Valuing nature: World Environment Day highlights key agenda for Indonesia and the globe

Jun 5, 2015

Jakarta, 5 June 2015 - Today is Word Environment Day, and this year’s theme “Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care highlights the threats facing the world’s inhabitants and environment.

Indonesia, with its population of almost 250 million, represents 3.5 percent of the seven billion people living on this planet, and that number is increasing every year. The country’s economy has expanded at an average annual rate of five percent in the past decade, giving rise to a middle class of more than 70 million, or three times the population of Australia.

These numbers – and the abundance of natural resources the country possesses – means it is crucial that we take to heart the theme of World Environment Day and recognize there is only one planet and we need to care for it.

Our planet and its ecosystems are moving to a critical tipping point of loss while consumption and population growth accelerate. More than half the world’s wildlife has disappeared in the past four decades. And Indonesia, with the highest number of mammal species under threat in the world, is not immune.

This crisis has occurred because we are consuming at a faster pace than the planet’s ability to regenerate. We have overfished our rivers and oceans. We are depleting our water sources and destroying our forests and ecosystems. The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has said that if we continue to follow the same pattern of production and consumption as is currently the case, we will need three planets to sustain mankind by 2050.

And yet there are striking imbalances in this story of overconsumption. More than 550 million people in Asia and the Pacific live in poverty, on less than $1.25 per day, and around 75 million children under five are underweight. Millions have no access to electricity and don’t have adequate access to health services and education, making them vulnerable to be pushed further into extreme poverty.

The UN Development Programme’s (UNDP) One Planet to Share report, launched in Jakarta in 2012, notes that the poorest of the poor are affected most by environmental degradation because they don’t have the coping mechanisms to withstand the consequences.

For the world and for countries such as Indonesia to continue to grow while improving the welfare of the poor and protecting our natural resources, a change in approach to economic growth and development is needed. We need to start putting a value on nature. We need to switch to more sustainable consumption and production patterns both in corporations and individual households. And we need to use our available resources more efficiently, phase out substances that harm the environment and decrease the carbon footprint of our activities. This change in approach does not imply a trade-off between economic growth and environmental protection. Pursuing both simultaneously is possible.

The needed policy shifts to achieve these changes can be informed through green economy models, which place a value on the services provided by nature and account for the costs of environmental destruction as we pursue economic growth.

UNDP together with UNEP have supported the development of the Indonesia Green Economy Model, piloted in Central Kalimantan province and the Special Capital Region of Jakarta. The model enables policy makers to assess simultaneously social, economic and environmental impacts of policy and investment decisions.

The government of Indonesia has made commitments to environmental protection that align with the theme of World Environment Day this year. The strengthening of natural resources governance was emphasized in Indonesia’s 2015-2019 National Medium Term Development Plan, and the country has reaffirmed its commitment to a 26 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by the end of the planned period against a business as usual scenario.

UNDP has collaborated with the government to help inform some of the policy shifts needed to facilitate the country’s transition to more sustainable development. One example is the 2014 Indonesia Forest Governance Index, launched last month by the Ministry of Forestry and Environment with the support of the UN-REDD Programme  and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

At World Environment Day commemorations today, President Joko Widodo is expected to receive the Index, which analyzes the strengths and weaknesses of forest governance in the country.

A milestone commemoration means nothing without firm action. What is urgently needed now is stronger enforcement of natural resource protection and better policies that can incentivize private and public investments into green sectors and support the needed changes in behavior. We must also put in place adequate public resources to ensure that all parties follow through on their commitments to put sustainable patterns into action.

World Environment Day is an opportunity for policy makers to further support Indonesia’s transition to a green economy and for the public to become agents of change.

This is a joint and urgent responsibility for everyone and all countries to secure the future of this planet and the seven billion who live on it.

Beate Trankmann is Country Director of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Indonesia.

This opinion piece has been published by The Jakarta Post marking the World Environment Day 2015

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