Opinion by Arancha González Laya, member of the Climate Overshoot Commission, dean of Paris School of International Affairs at Sciences Po and former foreign minister of Spain, Feb 13th 2023.
Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) Rangers drive past a carcass of a wildebeest on November 30, 2022 at the Amboseli National Park. (AFP/Tony Karumba)
In the last decade, Indonesia’s commitment to addressing climate change and implementing the sustainable development goals (SDGs) has been remarkable, with the introduction of new laws and resolutions to adapt social, economic and cultural life to these priorities.
The country has been at the forefront of global negotiations to respond to climate change —with its objective of reaching zero emissions by 2060 at the latest— pushing for increasingly ambitious national pledges and international cooperation. These efforts align with the objective of the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels.
And, also with the pressing need to address the negative consequences of climate change, from uncontrolled floods to the loss of natural habitats for human and non-human life, among many other devastating impacts. The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions –which is the key to mitigating climate crisis– is the responsibility of all, but especially that of high-income countries that have contributed most to historical emissions. Other countries should also play their part while they develop and increase their citizens’ well-being. Fairness will be of the essence.
Yet, despite these efforts in Indonesia and other countries to reduce their emissions, the world is not on track to achieve its objectives of limiting warming. Instead, the planet is currently on track to reach 2.7 degrees by the end of the century. This unfortunate but very likely overshoot of the 1.5 degree-goal carries massive risks for people and our planet, some that are already felt today and are to worsen, and some that appear to be irreversible.
To find a coherent and effective path to addressing the risks of a climate overshoot, fourteen personalities from political, economic, civil society and academic backgrounds has formed the “Climate Overshoot Commission”. While the primary task of combating climate change remains reducing greenhouse emissions, the time has come to explore additional approaches to reduce risks beyond what emission cuts alone can achieve. These approaches include accelerating measures to adapt to a changed climate, carbon dioxide removal (CDR) and possibly–but controversially–sunlight reflection methods (SRM).
Our work focuses not only on places where these methods are being developed, but on low- and middle-income countries, which have historically emitted less while paying the highest toll for the environmental disasters. Indeed, our commission’s membership is mostly from developing economies, and we are meeting here in Jakarta at the invitation of our fellow commissioner Muhamad Chatib Basri, to learn first-hand the dynamics of the Indonesian debate. We will hear from civil society and affected communities, engage with authorities and academia, but also further our internal discussions while being inspired by Indonesia’s dynamic and voluntary responses to climate change.
First, the funding, development, and implementation of adaptation measures are pivotal to reduce the risks of climate overshoot. From the empowerment of affected communities to increasing the resilience of food, health, water and energy systems, while respecting local needs, we are reviewing the means and ways to enhance adaptation.
Second, the capture of carbon dioxide and its removal through natural and technological processes, taking into account its cost-effectiveness and benefits in terms of climate-related impacts, is an unavoidable tool to limit overshoot, as stated by the International Panel on Climate Change. We intend to recommend best practices to ensure the CDR is done responsibly, highlight ways for its implementation in low- and middle-income countries through, among others, technology transfer and consider ways to incentivize it.
Third, SRM seems to have important benefits in terms of reducing warming. Yet significant scientific uncertainties remain, and its global governance is largely non-existent. This issue needs to be further explored with honesty and clarity, carefully weighing its benefits and also its costs.
As the chairman of ASEAN this year, Indonesia has the opportunity to lead the region towards enhancing emissions reduction, expanding adaptation measures and exploring additional means to reduce the risks of a looming climate overshoot. We look forward to supporting Indonesia lead the fight against climate change for its own sake but also for that of the world.