Falling forest and palm oil, while the US drops out
Orangutan in the wild in Indonesia - photo credit - Hidde Rensink, http://Unsplash.io
Welcome to the fourteenth edition of my weekly blog where I take a closer look at the policies adopted by individual countries in their efforts to meet the requirements of the Paris Agreement. Particular attention is paid to the role that Carbon Capture, Utilisation, and Storage (CCUS) research and technologies are playing in the drive to meet these requirements.
This week our focus turns to Indonesia who signed the Paris Agreement on the 22nd of April 2016 and brought it into force on the 30th of November 2016.
Indonesia was the Twelveth highest emitting nation of CO2 into the atmosphere based on data submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) ahead of COP21 in December 2015.
According to the World Resources Institute, Indonesia’s largest greenhouse gas emitters by sector are land-use change and forestry (66%), energy (22%) and agriculture (8%), with electricity/heat generation and combustion fuel accounting for 50% of the energy contribution.
Deforestation is by far the most significant contributor to Indonesia’s GHG emissions in the land-use change and forestry sector segment. Deforestation has a two-fold effect on GHG emissions. Firstly, the energy used during this process increases emissions and secondly, given that forests are the primary storer of above ground carbons, their loss means, even more, carbon release into the atmosphere. In 2012 Indonesia’s rate of deforestation overtook that of Brazil’s for the first time despite the fact that Brazil’s rainforest is four times the size of Indonesia’s in land mass.
So what is driving this land-use change? The forests in Indonesia are being replaced by plantations of palm oil. Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil native to Western Africa and red in colour. It is used in the making of several products such as cooking oil, chocolates, chewing gum, lipstick, soap etc. According to Palm Oil Research, Indonesia exported 27 million tonnes of Palm Oil in 2012, this represented 50% of global export. It is estimated that 15 million Indonesians are employed in the Palm Oil industry. This is big business for the country and why millions of acres of rainforest have been chopped down in recent decades.
CCUS in Indonesia
A pilot project has been in operation at Gundih gas field since 2013. The project is backed by Pertamina, the state-owned oil & gas company, and the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources (MERS). Approximately 11,000 tonnes of CO2 are captured from the gas field per year. This is then transported by road to a storage site where it is injected into a disused oil and gas reservoir.
Indonesia’s reliance on the palm oil industry has resulted in the deforestation of millions of hectares of rainforest. With it has come the release of millions of tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere and the relocation of inhabitants from their homes. It has also had a negative impact on the local wildlife such as orangutans. Some work has been done to develop CCUS projects in Indonesia which will help reduce CO2 emissions from the energy sector. However, as long as Indonesia continues to deforest its rainforests it will continue to be one of the highest emitters of CO2 in the world.
Before I sign off for this week, it would be remiss of me not to mention the recent landmark decision by the US government to withdraw from the Paris Accord, a hugely backward step that could significantly compromise their position as a global leader. However, thankfully, every cloud has a silver lining and as of the 3rd of June, the governors of nine states, including New York, California, and Washington have pledged support for the Paris Agreement along with the mayors of over 200 US cities. They have also announced the foundation of the ‘United States Climate Alliance’, a bipartisan body committed to meeting the US’ Paris Agreement targets.
Next week’s blog will feature the ‘dirty dozen’, the 12 highest emitters of CO2 emissions in the world and what common trends we are seeing among them.