Vice-presidential debate shows no commitment to overcoming climate crisis: Greenpeace

CNN Indonesia – January 22, 2024
VP candidates Mahfud MD, Muhaimin Iskandar and Gibran Rakabuming Raka – Undated (BBC)

Jakarta – Greenpeace Indonesia says it regrets that the vice presidential debate on Sunday January 21 did not show any commitment on the part of the three presidential tickets running in the 2024 elections to overcome the climate crisis.

According to Greenpeace, the vice presidential candidates (cawapres) failed to identify the main cause of the climate crisis, namely the conversion of land and the energy sector through the massive use of coal.

"From the debate last night, we witnessed that the extractive economy still characterises the vision of the presidential and vice presidential candidate tickets", said Greenpeace Indonesia head Leonard Simanjuntak as quoted in a press release on Monday January 22.

Simanjuntak is of the view that vice presidential candidate Gibran Rakabuming Raka – who is President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's eldest son – echoed the government's extractive economy policy through nickel and downstream issues, while the other two candidates, National Awakening Party (PKB) Chairperson Muhaimin Iskandar and Security Minister Mahfud MD, also did not firmly declare a commitment to exit this pattern.

Simanjuntak said that the government's extractive economy has triggered many problems ranging from an imbalance of control and land utilisation, which that has gave birth to agrarian conflicts by expropriating the rights of indigenous, local and coastal peoples, to damaging forests and peatlands, polluting the environment and worsening the climate crisis.

On the issue of agrarian reform, said Simanjuntak, the vice presidential candidates did not discuss a resolution to agrarian conflicts due to investments being designated as National Strategic Project (PSN). Rakabuming Raka and Mahfud for example, limited their discussion to certification plans and land redistribution without touching the root of the problem.

Simanjuntak quoted from Agrarian Reform Consortium (KPA) data which revealed that there had been 42 agrarian conflicts in 2023 due to PSN, a steep rise compared with the previous year. These conflicts covered some 516,409 hectares of land and impacted on more than 85 thousand families.

"The three cawapres also promised to protect indigenous communities and indigenous areas, including by ratifying the Draft Law on Indigenous Communities. These kinds of promises are always delivered from election to election, but political reluctance by the elected president and the political parties supporting him has so far illustrated that recognising and protecting indigenous communities is nothing more than rhetoric", he said.

"Without revoking the Job Creation Law and stopping PSNs that appropriate indigenous communities' land, this pledge is just empty talk", he added.

Simanjuntak added that indigenous communities' living space continues to be eroded by land clearing and deforestation. According to Simanjuntak, Iskandar's statement on reforestation to overcome deforestation does not answer the problem.

Forest damage due to deforestation, including what happened at the Mount Mas food estate in Central Kalimantan, cannot be all of a sudden taken care of by replanting.

"The restoration of forests that are damaged through reforestation must indeed be done. However, the most crucial thing is actually to stop the deforestation", said Simanjuntak.

Referring to data from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (KLHK), between 2015 and 2022 the deforestation rate reached 3.1 million hectares. Planned deforestation also threatens the 34 million hectares of remaining natural forest in Papua (as of 2022).

Between 1992 and 2019, continued Simanjuntak, there were 72 directives on the release of forest areas in Papua issued by the KLHK. The total release of forest areas referred to cover an area of 1.5 million hectares and 1.1 million hectares including areas that are still in the form of natural forest and peatland.

In addition to this, forest and peatlands fires still occur every year. In 2023, the figure for land and forest fires reached 1.16 million hectares. "But unfortunately this was left out in the cawapres debate discussion", he said.

"They did indeed touch on coastal and fisher communities, but they did not spell out the agenda for mitigation and climate adaptation or how residents living in coastal areas and small islands are being increasingly squeezed by the impact of the climate crisis", he said. (ryn/tsa)

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Greenpeace Nilai Debat Cawapres Nihil Komitmen atasi Krisis Iklim".]