The demand for climate justice

Down to Earth No.83, December 2009

Despite urgent calls for action from civil society, climate scientists and governments of some of the most vulnerable countries, the pace of progress towards a new international climate deal has been frustratingly slow.

Copenhagen's climate summit in December is now set to achieve at most a 'political agreement' rather than a binding treaty to secure the deep emissions cuts that are required to avoid runaway climate change. Nevertheless, demands for climate justice continue to be made loud and clear.

In the final days leading up to the UNFCCC COP 15 in Copenhagen the USA, China and India all made announcements on their targets to reduce CO2 emissions. The US government announced a provisional cut of 17% on 2005 levels by 2020 and 85% by 2050. This was followed by China, which committed to a 40-45% reduction in carbon intensity levels compared with 2005.1 India then said it would reduce its carbon intensity by 20-25%, against 2005 levels by 2020, and do more if an equitable deal was reached at Copenhagen.2

Previously Japan had announced a target of a 20% cut against 1990 levels, dependent on an agreement in Copenhagen involving all major emitters.3 The EU target of 20-30% by 2020 was announced in December 2008.4

For the climate justice movement, the cuts proposed by the industrialised countries do not go far enough. Moreover, the fact that countries are proposing to meet a significant part of their cuts through offsetting emissions in developing countries through market mechanisms is considered deeply unjust. The same goes for the low level of funding offered for adaptation in poor countries and the fact that the richer nations want the distrusted World Bank to house these resources, rather than the UNFCCC.5


Indonesia's emissions reductions targets

In 2008, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) announced that Indonesia would reduce carbon emissions from deforestation by 50% this year 75% by 2012 and 95% by 2025.6

In September this year, the newly re-elected president told a G20 meeting in Pittsburgh that Indonesia plans to cut emissions by 26% by 2020 against business as usual scenarios and that, with international support, cuts could be as high as 41%.

SBY also told G20 leaders that Indonesia was "looking into the distinct possibility to commit a billion tons of CO2 reduction by 2050 from BAU [Business as Usual]" and that Indonesia would change the status of its forests "from that of a net emitter sector to a net sink sector by 2030".7

Indonesian organisations reacted to the most recent statement by calling on the government to spell out how it would reach these targets. Joko Arief of Greenpeace Indonesia pointed out that the government was failing to deal with the fires currently burning in the country, while Teguh Surya of WALHI said SBY should be careful when calling for international support "because it could lead to shifting responsibility for deeper cuts in emissions from developed countries to developing countries", adding that SBY had made many commitments to targets that had not been reached.

On November 21, hundreds of Greenpeace supporters marched in Jakarta in support of the 41% emissions cut. They unfurled a banned saying "Stop talking, start acting: save the forests for our future".8

Indonesia is the third biggest greenhouse gas emitter by country.9 Most of the country's emissions are caused by the destruction of peatlands and forests for plantation crops such as oil palm and pulpwood aimed at supplying lucrative export markets and consumers in rich countries.

A letter addressed to President SBY from a broad group of environmental and human rights CSOs in Indonesia warned that Indonesia's emissions reductions must not become a way for richer countries to offset their own emissions. The letter said:

"For a long time, we have witnessed how Indonesia has been a supplier of raw materials for industry and of fossil fuels for industrialised nations which squander energy. Business as usual practices have resulted in the critical condition of Indonesia's forests, caused primarily by the conversion of natural forests into oil palm and paper pulp plantations, as well as mining and gas projects. This exploitation has been carried out without the consent or the prior knowledge of indigenous peoples and local communities. Such practices have often removed communities from their land and impoverished them..."10

The letter listed a number of legal and policy measures that need addressing if Indonesia is serious about reducing its emissions. These include the need to:

  • withdraw Agriculture Ministerial Regulation No 14/Permentan/PL.110/2/2009, Regarding Guidance on the Use of Peatland for Oil Palm Cultivation, because the conversion of peatland is the biggest source of carbon emissions in Indonesia.
  • cancel Forestry Ministry policies related to converting natural forest and peatlands for large-scale industrial use
  • review Forestry Ministry policies that create opportunities for offsetting, through market-based schemes, including
    • P 68/Menhut-II/2008 on the Implementation of Demonstration Activities to Reduce Carbon Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation,
    • Forestry Ministerial Regulation No.30/Menhut-II/2009 Regarding Implementation Procedures for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation,
    • Forestry Ministerial Regulation No.36/Menhut-II/2009 Regarding Licensing Procedures for Carbon sequestration and/or Carbon Storage Projects in Production and Protected Forests,
    since these provide significant offset opportunities for industrialised countries.
  • ensure that Law No.26, 2007 on Spatial Planning produces a National Spatial Plan in 2009 that includes guarantees of reduced environmental vulnerability to climate change, protection of people's rights and the repair of damage to the environment.
  • issue a Presidential decree to protect and rehabilitate peatland ecosystems.
  • implement the recommendations of the United Nations Committee to Eliminate Racial Discrimination (CERD/C/IDN/CO/3, 15 August 2007).
  • start preparing draft laws on the rights of Indigenous Peoples.
  • start a transparent and participative process to review policies in the large-scale forestry, plantation, agricultural, mining and energy sectors, which contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, and which increase the vulnerability of the environment and of the population to the impacts of climate change.
  • confirm the protection of women as set out in the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), not only because women are considered a vulnerable group but also because women have an important role to play in mitigation and adaptation efforts.
  • review the policy to build coal power plants. Indonesia must reduce its role as global supplier of industrial raw materials and fossil fuels by reforming its pattern of energy production and consumption. As a matter of urgency, it should consider developing decentralised, renewable energy.

