Posted by: Hendra Siry | 10 October, 2009

Development comes first for Indonesia

Agus Purnomo, the country’s head delegate at the Bangkok climate talks, says development must take priority over climate concerns.

Indonesia will prioritise development over “exaggerated” environmental fears, says the leader of the country’s delegation at the Bangkok Climate Change Talks.

“It is not fair for developing countries to comply with the environmental issues raised by the developed nations, while we are still struggling to uplift the living standards of our people,” Agus Purnomo, the head of the Indonesian delegation at the talks, told the Bangkok Post.

Issues such as emissions and deforestation are being pushed by developed nations without considering developing nations’ needs, he said.

Mr Purnomo, also the head of the Secretariat at the National Council on Climate Change for Indonesia, said the developing world was unlikely to accept industrialised nations’ proposals, which could hamper the summit in Copenhagen in December.

“There are efforts to push the agenda of the developed countries and that is why G77 countries walked out,” he said.

Senior G77 members walked out of a meeting on Wednesday at the Bangkok talks, saying they would not discuss a future without the Kyoto Protocol, which binds 37 industrialised nations to emissions targets from 2008-12. Negotiators have been wrestling over extending Kyoto from 2013, amending the pact or creating a new one.

For developing nations, the paramount issue will be improving living standard while having consideration for the environment, he said.

“We are going to build power generating facilities in the near future as millions of people in my country do not have access to power,” he said.

Indonesia would like to use clean technology but needs developed nations to give technology without costly patents.

Indonesia has committed to cutting its emissions by 26% by 2020 but it is still working out how, he said.

Indonesia has abundant coal resources for power plants and is seeking how to tap this, he added.

“If you look at geo-thermal capacity being utilised in our country, I would say only about 4-5% is being tapped, we have a lot more to do but the economic crisis is taking a toll and once we get over this we would surely try to build more,” he said.

Indonesia has also started a feasibility study for nuclear energy, he said. “We have had nuclear research centres in various cities for more than three decades but to build a power plant would require the support from the people which is going to be slightly difficult,” he said.

Mr Purnomo reacted with apparent unease when asked to comment on Indonesia being identified by several standards as one of the world’s leading polluters. He said he did not know what measures were being applied – because the country is not even in the top ten by emissions per capita.

“Countries such as China, India and Indonesia would need to give priority to what we call sustainable development, whereby we have to care for our people while remaining environmentally friendly,” he said.

In his view, issues such as palm oil plantations and deforestation are being blown out of proportion.

“There are millions of hectares of forest land that have been allocated for plantation and there are about 20 million hectares of land that are degraded forest that can be used for palm oil plantation,” he said.

Degraded forests are forests that have been cleared earlier or have undergone a few cycles of logging, he said. “There are only about 4 million hectares of land being used for palm oil production and 20 million more hectares can be used apart from the other land area that has been granted for this purpose.”

Non-governmental organisations such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth have pushed hard to halt deforestation for palm oil.

Indonesia has 88 million hectares of forest land and one of the world’s highest proportions of forest – about 30% of its land mass, according to the Food & Agriculture Organisation.

Indonesia is protecting biodiversity, which is why no primary forest, or so-called “standing forest”, is being given over to any kind of cultivation, he said.

“All this is a clear indication that the claims made by certain groups are exaggerated,” he said.

Indonesia also wants to push the issue of marine and ocean life at the climate summit. Many countries are supporting the move as per the “Manado Ocean Declaration”, said Eddy Pratomo, Indonesia’s ambassador to Germany.

As a coastal nation, Indonesia must take the initiative on the issue, he said.

But ocean- and marine-related climate change issues are among 199 pages of items being negotiated by Indonesia at the climate summit. “Despite the overwhelming support for this move, it is hostage to the other issues that Indonesia is negotiating,” said Mr Pratomo.

Source: Bangkok Post

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