Indonesia Outflanks the Climate Activists in its INDC Submission

I have spent a few weeks trying to make sense of the INDC submissions. One of the most impenetrable appeared to that from Indonesia. This view is shared by The Carbon Brief.

Uncertain emissions

As well as being hazy on policy and financing needs, it is also difficult to gauge the ambition of Indonesia’s INDC emissions targets. This is despite the document including a projected figure for BAU emissions in 2030 of 2.9bn tonnes of CO2 equivalent (GtCO2e).

The pledge to reduce emissions by at least 29% compared to this trajectory means an effective cap in 2030 of 2GtCO2e. With the more ambitious 41% reduction compared to BAU, the cap would be 1.7GtCO2e.


Similarly the World Resources Institute states

(T)he current draft contribution still displays several important gaps in transparency and ambition, which must be addressed before submitting a final INDC to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). By eliminating these gaps, the Indonesian government could bring its contribution into line with international best practices on transparency, demonstrate leadership internationally by enhancing ambition, and help ensure success at COP 21.

The context from Indonesia’s perspective is stated in the opening paragraph of Indonesia’s INDC Submission.

In more basic language, Indonesia has more important and immediate priorities than “climate change“. From a national point of view, imposing drastic and ineffective policies will go against the Indonesian Government’s perceived duty to its people. This will happen regardless of the truth of the projected catastrophes that await the planet without global mitigation. The policies will be ineffective because most other emerging economies have similar priorities to Indonesia, and are taking similar measures of policy avoidance. In the case of Indonesia these are

  • Cherry-picking a base year.
  • Making reductions relative to a fictional “Business as Usual” scenario with inflated economic growth figures.
  • Making sure that even the most ambitious objectives achievable within the range of an objective forecast.
  • Focus the negotiations on achieving the conditional objectives subject to outside assistance. Any failure to reach agreement then becomes the fault of rich countries failing to provide the finance.
  • Allow some room to make last minute concessions not in the original submission, contingent on further unspecified outside assistance that is so vast the money will never be forthcoming.

The calculations to achieve the figures in the submissions are fairly simple to work out with a bit of patience.


Calculating the 2030 Business as Usual 2881 MtCO2e

The Indonesian INDC submission states that in 2005 total emissions were 1800 MtCO2e and combustion of fossil fuels were 19% of this total. That implies about 342 MtCO2e from the combustion of fossil fuels. The Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center (CDIAC1) has an estimated figure of 341.71 MtCO2e and the UNFCCC Country Brief in 2005 “CO2 emissions from fuel combustion” were 335.71 MtCO2e. For 20112 the CDIAC estimate is 472.53 MtCO2e, rounded to 473. Let us now assume a growth rate in emissions of 6.0% per annum from 2012 to 2030, against an economic growth rate of around 5.2% from 2000 to 2010 and 5.8% from 2005 to 20103. At 6.0% compound growth fossil fuel emissions in 20304 will be 1431 MtCO2e.

The non-fossil fuel emissions are a bit more problematic to work out. In 2005 the baseline estimate is 81% of 18005 is 1458. It is only a vague estimate, so round it down to 1450 and then assume it is constant for the Business as Usual (BAU) scenario.

The BAU 2030 total emissions forecast for Indonesia is therefore 1431 + 1450 = 2881 MtCO2e.

There might be other ways to derive this figure, but none are simpler and the figures do not fall out exactly.


How does Indonesia achieve the unconditional 29% reduction against BAU?

The easiest part to achieve is outside of fossil fuel emissions. The major cause of these emissions is in the reduction of the rainforests. The Carbon Brief is claims the biggest source of non-fossil fuel emissions is due to illegal forest clearances to grow palm oil. Although in 2015 the forest fires are closing in on the record set in 1997, it is safe to say that that these will reduce considerably in the coming years as Indonesia already has 52% of world palm oil production. By assuming a 3.34% reduction per annum in these emissions from 2005, they will reduce from 1450 MtCO2e to 611 MtCO2e in 2030. Total emissions of 2042 MtCO2e (1431+611) are 29.1% lower than BAU without an expense on the part of the Indonesian Government.


How does Indonesia achieve the conditional 41% reduction against BAU?

