During the G20 meeting in Pittsburgh an unnoticed announcement could have a huge impact on global warming pollution. Unreported at the time (I missed it and I was in Pittsburgh), the Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono announced that:
"We are devising an energy mix policy including LULUCF (Land Use, Land Use Change, and Forestry) that will reduce our emissions by 26 percent by 2020 from BAU (Business As Usual). With international support, we are confident that we can reduce emissions by as much as 41 percent. This target is entirely achievable because most of our emissions come from forest related issues, such as forest fires and deforestation" [emphasis added].
Indonesia is the third largest emitter of global warming pollution when you consider the emissions associated with deforestation (see WRI CAIT and a recent Indonesia report summarized here). So this is a pretty big announcement if they achieve the goals set out in the speech. I've talked to a couple of Indonesian government officials and Indonesia independent experts here in Bangkok and the general sense is that this is very achievable. It requires a serious focus and some assistance, but there is a huge potential to reduce their deforestation emissions. That effort alone could put them over the top in reaching this goal.
Around 80% of Indonesia's global warming pollution is from degradation and destruction of peatlands and forests, according to a recent report from the Indonesian "National Council on Climate Change". Largely due to continued logging and natural ecosystem conversion, this report projects that Indonesia's emissions will rise 57% by 2030 (as Mongabay.com summarized). So this effort would make a sizeable reduction in Indonesia's global warming pollution and make a big dent in holding global temperatures to less than 2°C (3.6°F).
In addition, the Indonesian President announced that:
"...we have decided and established a National Climate Change Action Plan with the targets of 2020 and 2050.
We will change the status of our forest from that of a net emitter sector to a net sink sector by 2030."
Of course the devil is in the details and those haven't emerged yet, but this is another signal from a key developing country that they are able and willing to take serious steps to curb their global warming pollution. And with the proper incentives they could go even further as the Indonesian President mentioned (Reuters and AFP have coverage of this announcement).
This effort combined with the efforts of Brazil to seriously cut it's deforestation emissions (as I discussed here) means that we might finally turn the corner to combat global deforestation emissions (one of the five key cornerstones of the Copenhagen agreement as I've discussed here) since these two countries account for the bulk of deforestation emissions.
So you now have all the major emerging economies signaling that they will undertake further action to address their global warming pollution (see for example recent signals from China, India, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, and South Korea). That is a very positive change from just a few years ago and is a huge opportunity.
It is getting harder and harder for countries to hide behind the unwillingness of developing countries to take action.