JAKARTA: Floods that killed 60 people in Indonesia’s capital after the biggest rainfall since records began should be a wake-up call on one of the largest carbon emitters in the world, environmental groups said.
Yet, following the tragedy in the largest city in Southeast Asia, policymakers see no greater reason for further cuts to proposed reductions in carbon dioxide emissions or other climate change initiatives.
The floods “should serve as a strong reminder to the government that things can’t be business as usual,” said Yuyun Harmono, a campaign manager at the Indonesian Forum for the Environment, the country’s biggest green group.
Indonesia, the fourth most populated country in the world, is extremely vulnerable to climate change with one of the world’s longest coastlines.
The capital city of Jakarta’s metropolitan region is home to 30 million residents, and parts of the city close to the coast are falling as sea levels rise.
The country, however, is the fifth largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world that is blamed for causing the climate crisis. It is also the world’s largest exporter of thermal coal and palm oil, whose production has limited the amount of forests consuming carbon dioxide.
After the rains on New Year’s Day, at least 60 people were killed, Indonesian authorities said on Saturday night. Nearly 100,000 people from their homes remain displaced.
Indonesia’s meteorological department said it was the heaviest one-day rainfall since Dutch colonists started record keeping in 1866 and blamed the rising global temperatures squarely.
“The impact of a one degree increase can be severe,” Dwikorita Karnawati, the head of the agency, told a news conference on Friday.
“Among that is these floods,” said Hidayah Hamzah, a research analyst at the World Resources environmental group in Jakarta remarked, “the floods were a major wake-up call.
Users of social media criticized the government for not doing enough after the flood on climate change. Twitter user @wolfiecoconut said: “Indonesia is a disaster-prone country, but we don’t care about the environment,” but in Indonesia, the green lobby has little control.
According to the 2019 YouGov-Cambridge Globalism Project, about 18 percent of Indonesians believe that there is no link between human activity and climate change, one of the highest percentages among the 23 largest countries in the world.
When asked if the government would do more on climate issues after the floods, Sri Tantri Arundhati, Director of Climate Adaptation at the Ministry of the Environment and Forest, said Friday that there are no plans to change policies or move the carbon dioxide emission goals agreed under the Paris Agreement.
Rida Mulyana, the energy ministry’s general manager for electricity, said the government would stick to a plan to move to renewables, meaning that over half of electricity generation would continue to rely on coal for the next decade.
Part of the government’s response to the frequent floods in Jakarta, which are typically not as bad as the recent floods, is to move the capital to Borneo by 2023, an environmentalist plan fear would intensify deforestation.
Plans to strengthen flood defences in Jakarta include the building of two dams and works on the largest river in the region.
“There aren’t a lot of people who realize the impact of climate change,” said Nirwono Joga, a researcher at the Urban Studies Center in Jakarta.
“When the flood recedes and people get back to their homes and resume normal activities, flood management or concrete actions to combat climate change will be forgotten too.”