Indonesia's Civil Society Forum for Climate Justice (CSF) also wrote to President SBY and the National Climate Change Council (DNPI), to protest against the lack of transparency in the way the Council drafts its policies, strategy, programmes and activities related to tackling climate change. A November letter pointed out the low priority given to climate change and the environment in the president's programme for the first 100 days of his new term in office and urged him and the Council to push for a deal based on the HELP principles (see page 3), rather than carbon trading. The letter called for the Clause 3(c) of Presidential regulation No 46, 2008 (which established the DNPI) to be deleted. This states that one of the tasks of the DNPI is to "draft policies to regulate mechanisms and management of carbon trading".11

In August this year the National Climate Change Council (DNPI) had issued a draft report spelling out current emissions and how business as usual scenarios could be cut in future (see box next page). However, the DNPI and Indonesia's forestry ministry have been careful to point out that these are not being presented as the country's official targets at international negotiations.12

Greenpeace stages Kampar Peninsula direct action

In October, Greenpeace opened its "Climate Defenders Camp" in the Kampar Peninsula, in Riau, Sumatra, to highlight the destruction of its peatland forests for paper. The action prompted a police operation which attempted to close down the camp, involving arrests of Greenpeace activists and the deportation of 13 foreign protesters and two independent journalists.

Greenpeace points out that the Kampar Peninsula is one of the largest carbon stores in the world with peat up to 15 metres deep, holding over 2 gigatonnes of greenhouse gases. It is also an area targeted for a REDD scheme by pulp and paper company Asia Pacific Resources International Holding Limited APRIL)

Indonesia's Forest Minister, Zulkifli Hasan, has now ordered APRIL to halt its forest clearing activities on Kampar, pending a review of their permits.

"Greenpeace expects the Forest Minister to do a comprehensive review of all the existing permits and concessions for pulp and paper companies in the Kampar Peninsula. The main players in the destruction of these precious peatlands are the pulp and paper giants - Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) and its main rival, Asia Pacific Resources International Holding Limited (APRIL). Combined they control 73% of Indonesia's total pulp capacity and own two of the world's largest pulp mills," said Bustar Maitar, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Forest campaigner. (See


Short film on Kampar

A 14-minute film called Eyes on the Kampar Peninsula is one of a set of four films by Life Mosaic prepared for Copenhagen. To view these go to


New Report on Kampar & community rights

The UK-based Forest Peoples Programme and Riau-based Scale-Up have produced an update on private sector proposals to develop plantation, conservation and REDD schemes on the Kampar Peninsula. The report highlights how the rights and views of communities have not been given priority in these plans. The groups recommend rights-based approaches and dialogue between affected rights holders and other parties to avoid conflict and promote sustainable forest and climate schemes. Surveys by Scale Up indicate that 33,000 people depend on the Kampar Peninsula's forests for their livelihoods. (See, REDD-Monitor and at for more background.)




1 Carbon intensity means cutting the amount of CO2 emitted per unit of economic growth. This means that China's emissions will continue to grow, but at a reduced rate.
2 New York Times, Asia Pacific 3/Dec/09 via, [accessed 4/Dec/09]
10 Guardian 7/Sep/09 at
4 See DTE 80-81
5 For further background on these issues see DTE 80-81
6 See The Jakarta Globe 27/Sep/09
7 Intervention by H.E.Dr. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, President of the Republic of Indonesia (On Climate Change at the G20 Leaders Summit, 25 September 2009, Pittsburgh). Available on [accessed 4/Dec/09]
9 See DTE 74 for background. The per capita ranking from the consumption and flaring of fossil fuels 1980-2006 is 22nd - see
10 Open letter from Indonesian Civil Society Organisations, 19th October 2009 [DTE translation]
11 See
Peraturan Presiden 46/2008 Clause 3(c) The letter from CSF is dated 16/Nov/09 and can be downloaded in Indonesia from CSF's website via 12 See The Jakarta Globe 10/Sep/09