Pacific aid mapping tool aimed at improving transparency in region

By Sri Krishnamurthi

A new Pacific aid mapping tool developed by the Lowy Institute think tank is set to immeasurably improve transparency in aid in the region.

In an Auckland first, the aid mapping tool was put on show last night by the NZ Institute for Pacific Research as a curtainraiser to the two-day inaugural Oceans and Islands conference which opened at Auckland University’s Fale Pasifika today.

The guest demonstrator and speaker at Auckland University’s Owen Glenn Business School last night was Jonathan Pryke, director of the Lowy Institute’s Pacific Islands Programme.

READ MORE: The Oceans and Islands conference

He was introduced by senior lecturer in Pacific Studies at Auckland University Dr Lisa Uperesa.

“This is a part of the seminar series that has been part of the mandate for the NZIPR which is about growing capacity and disseminating research,” Dr Uperesa said.

Jonathan Pryke, director of the Lowy Institute’s Pacific Islands Programme, introducing the Pacific Aid Map at Auckland University last night. Image: Sri Krishnamurthi/PMC

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Jonathan Pryke traced the beginnings of the mapping tool to Dr Penelope Brant and her PhD project which was charting every aid project that Papua New Guinea was engaged in, in the Pacific, subsequently the project turned into the Chinese aid in the Pacific map that the Lowy Institute released in 2015.

“This map made quite a splash, first because it was in interactive form that they haven’t seen before in the Pacific, Pryke said.

China’s spread
“It also made a splash because people hadn’t fully come to grips with just how far China had spread into the Asia-Pacific Island countries that support the one-China policy.”

“We had two major pieces of feedback from this tool. The first was from the Chinese government saying, ‘thanks guys, we had no idea how much we were doing’ and second piece of feedback was this is fantastic but why don’t we do this for every donor because it is very hard to find out what Australia, New Zealand, Japan and all these guys are doing?”

Transparency leads to good governance and that was needed around the world, he said.

“There is one good reason to enhance transparency around aid, not just in the Pacific but globally, there is global mandate to improve transparency which was agreed upon by all traditional donors in 2005 in the Paris accord,” said Pryke.

“It revolves around three main reasons why transparency in aid is important.

“In theory the first is, it should improve and make it easier for donors to co-ordinate with one another in the aid space,” he outlined.

“In the Pacific Island region there is more than 62 donors operating, that is countries or multinational agencies operating in the Pacific at any given time.

“So it’s really critical in all contexts that donors are able to co-ordinate with one another to prevent overlap, to reduce the drag on recipient governments and just to be more efficient,” he said.

‘Enhancing transparency’
“The second reason for enhancing transparency is to help align what donors are doing with receiving government priorities,” Pryke said.

Toeolesulusulu Associate Professor Damon Salesa speaking at the opening of the NZIPR Islands and Oceans conference at the Fale Pasifika at the University of Auckland today. Image: David Robie/PMC

“We spent a lot of time on this project talking to Pacific Island governments about how they go about keeping track what donors are doing in the Pacific and pretty much all of them told us they couldn’t help us because they didn’t have sophisticated data telling them what the donors were doing

“It is a very messy thing to get hold of, and so having a tool like this just helps them to see what is happening in their own countries.

“So, they can better steer what donors are doing with their own development priorities.

“Having more information, and easier access to it should help Pacific countries better align aid to the priorities,” Pryke said.

The third reason for enhanced transparency was that it improves accountability of aid in the region for the media, civil society for academics, he pointed out.

“There is a lot of money going into the Pacific every year with very little oversight on how it is done outside of those giving it and those receiving it and so it is pretty more out there in the public domain.

‘Improving accountability’
“It should improve accountability and put the pressure on both sides of the equation, sender and receiver to improve the way that aid is delivered,” he summed up the third reason.

“We really were keen to do this project and so we started conversations with the Australian government to fund it.

“How we did it, from 2011 until today we requested data on 13,000 aid projects from 62 donors. We have a data from most donors be it an NGO or private sector contractor so there is a huge wealth of information.

“We had to take this huge database and put into a user-friendly, publicly available, interactive, visually-appealing interface that anyone that anyone in the world can access and actually make sense of, and so we put together this tool,” he said.

The Oceans and Islands conference was opened this morning by the Minister for Social Development and Disabilities Carmel Sepuloni and founding NZIPR director Associate-Professor Damon Salesa, who is now pro vice-chancellor (Pacific) of Auckland University.

Keynote speakers today were Dr David Welchman Gegeo of the Solomon Islands and  Professor Kapua Sproat of Hawai’i.

Emeritus Professor Richard Bedford, acting director of NZIPR, will close the conference tomorrow afternoon. About 120 people are taking part in the showcase of Pacific research.

