Research conducted by the Maritime Affairs and Fishery Ministry shows that Indonesia’s seas can absorb roughly 0.3 gigatons of carbon dioxide each year (300 million metric tons), far more than previous estimates of up to 40 million tons. Officials, however, declined to comment on whether Indonesia would promote the ocean as alternative resource in efforts to mitigate human-induced climate change.
“We are still focusing on adaptation measures,” Marine and Fishery Research Agency chief Gellwynn Jusuf told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday. The country’s first-ever research of carbon in oceans will be officially launched at the global ministerial meeting in Bali on Feb. 25. Environment ministers from 192 countries are slated to attend the four-day conference, organized by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).
Oceans will be one of the main issues discussed at the meeting, which will be opened by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Indonesia has 5.8 million square kilometers of seas. Gellwynn said the research did not include the capability of sea grass, mangroves or coral reefs to absorb the carbon. Data from the National Action Plan on climate change launched by President Yudhoyono in Bali in 2007 said the 61,000 square kilometers of coral reefs could absorb up to 73 million tons of the carbon dioxide, one of the main contributors to climate change.
The action plan says Indonesia’s 30.000 square kilometers of the sea grass could absorb up to 56 million tons of CO2, and 93,000 square kilometers of mangroves could absorb 75 million tons of carbon each year. The government, however, had not used data from the action plan in international talks on the oceans’ role in mitigating climate change.
Gellwynn said Indonesia and the UNEP would sign a memorandum of understanding on the blue carbon concept to help Jakarta develop oceanic research in relation to climate change. The Bali meeting is expected to issue the “ocean decision” that will mandate the UNEP to mainstream marine and coastal strategy into its program of work to help protect oceans from impacts of increasing global temperatures.
“If all ministers agree on the ocean declaration, the UNEP will promote the assessment of marine areas and ecosystems,” senior ministry official Hendra Yusran Siry said. People’s Coalition for Justice in Fisheries (Kiara) secretary-general Riza Damanik said the government must also take into account the amount of carbon released by oceans.
“The claim is incorrect if the government only calculates the capability of oceans to absorb carbon. Scientific research shows that oceans absorb and release carbon at the same time,” he told the Post. Most of the carbon absorbed by oceans is not the anthropogenic carbon that causes climate change, he said. “It is carbon from photosynthesis,” he said.