Indonesia claims that it needs international cooperation increase the reduction against BAU to 41%. In whole numbers, if BAU is 2881 a 41% reduction would make 1700. Not 1699 or 1701, but 1700. This is 100 less than the estimated 1800 MtCO2e total GHG emissions for 2005. This will be achieved without any “international cooperation“, a euphemism for foreign aid. The reason is simple. From the UNFCCC Indonesia Country Brief for Indonesia GDP growth for 1990 to 2012 average GDP growth per annum was 4.9% and CO2 emissions from fuel combustion was 5.1%. Normally GDP growth exceeds emissions growth. As a country develops this gap will widen until emissions growth ceases altogether and will even fall slightly. In India GDP growth from 1990 to 2012 averaged 6.5% and emissions growth was 5.7%. In China the respective figures are 10.3% and 6.1%. In China, emissions will peak around 2025 to 2030 without any policy change. It is reasonable to assume therefore that forecast fossil fuel emissions growth will be at a lower rate than the forecast GDP growth of 6.0%. A conservative estimate is that the fossil fuel emissions growth rate will be 25% lower than GDP growth rate from 2011 to 2030 at 4.50%. Rounding as before4 gives forecast emissions of 1089 MtCO2e as against a BAU of 1431.

The revised 2030 total emissions forecast for Indonesia is 1089 + 611 = 1700 MtCO2e. This is a 41.0% reduction on the BAU of 2881 MtCO2e.


Why should Indonesia have such a cynical manipulation of the numbers?

Indonesia is caught between a rock and a hard place. The stated major priorities for this country of 250 million people are at odds with doing its bit to save the world. In this Indonesia is not alone. India, China, and Vietnam are other major emerging nations who site other priorities. Ranged against them are the activist scientists behind the climate scare who hold the a priori truth of the prophesied global warming catastrophes that await the planet if we do not amend out wicked ways. Further, mitigation policies are good for the sole, regardless of their effectiveness, and the practice of these policies will lead others to enlightenment they have found. They will not recognize that any alternative points of view exist, whether morally, politically or scientifically. Rather than argue, the best policy is to outflank them. The activists will accept official policy objectives without question so long as it appears to fit the cause. So the Indonesians gave them massive cuts related to fictitious projected figures, cloaked with the language of climate speak to throw them off the scent. They should be applauded for protecting 250 million people, rather than inflicting ineffective burdens upon them. The real shame is that the leaders of the so-called developed economies have fallen for this rubbish.

Kevin Marshall


  1. Reference of the full global carbon budget 2014: C. Le Quéré, R. Moriarty, R. M. Andrew, G. P. Peters, P. Ciais, P. Friedlingstein, S. D. Jones, S. Sitch, P. Tans, A. Arneth, T. A. Boden, L. Bopp, Y. Bozec, J. G. Canadell, F. Chevallier, C. E. Cosca, I. Harris, M. Hoppema, R. A. Houghton, J. I. House, A. K. Jain, T. Johannessen, E. Kato, R. F. Keeling, V. Kitidis, K. Klein Goldewijk, C. Koven, C. S. Landa, P. Landschützer, A. Lenton, I. D. Lima, G. H. Marland, J. T. Mathis, N. Metzl, Y. Nojiri, A. Olsen, T. Ono, W. Peters, B. Pfeil, B. Poulter, M. R. Raupach, P. Regnier, C. Rödenbeck, S. Saito, J. E. Sailsbury, U. Schuster, J. Schwinger, R. Séférian, J. Segschneider, T. Steinhoff, B. D. Stocker, A. J. Sutton, T. Takahashi, B. Tilbrook, G. R. van der Werf, N. Viovy, Y.-P. Wang, R. Wanninkhof, A. Wiltshire, and N. Zeng 2014. Global Carbon Budget 2014. Earth System Science Data Discussions, doi:10.5194/essdd-7-521-2014
  2. 2011 is the baseline year for the IPCC reports.
  3. This can be obtained from two sources. First the INDC submission notes that “GDP Growth Rate has slowed between 2010-2015 from 6.2-6.5% per annum to only 4.0% per annum (first quarter of 2015).” A return to the higher levels of growth is an assumption of successful government policy.
  4. Each year growth of 6.0% is rounded to the nearest whole number.
  5. The 2005 total emissions estimate of 1800 MtCO2 is at odds with other estimates. The WRI CAIT 2.0 figure is 1600; the EDGAR estimate is 1171; and the UNFCCC estimate is 2828. There might be another method of estimation. Maybe it is being a bit too cynical to assume that someone could have taken the average of the three (1866) and rounded down.
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  1. WORLD RESOURCES INSTITUTE and Indonesian Emission Figures | ManicBeancounter

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