Climate Justice in Indonesia

Climate Justice in Indonesia


  • Women and children are among the highest risk groups
  • Extreme weather and water scarcity impact poverty rates, nutritional status, loss of forest and biodiversity


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) continues to show that as the impacts of climate change accelerate, extreme weather events are taking a major toll in developing countries. Indonesia is not an exception to these climatic changes and thereby it impacts the people, society, and economy of Indonesia. These impacts of climate change are felt across multiple sectors and regions of Indonesia and could cost between 2.5–7% of the country’s GDP, with the poorest bearing the brunt of this burden.

The World Bank (‘Indonesia Climate Risk Country Profile’) reported that Indonesia is ranked in the top third of countries in terms of climate risk, with high exposure to all types of flooding, and extreme heat. The intensity of these hazards is expected to grow as the climate changes.

Women and children are among the highest risk groups, impacted by climate change. Key factors that account for the differences between women’s and men’s vulnerability to climate change risks include gender-based differences in time use; access to assets and credit, treatment by formal institutions, which can constrain women’s opportunities, limited access to policy discussions and decision making, and a lack of sex-disaggregated data for policy change.

Hence, there has been a growing need to focus on climate justice, which would help policy-makers to look at the climate crisis through a human rights lens and on the belief that by working together we, ‘society-as-a whole’ could create a better future for the present and future generations.

The federal government of Indonesia has been promoting such inclusive policies for addressing climate change. For instance, Indonesia’s constitution (UUD 1945, Article 28 H) emphasizes the state obligation to guarantee decent life and a healthy environment for all citizens. Furthermore, Indonesia’s commitment to the Paris Agreement has been translated into the ratification of the Paris Agreement with the highest regulatory instrument (Law No. 16/2016). Indonesia has also provided detailed road maps as the basis for the implementation of NDC and designed/submitted the long-term strategy on low carbon and climate resilience (LTS-LCCR) to UNFCCC.

These policies play a central role in aligning the climate goals and targets with national, sub-national, and international objectives including SDGs. In addition, the LTS-LCCR is also positioned as a tool for strengthening the vision of ‘One Hundred Years Indonesia’ (Visi Indonesia 2045) towards a developed and prosperous Indonesia based on its four following pillars: human resource development and science and technology advancement; sustainable economic development; equitable development, and, strengthening national resilience and public sector governance.

This would need a significant amount of climate finance, around 3% of Indonesia’s GDP (amounting to US$35 Billion). Unfortunately, the financing strategy for climate mitigation and adaptation in Indonesia is currently at the preliminary stage of development.

While finalizing the implementation roadmap and mobilizing financing, therefore, policy-makers need to layout emphasis on adopting a justice-based approach to the development of ‘just’ adaptation policies by using a framework, which encompasses vulnerability, social recognition, and public participation in policy responses. Such an approach can be instrumental in engaging multiple stakeholders (at national, sub-national and community level), and to develop priorities for adaptation policy. It addresses both individual and community-level vulnerabilities and acknowledges that the attributes of climate justice depend on collaboration, inclusiveness and integrated planning.

The challenge for Indonesia is to create appropriate and effective adaptation strategies to address climate change and its impacts by building resilience, resistance, and climate-just societies. Collaborative action and partnership need to take place at all levels; from international, to national, sub-national to local and community-based efforts. Climate change and environmental crisis is a new ‘reality’ and the world and society have a responsibility to act now!

Extreme Weather and Water Scarcity

According to a report of  the World Wildlife Federation (WWF), the mean annual temperature of Indonesia has increased by about 0.3°C, whereas, the overall annual precipitation has decreased by 2 to 3%.  Notably, the rainfall patterns of Indonesia have changed; and, there has been a decline in annual rainfall, particularly, in the southern regions of Indonesia, whereas, there is an increase in rainfall in the northern regions. For instance, parts of Sumatra and Borneo are becoming 10 to 30% wetter during December-February; whereas, Jakarta is projected to become 5 to 15% drier during June-August. A 30-days delay within the annual monsoon is additionally reported, followed by an 8 to 10 percentage increase in rainfall later in the crop year (April-June), and up to 75% decrease in rainfall in the dry season.

