In less than six months, the world’s third-largest democracy will hold elections to choose its next president. Whoever wins the game will play a great role (and carry a heavy burden) to lead Indonesia towards an environmentally-friendly future. At a time when impacts of the global climate crisis have begun to affect everyone around the world—especially archipelagic nations like Indonesia—the nation’s aspiring leaders should already have plans in place:concrete and actionable programmes to tackle the climate crisis.
Except, they don’t, really.
The three potential presidential candidates—Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo, former Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan, and Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto—have not yet developed a comprehensive response to this pressing issue. In fact, all three of them have infamously questionable track records related to environmental protection.
Ganjar was criticised heavily over the construction of an andesite mine in Wadas village, causing massive damages to the local ecosystem. In 2021, Anies was declared guilty and responsible for uncontrollable levels of air pollution due to excessive carbon emissions in Jakarta under his leadership. Prabowo was also criticised for the food estate project his ministry manages, which allegedly went on before an environmental impact analysis could be processed, opening up room for misuse of local land in various regions.
But why is it so important anyway?
We need to remember that the international community, including Indonesia, has vowed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. Based on the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, Indonesia has set its own nationally-determined contributions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 29% in 2030. Meanwhile, looking at our long-term objective, Indonesia aims to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2060 while simultaneously developing its industrialising economy to escape the middle income trap.
The 2024–2029 period would be extraordinarily crucial for Indonesia to catch up on its targets, namely in clean energy and climate action.
Therefore, the upcoming 2024 elections would be the prime momentum for Ganjar, Anies, and Prabowo to demonstrate and deliver their environmental commitments for the Indonesian people and the world. Whatever economic plan the three of them have in mind, maximising economic growth by utilising Indonesia’s full potential should ideally take into consideration the best sustainable practices so that our economic prosperity does not come at an expensive price of further ecological destruction.
Currently, President Joko Widodo’s government is trying to quickly develop the electric vehicle (EV) industry in Indonesia, driven by rising international demands for increased EV production. The country has the largest nickel reserve in the world, a critical component in EV battery production and Indonesia’s “ticket” to climb the global value chain. The Jokowi administration argues that EVs could significantly contribute to Indonesia’s economic growth as well as reducing carbon emissions from fossil fuel-based cars and motorcycles.
While both arguments are valid, the problem with EVs is their energy source. As Indonesia becomes more and more industrialised, its energy consumption would also increase, and as of 2023, around 61% of the country’s electricity production relies on a non-renewable source: coal power. If the present situation continues, it would be very bad news for our human lungs. Already, citizens of urban areas such as Jakarta and those living near coal power plants have suffered the effects of dangerous air pollution levels.
As such, the nationwide transition to clean, renewable energy must be prioritised by the future government. And we could assume that this agenda may be hindered if certain candidates already have vested business interests in the non-renewable energy sector, especially coal mining.
While holding the G20 presidency in 2022, Indonesia and several partner countries, including the United States and Japan, launched the “Just Energy Transition Partnership” (JETP). This $20 billion investment package aims to help Indonesia pursue reduction in carbon emissions, especially in the power sector by expanding renewable energy sources. With such significant international attention centred on Indonesia, whoever becomes the next president must understand and deliver timely policies for clean energy transition.
International cooperation to combat the climate crisis is also necessary to undertake. Amidst rising global geopolitical tensions, Indonesia’s next president has to play their cards right to bring nations together in productive collaboration for our planet while also guaranteeing the safety of our own national interests. Indonesia also has the responsibility and influence on the international stage to represent the voices of people who are most affected by the devastating impacts of climate change, especially developing countries in the Global South.
Our next president must take action accordingly as the leader of a responsible middle power.
It’s important to note that electoral contests in democratic countries work on the principle of supply-and-demand. When there’s sufficient demand from the public for certain policies, there would be a supply of political candidates who seek to fulfil those demands—in theory, anyway. This means that looking ahead, the Indonesian civil society must be able to create that much demand, one that could no longer be ignored, so that our political elites would be motivated to provide a “supply” of climate-friendly policies prior to the 2024 elections.
We have only less than six months to constantly and consistently pressure our presidential candidates and political parties to further elaborate their commitment for the climate, for the sake of our own future.