Getting the ‘Green’ Future That We Want

By Fidelis E. Satriastanti on 04:20 pm Jul 05, 2012
Category Blogs, Globe Beat

Activists staging theatrical action in front of the Ministry of Finance, Jakarta, June 19, 2012. The demonstration is addressing the meeting of G-20 and the Rio +20 ‘green economy and green growth’ agendas that are considered to benefit corporations and international financial institutions. (JG Photo/Safir Makki).

It did not really come as a surprise when my colleagues started to write (or condemn) the Rio+20 as a(nother) failure. Although there were positive words from the Summit — from the UN and the Indonesian government (of course) — the disappointment still echoed quite loudly.

Among the results of the summit was the appointment of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to a high-level eminent persons group — along with British Prime Minister David Cameron and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf — by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to advise on the post-2015 development agenda, or past the Millennium Development Goals deadline. Their first homework is to consider the results of Rio+20, the common term for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development held in Rio de Janeiro on June 20-22, as an input to the post-2015 agenda.

Aside from this, however, I’m in the dark about how Rio+20 really affects Indonesia.

Before the Indonesian delegation — Environment Minister Balthasar Kambuaya, Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan and Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Minister Sharif C. Sutardjo — headed off to Rio+20, the concept of a green economy was repeatedly promoted by the conference, which had as its theme ‘The Future We Want.’ This concept envisions a “hybrid” mechanism that will balance economic growth with environmental sustainability.

At the conference, Indonesia was supposed to present a much more “green” MP3EI (Masterplan for Accelerating and Expanding on Indonesia’s Economic Development 2011-2025). Through the supposedly green MP3EI, Indonesia was keen to show to the world how the country can juggle being “Pro Growth, Pro Poor, Pro Job and Pro Environment.”

But, here’s the glitch, there is nothing “green” about the plan at all. The plan divides Indonesia into six corridors with specific development targets — Sumatran corridor for natural resources and national energy; Kalimantan corridor for mining resources and national energy; Sulawesi corridor for agriculture, plantation, fisheries and nickel mining; Java corridor for industry and service; Bali-Nusa Tenggara for tourism and food security; and Papua-Maluku for food security, fisheries, energy and mining.

The plan was heavily criticized by presidential advisor Emil Salim, an economist and prominent environmentalist. The government then tried to green the plan with less than a month to go before Rio+20. But they somehow missed the deadline and ended up presenting a “blue economy” to the event — a policy that puts forward fisheries and maritime issues (as Indonesia does consist of more or less 13,000 islands) in the main development agenda.

So, after Rio+20, what does it all mean for Indonesia?

Aside from new jargons to adopt, it seems to me that we’re just in the middle of nowhere. It’s pretty much shown in the media coverage of Rio+20. If nothing much came out in the papers, then it was either there was no news to be reported or it was all too confusing.

As for a green economy, there has been no agreement on how to define or implement it in the Indonesian context. Well, government officials seem to think they have it figured out. But not for common people, for whom it is still a huge challenge to even apply the simplest logic that throwing garbage into sewers causes floods that then lead to millions and billions of rupiah in losses.

However, I would like to throw in some positive words: the green movement is still alive and going in Indonesia, even though it seems quiet these days. These conferences are held (apart from confusing our heads with jargon) to challenge these “movements” into coming up with real action.

NGOs and the private sector might not always see eye to eye about how to go green, but they all do see that going green is the future. Through their intense debate, including with the government, and supported by media coverage, it is then left to the people to define and choose how to make a green economy happen.