Global warming of 2˚C (and, potentially 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052, if it continues to increase at the current rate) would put a larger fraction of Indonesia’s population at risk of undernourishment, acute poverty, displacement, loss of forest and biodiversity. While decadal economic growth has led to a reduction in poverty in recent decades, with the poverty rate quartering from 24% in 1999 to 9.78% in 2020, high population density in hazard-prone areas, coupled with a strong dependence on the country’s natural resource base, make Indonesia vulnerable to the projected climate variability and climate change.

Stronger and frequent El Niño events exacerbate drying and flooding trends in Indonesia. It also leads to decreased food production and increased hunger. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) reported that the delayed monsoon coupled with increase in temperature (beyond 2.5°C), adversely affects rice yields and incurs a loss in farm-level net revenue of 9 to 25% and subsequently triggers forest fires.

The risks of fire and associated air quality impacts (haze) were underscored by the severe forest and peatland fires of 2015, which cost the national economy an estimated $16 billion in lost productivity, and resulted in an estimated 90,600 excess deaths (smoke-related mortality). Such events also make very significant contributions to global greenhouse gas emissions.

The vulnerable segments of Indonesian society would be worst affected by climate change. From the demographic point of view, the marginalized population of areas such as Java, Bali, East Nusa Tenggara, and parts of Sulawesi experience water deficits, heightened in part by water pollution. Poorer farmers and communities are least able to afford local water storage, irrigation infrastructure, and technologies for adaptation, but they often cultivate lands most vulnerable to drought and anomalous weather events.

Climate modelling points to increased water scarcity in Indonesia over the next decades. Indonesia reported in its Second National Communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC, 2010) that 14% of its 453 districts record no months of surplus water. By 2025, this is projected to increase to 20% by 2025, and by 31% by 2050.

In addition to water scarcity, saltwater intrusion is an issue facing Indonesia’s water resources. This is currently experienced along Indonesia’s coastline and is exacerbated by factors including land subsidence, sea-level rise, and groundwater exploitation. Sea level rise driven by climate change will likely result in greater saltwater intrusion over the next century.

Climate-induced droughts and water pollution have depleted the Indonesian fisheries industries, which represent a key component of the Indonesian economy, a major employer, and a significant contributor to national and global food security. By tonnage, in 2017-18, Indonesia represented the world’s second-largest capture fish producer and its third-largest fish farming (aquaculture) producer.

Regarding the impacts of climate change on Indonesia’s fisheries, some models suggest climate change could lead to around a 13% to 29% decrease in total fisheries catch potential in Indonesian waters by 2050, depending on the emissions scenario. These rise to 18% and 63% respectively by the end of the century.

Indonesia harbours some of the world’s richest terrestrial biodiversity but over the past two decades its species, many of which are endemic to its islands, have come under increasing pressure from human development. Between 2000 and 2020 an estimated 6 million hectares of primary forest cover was lost (equivalent to just over 3% of national land area), around 40% of which took place within areas with designated protections.

Studies in different settings show primary forest degradation and conversion (often into palm oil plantations) resulting in declines in species richness up to or above 50%. Species loss is not restricted to Indonesia’s terrestrial space, rare species in the coastal zone, such as mangroves and seagrasses are also under threat, as well as many other marine species.

Future climate scenarios are expected to have adverse impacts on agricultural production and are also likely to impact food prices. For example, food prices could increase if there is widespread harvest failure resulting from unusual, extreme climate conditions. The poor in Indonesia is particularly vulnerable to food price rises, theoretical modelling shows a 100% increase in food prices would increase the number of Indonesians in extreme poverty by more than 25%. Poorer households in Indonesia are much less likely to take adaptive measures and plan for longer-term horizons than wealthier households, making them more exposed to environmental shocks and disasters.

The world is now worse off now due to COVID, climate, and conflict. These are the greatest challenges humanity has ever known, and the next few years are our last best chance to keep the extent of climate change and our vulnerability to its effects within manageable bounds.

This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard Indonesia Country Manager Keshav Das


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