Making Climate Change an Election IssueSeptember 20, 2010 2:00 pm Reports
Climate change is not a hot issue in Indonesian elections, but it sure can become one. This archipelagic nation of 237, 6 million people (May 2010 census) has a general election for 560 seats in the national legislature and a presidential election every five years, the most recent being in 2009. In any given year, a local election for governor, mayor, or district chief can occur in Indonesia’s 33 provinces and 440 plus cities and districts. One upcoming local election is for mayor of the bustling city of Depok, 20 kilometers south of Jakarta, October 16 2010.
Education, health, jobs, and the environment are all campaign and public issues. And climate change is moving to take center stage in the environment platform.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has in fact made climate change a priority issue in his agenda. At the 13th annual United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Bali, December 2007, he put forth the Bali Road Map, to replace the Kyoto Protocol in 2012 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
In a statement before leaders of 20 advanced and emerging economies, the G-20, in Pittsburgh in September 2009, Yudhoyono declared that Indonesia will unilaterally reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26% by 2020.
More recently, in Oslo this May, President Yudhoyono and Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg witnessed their foreign ministers’ signing of a letter of intent whereby Norway would provide a USD 1 billion grant for Indonesia’s REDD+ program. REDD is Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation. Its objectives are sustainable management of forests and enhancement of carbon stocks. REDD+ goes further with conserving biodiversity and erasing rural poverty as added aims.
In turn, national and local NGOs have raised public awareness on the local impact of climate change. This has moved local governments to address local impact issues such as drought, flooding and uncertain weather patterns that cause harvest shortages of food crops from rice to red chili pepper.
Climate change workshops
In making the public, including politicians, more aware of climate change and making it a public issue particularly at the local level, the Dr. Soetomo Press Institute (Lembaga Pers Dr. Soetomo, LPDS), a Jakarta-based journalism school, held two workshops on covering climate change in August. The LPDS cooperated with UNESCO Jakarta in the workshops for local journalists in Palembang and Jambi, two cities in Sumatra island whose hinterland has large tracts of tropical rainforest and peat land. Deforestation and land use change are marked problems in this major island in Western Indonesia.
The participants heard a climatologist from the National Council on Climate change (DNPI) explain climate change impacts nationwide and the needed government policy to deal with them. They also listened to local environment NGOs showing real local impacts and possible local solutions.
The workshop journalists then reviewed local climate change reporting and exchanged thoughts on how best to cover the issue. They agreed that a climate change story should present what the problem is and what the solutions are. The report must be compelling and have impact. It must compel readers, viewers and listeners to be aware of the problem. It must explain the impact of climate change but must also move its audience to act and change things. One particular audience would be local authorities and politicians campaigning for public office. Change can start with change in an individual’s behavior and stretch to something big as government action.
A climate change issue could be linked to a specific ecosystem: the rainforest, swamp land, a small island. It could relate to lifestyles and livelihoods. It could promote a green enterprise. It could look at what women and children do. It could be a science story for the uninitiated. It could be on the politics of climate change at home and abroad.
Climate change reporting could explain adaptation and mitigation. Adaptation is the effort to adapt to uncertain weather patterns so as to avoid the risk of a greater impact on climate change. In the context of sustainable development, adaptation minimizes vulnerability caused by climate change.
Mitigation is reducing greenhouse gas emissions like carbon dioxide and methane to lower the level of global warming. In short, adaptation is action to reduce the impact of climate change and mitigation is the effort to reduce the source of the cause of global warming and climate change, Dr. Armi Susandi, the DNPI climatologist, explained. REDD is one mitigation program the government is pursuing. Meanwhile, rice farmers using seeds with a shorter growth period is an adaptation effort in dealing with shorter periods of rainfall.
A feature story on a forest hamlet with a population of 331 in Jambi province came under review. Edy Supriyadi, Jambi bureau chief of ANTARA, Indonesia’s national news agency, detailed how people in Lubuk Beringin hamlet used grass roots local wisdom to minimize climate change impact. They cut trees only after consultation, avoided growing crops on riverbanks and upland to prevent soil erosion, and used watermills on rivers for electricity.
This story is compelling in that it portrays a rural forest livelihood that practices adaptation and mitigation. Jambi environment NGO leader Rakhmat Hidayat commends Lubuk Beringin hamlet has a sustainable way of life other communities can adopt.
At the end of the workshop, the participating journalists got the challenge to report on a local climate change issue for a competition. By extension, the challenge also goes to local politicians to explain in their election campaign what they can do to manage the local impact of climate change.