and the second-lowest amount of sea ice cover on record.
This warm air destabilized the polar vortex, a spinning mass of cold air above the North Pole, allowing colder air to move southward into North America, contributing to the sub-zero temperatures in Texas, during which the power grid froze up, and 210 people died.
COVID and the Cyclone
Another example of the connections between disasters included in the study and the pandemic, is Cyclone Amphan, which struck the border region of India and Bangladesh.
In an area where almost 50 per cent of the population is living under the poverty line, the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns left many people without any way to make a living, including migrant workers who were forced to return to their home areas and were housed in cyclone shelters while under quarantine.
When the region was hit by Cyclone Amphan, many people, concerned over social distancing, hygiene and privacy, avoided the shelters and decided to weather the storm in unsecure locations. In the aftermath, there was a spike in COVID-19 cases, compounding the 100 fatalities directly caused by Amphan, which also caused damage in excess of 13 billion USD and displaced 4.9 million people.
The new report identifies three root causes that affected most of the events in the analysis: human-induced greenhouse gas emissions, insufficient disaster risk management, and undervaluing environmental costs and benefits in decision-making.
The first of these, human induced greenhouse gas emissions, is identified as one of the reasons why Texas experienced freezing temperatures, but these emissions also contribute to the formation of super cyclones such as Cyclone Amphan, on the other side of the world.
Insufficient disaster risk management, notes the study, was one of the reasons why Texas experienced such high losses of life and excessive infrastructure damage during the cold snap, and also contributed to the high losses caused by the Central Viet Nam floods.
The report also shows how the record rate of deforestation in the Amazon is linked to the high global demand for meat: this demand has led to an increase in the need for soy, which is used as animal feed for poultry. As a result, tracts of forest are being cut down.
“What we can learn from this report is that disasters we see happening around the world are much more interconnected than we may realize, and they are also connected to individual behaviour”, says one of the report’s authors, UNU scientist Jack O’Connor. “Our actions have consequences, for all of us,”
Solutions also linked
However, Mr. O’Connor is adamant that, just as the problems are interlinked, so are the solutions.
The report shows that cutting harmful greenhouse gas emissions can positively affect the outcome of many different types of disasters, prevent a further increase in the frequency and severity of hazards, and protect biodiversity and ecosystems.
Blue sky thinking: 5 things to know about air pollution
Around 90 per cent of people go through their daily lives breathing harmful polluted air, which has been described by the United Nations as the most important health issue of our time. To mark the first International Day of Clean Air for blue skies, on 7 September, UN News explains how bad it is and what is being done to tackle it.
1) Air pollution kills millions and harms the environment
It may have dropped from the top of news headlines in recent months, but air pollution remains a lethal danger to many: it precipitates conditions including heart disease, lung disease, lung cancer and strokes, and is estimated to cause one in nine of all premature deaths, around seven million every year.
Air pollution is also harming also harms our natural environment. It decreases the oxygen supply in our oceans, makes it harder for plants to grow, and contributes to climate change.
Yet, despite the damage it causes, there are worrying signs that air pollution is not seen as a priority in many countries: in the first ever assessment of air quality laws, released on 2 September by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), it was revealed that around 43 per cent of countries lack a legal definition for air pollution, and almost a third of them have yet to adopt legally mandated outdoor air quality standards.
2) The main causes
Five types of human activity are responsible for most air pollution: agriculture, transport, industry, waste and households.
Agricultural processes and livestock produce methane, an extremely powerful greenhouse gas, and a cause of asthma and other respiratory illnesses. Methane is also a by-product of waste burning, which emits other polluting toxins, which end up entering the food chain. Meanwhile industries release large amounts of carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, particulate matter and chemicals.
Transport continues to be responsible for the premature deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, despite the global phase out of dangerous leaded fuel at the end of August. This milestone was lauded by senior UN officials, including the Secretary-General, who said that it would prevent around one million premature deaths each year. However, vehicles continue to spew fine particulate matter, ozone, black carbon and nitrogen dioxide into the atmosphere; it’s estimated that treating health conditions caused by air pollution costs approximately $1 trillion per year globally.
Whilst it may not come as a great shock to learn that these activities are harmful to health and the environment, some people may be surprised to hear that households are responsible for around 4.3 million deaths each year. This is because many households burn open fires and use inefficient stoves inside homes, belching out toxic particulate matter, carbon monoxide, lead and mercury.
3) This is an urgent issue
The reason that the UN is ringing alarm bells about this issue now, is that the evidence of the effects of air pollution on humans is mounting. In recent years exposure to air pollution has been found to contribute to an increased risk of diabetes, dementia, impaired cognitive development and lower intelligence levels.
On top of this, we have known for years that it is linked to cardiovascular and respiratory disease.
Concern about this type of pollution dovetails with increased global action to tackle the climate crisis: this is an environmental issue as well as a health issue, and actions to clean up the skies would go a long way to reducing global warming. Other harmful environmental effects include depleted soil and waterways, endangered freshwater sources and lower crop yields.
4) Improving air quality is a responsibility of government and private sector
On International Day of Clean Air for blue skies, the UN is calling on governments to do more to cut air pollution and improve air quality.
Specific actions they could take include implementing integrated air quality and climate change policies; phasing out petrol and diesel cars; and committing to reduce emissions from the waste sector.
Businesses can also make a difference, by pledging to reduce and eventually eliminate waste; switching to low-emission or electric vehicles for their transport fleets; and find ways to cut emissions of air pollutants from their facilities and supply chains.
5)…and it is our responsibility, as well
At an individual level, as the harmful cost of household activities shows, a lot can be achieved if we change our behaviour.
Simple actions can include using public transportation, cycling or walking; reducing household waste and composting; eating less meat by switching to a plant-based diet; and conserving energy.
The Website for the International Day contains more ideas of actions that we can take, and how we can encourage our communities and cities to make changes that would contribute to cleaner skies: these include organizing tree-planting activities, raising awareness with events and exhibitions, and committing to expanding green open spaces.
How clean is your air?
You may well be wondering exactly how clean or dirty the air around you is right now. If so, take a look at a UNEP website which shows how exposed we are to air pollution, wherever we live.
The site indicates that more than five billion people, or around 70 per cent of the global population, are breathing air that is above the pollution limits recommended by the World Health Organization.
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