More alarming reports on climate change as policymakers geared up to meet in Bali

Updated On: Nov 20, 2007

The red flags have been raised. 

The latest report issued by the United Nations Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) called for “resolute” action by governments to do more to fight global warming or face dire consequences.  Perhaps after being criticized by several environmentalists for being over-cautious in the past, the IPCC is now issuing its strongest ever document calling for urgent action or face “a hot, harsh world” of widespread hunger, disease, frequent droughts and floods and extinction of up to 70% of plant and animal species. 

This latest report will guide policymakers in Bali when they meet in December for the 13th UN Climate Change Conference to discuss a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol and a whole host of environment issues.  Environmental groups and activists are all geared up to put their mark in fighting climate change even before the conference.

Outside Indonesia, many external players are monitoring the country’s environmental record and activities with great activism. A tanker MT Westama loaded with more than 30,000 tons of palm oil forced its way out of an Indonesian port after a nine-hour stand off with the Greenpeace’ Rainbow Warrior. 

The whole purpose of this Greenpeace exercise to blockade the ship carrying palm oil is to call for the Indonesian government to implement a moratorium on deforestation and peatland destruction.  What Greenpeace have done it to anchor its flagship carrier at the berth to stop the oil palm tanker from leaving the harbour.  Sue Connor, Greenpeace's international forest campaigner told the AFP. "We're here and we're not allowing it to leave." "The harbour master asked us to leave and we said no... The ship is sitting low in the water so it's close to being loaded and ready to leave," she said of the tanker, which has not attempted to leave port.

However, it soon became clear that Greenpeace efforts were not sustainable as the palm oil carrier managed to pierce through the blockade. "The Westama pushed us away and forced their way out," Greenpeace's Sue Connor said. "They tried to leave at midnight after they finished loading. We tried to hold them off as long as possible."  Connor said the protest aimed to highlight the role palm oil plays in driving global deforestation and peatland destruction, major contributors to climate change.

Internally, different forces are at work in Indonesia over the issue of environmentalism. Vice Chairman of the North Sumatra Legislative Assembly H Hasbullah Hadi said the acquittal of illegal logger Adelin Lis of all charges was the result of a conspiracy between the authorities (power elite) and entrepreneurs. (Adelin Lis was an ex-convict in an illegal logging case in Mandailing Natal district, North Sumatraprovince.) "It`s an undeniable fact that Adelin`s acquittal was the result of a conspiracy between the authorities and businessman and the work of a judicial mafia, " he said when receiving tens of environment observers at his office here on Wednesday.

Hadi was not alone. Earlier, chairman of the People`s Consultative Assembly (MPR) Hidayat Nurwahid deplored the fact in this country that the trial of logger Adelin Lis, who had caused the state to suffer big losses, was later acquitted of all charges leveled against him. According to him, Adelin`s acquittal raised questions as the illegal logger deserved severe punishment. Unless KKN practices in this country was seriously eradicated, it was feared that criminals involved in KKN would be undaunted, he said. "I am very sad to learn that the suspect of illegal logging later walked out free from the court," he said.

According to the Indonesian media, a panel of judges at the Medan District Court chaired by Arwan Bryrin SH on November 5 acquitted the financial manager of PT Keang Nam Development Indonesia (KNDI) of all of the prosecutor`s demand for a 10 year jail term with a Rp1 billion fine. The judges` consideration was based on no evidence recounting his involvement in committing illegal logging activity, as Adelin was proven to have contributed to the exploitation of forests (PSDH) and the Regreening Fund.

Outside IndonesiaIndonesia’s fight goes on to make the world pay for its environmental needs. Indonesia proposed that OPEC oil exporting nations contribute 50 US cents from every barrel of oil sold in to the proposed "Oil for Forests" fund to protect forests. Addressing fellow leaders from the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries at the Riyadh summit, Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla pushed a development and environmental agenda.

"If these countries can set aside a certain amount of the price per barrel of oil... and devote the fund to manage forests in a sustainable way, we will certainly have a better environment," he was quoted as saying by AFP. Kalla also suggested a fund called "Oil for education" that would invest in education to raise skills and technological progress in developing countries. "We should seriously consider programmes designed to ease the burden of oil price increases in the developing countries in general," he said.

Because of the international environmental event in Indonesia, even its neighbours are under intense scrutiny for their environmental record. For example, a recent study Carbon Monitoring for Action (Carma) compiled by a US think-tank, the Centre for Global Development, has found Australia to be the world's worst polluter per capita, making it a test case example of how developed countries can pollute more than emerging economies.

The study of the world's power stations said Australia produced more than five times as much carbon per capita - 10 tonnes - from power generation as China, while the United States came second with eight tonnes, 16 times more than that produced by India. The Carma website is the first global inventory of emissions and looks at 50,000 power stations. 'The experience of people in the environmental field has been that supplying the public and markets with information that they did not have has often led to improvements in environmental quality,' Centre for Global Development research assistant Kevin Ummel said. 'There is no reason why this could not happen for carbon emissions.'

He said that the data for power stations in the USCanadaEurope and India came from official verified reports. The figures were derived by taking factors such as fuel type, size, age and various other technical specifications into account. 'It turns out that if you have this information, then you can predict emissions from the plants with a high degree of certainty,' Mr Ummel said. 'Carma is built from a massive database provided by private sector (organisations). It includes every type of fuel and it includes power plants of almost any size. 'We do not push a particular agenda or outcome. In fact, we are very interested to see how people choose to use the data.'

However, in December 2007, the bulk of world attention is more likely to be focused on the two rising giants in Asia – India and China. The average global temperature will rise to a devastating level by 2030 if China and India do not begin curbing energy use and carbon emissions immediately, officials of the International Energy Agency predicted. Speaking at the World Energy Congress, the officials noted that 60 percent of the global increase in emissions from 2005 to 2030 would come from India and China. By next year, China will overtake the United States as the leader in carbon emissions, the agency predicts; some studies suggest that this has already occurred.

Citing a World Energy Outlook from the agency last week, the officials said that if current development trends continued unchanged, total carbon emissions would rise by 57 percent by 2030, leading to a global temperature increase of 6 degrees Celsius, or 10.8 degrees  Fahrenheit, by 2030. The agency officials said that by 2015, China, the United States and India would be ranked 1, 2 and 3 respectively in global emissions, accounting for more than  half of the world's total, the officials said. "So without moving these three countries, we should expect no realistic results in reducing emissions," said Fatih Birol, chief economist of the agency and the report's chief author.

Another report by a coalition of environmental and humanitarian groups entitled “Up in Smoke?” warned that decades of progress in Asia could be reversed by worsening weather and higher sea levels caused by climate change.  The report also calls for richer countries to commit to make mandatory cuts in greenhouse gases and do more to provide green technologies to the developing world.  It also calls for more financial resources to help communities cope with global warming. (19 November 2007)


Climate change could reverse decades of progress in Asia (Straits Times Interactive, 19 November 2007)

Indonesia proposes OPEC oil fund for forests (Antara, 18 November 2007)

Climate change panel raises red flags (Straits Times, 18 November 2007)

A stark vision of a hot, harsh world (Today, 18 November 2007)

Greenpeace tanker blockade fails in Indonesia (AFP, 17 November 2007)

Greenpeace blockades palm oil ship in Indonesia (AFP, 16 November 2007)

Australia world's worst polluter per capita (Straits Times, 16 November 2007)

Illegal logger Adelin`s acquittal results of conspiracy: Lawmaker (Antara, 15 November 2007)

Dire climate warning linked to China and India (IHT, 15 November 2007)