Momentum for Green Economy
The year is about to end. The deep wounds caused by the Covid-19 pandemic will perhaps not heal within a year.
WITH the economy in 2021 predicted to begin to show signs of life, there is a very important question that demands urgent answers: how will our economy continue to grow in the long term without triggering another pandemic?
We know that the Covid-19 pandemic was caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus that originated in forest bats. This is undeniable proof that the mistaken economic practices of the past can have fatal consequences. The urge to bring about maximum possible prosperity by building infrastructure and aggressively exploiting natural resources has reduced the habitats of wild animals. These practices have opened the door wide for the spread of viruses from animals to humans.
With around 70,000 viruses in mammals and birds that have the potential to turn into new human infections, zoonosis experts warn that this year’s pandemic might not be the last fatal consequences from Mother Earth. Even before a new pandemic, nature will strike back more quickly in the form of environmental disaster if mankind does not slow down the economic activities that have devastated the earth.
Therefore, it is clear that the pandemic that gave rise to this worldwide public health crisis and economic recession should be used to spur on moves to improve the future of this planet. We need a new political economic system that is more at peace with the world. In the language of United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, every nation needs to reorganize its economy by considering climate positive actions. Speaking at the World Conference of Speakers of Parliament on August 19, Guterres proclaimed that there was nothing more important now then responding to the climate crisis and overcoming Covid-19.
Indonesia could play a key role in bringing about this vision. The tropical rainforests in this country are the third largest in the world. Two thirds of our nation comprise bountiful waters. By ratifying the 2016 Paris Accord, Indonesia has started to move in that direction. A number of green projects and financing have begun in order to meet Indonesia’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 29 percent by ourselves, or by up to 41 percent with international assistance by 2030.
However, recently the government’s vision to keep this promise has become clouded. Instead of pushing for the development of a sustainable economy, government policies are increasingly moving back to the Stone Age. We are becoming more dependent on the exploitation of non-renewable natural resources. President Joko Widodo appears to be trapped in old-fashioned theories of economic development.
The passing of Law No. 11/2020 on job creation at the beginning of October is an indication of the wrong direction that the government has chosen. This omnibus law makes it easier to convert forests for industrial needs. The largest incentives go to mining companies, while environmental policies that companies previously had to comply with to have been removed. These provisions that threaten forests clearly ignore the fact that deforestation is the main contributor to global environmental destruction.
A similar tendency is apparent in Presidential Regulation No. 109/2020 on the acceleration of the implementation of national strategic projects, which was signed by Jokowi on November 17. The list of main projects selected in line with the medium-term development plan is dominated by programs that use land in a way that threatens the environment. For example, the electricity generation program still depends on the construction of coal-fired power stations, which are being increasingly abandoned by the majority of nations.
President Joko Widodo must stop these measures that speed up development without considering the balance of nature. In this time of pandemic, the government needs to pay more attention to the principles of green economics. Next year’s national economic restoration program must be planned in line with the low carbon development mission. This is what New Zealand, Singapore, India, Malaysia, South Korea, China and Australia have done. These nations have turned the spending on handling the impact of Covid-19 into state investment in environmentally-friendly infrastructure projects.
Jokowi should remember that his promise to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 is not only for the people of Indonesia, but for the whole of mankind. He owes it to future generations who also have a right to live on a healthy planet.