Sri Krishnamurthi and Blessen Tom of the Pacific Media Centre are working as part of a PMC partnership with the NZ Institute for Pacific Research.

The Pacific Media Centre’s team at the NZ Institute for Pacific Research conference … Sri Krishnamurthi (left) and Blessen Tom. Image: David Robie/PMC

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Low-cost solar batteries key to cheap electricity for Polynesian countries

A report on innovative solar energy technology for the Pacific. Video: NZIPR

By Sri Krishnamurthi with Peter Wilson in Auckland

Solar-powered batteries are the key to a future without electricity grids for Polynesian countries in the Pacific (Samoa, Cook Islands and Tonga), a study has found.

The study is funded by the New Zealand Institute for Pacific Research (NZIPR) to assess the feasibility of a low-cost, energy future – titled “Polynesian pathways to a future without electricity grids”.

The first phase of the research, conducted by Peter Wilson (principal economist and head of Auckland business for the NZ Institute of Economic Research) and his team of Professor Basil Sharp (Auckland University professor and chair in energy economics) and Gareth William (head of Solar City Energy Services), queries whether distributed solar electricity is a practical alternative to grid-based electricity.

“The project is investigating the impact of new technologies on electricity sectors in the Pacific, we are looking at whether solar panels and batteries could augment or eventually replace electricity grids and large diesel generators,” says principal investigator Wilson.

“First phase is showing that the costs of both solar panels and batteries is diminishing very quickly and it won’t be very long before they will be economic in the Pacific and so that you have the potential to start radically changing how energy is delivered to Pacific nations.”

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While he believes it is technologically feasible now, the prohibitive cost of the batteries at the moment – the leading provider of solar batteries being Elon Musk’s Tesla Powerwall – is something that has economically got to arrive yet, but the trend is towards costs being reduced significantly.

He says that within 10 years batteries and solar panels together could have a large impact on existing electricity sectors in the islands, and he sees that as a positive development because it will make it easier to extend electricity to people who don not currently have it at a cheap cost.

Decisions needed
However, he says, it does mean that the island governments must consider what they do with their existing generators and existing distribution assets if they are found to be non-competitive against the new technology.

“While it is not economically feasible yet, the trends are there and so it’s something that the Pacific governments should start thinking about,” says Wilson.

“At the moment they’re focusing very much on using solar panels to replace their electricity generation, they’re just connecting to their existing electricity grids and existing technologies.

“We think the batteries are going to change the equation and that is something that should be looked at, and the point is that this is not just something for the Pacific Islands, it’s happening around the world and a lot of countries and a lot of companies are trying to work out what to do, but they don’t really have a solution.”

He is expecting exciting new technological developments in batteries as a means of storing electricity into the future.

“The basic technology is not changing. What is changing is the cost of the batteries and their efficiency, how much power they can hold,” says Wilson.

“We’ve all seen how cell phones have become smaller and smaller over the few last years, and a large amount of that is because the batteries getting smaller and better, electric vehicles are doing the same thing. It is the same technology just using it for a different purpose.”

Hawai’ian benchmark
Hawai’i is an example they studied because it is like the South Pacific countries.

“Hawai’i which has a similar geography to the South Pacific, it’s North Pacific and tropical country with small islands and they too have moved to replace the diesel-fired generators with solar panels,” says Wilson.

“That’s a good benchmark to look at on the technological side but the economics are slightly different because it’s bigger Island, but what we particularly looked is that is an example of what could happen.”

The next phase is due to begin as soon as the NZIPR give it the greenlight.

Peter Wilson explains the way forward. “Hopefully it starts sometime this year and that involves going out to the islands and doing on-the-spot investigations, talking to people, at the moment phase one was desk research based in New Zealand.”

“So far the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) has been very supportive of the project They’ve been funding quite large numbers of solar panels into the Pacific and they are quite keen to look at this next development which is adding batteries to that investment.”

He says the electricity generation industries are facing a major change in the evolution of the technology with what they do in their business.

‘Technological revolution’
“These industries are facing a technological revolution. They have choices, how do they respond? do they try to get ahead the curve, do they bury head in sand, do they try and make it someone else’s problem.

“We are seeing around the world this issue is being addressed, in some countries, some companies are very supportive and wanting to get to get on the bandwagon.”

Ultimately the goal is renewable energy to expand access to affordable, reliable and clean energy in the Pacific. Renewable energy targets feature prominently in all their Nationally Determined Contributions submitted under the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Already a change is underway in Australia and New Zealand with a slow but sure transformation to renewable energy.

“It’s starting to change now. You are seeing in Auckland the lines company Vector is starting to invest in large batteries (Tesla Powerwall batteries) rather than just look at extensions to the grid.

This is a project that can change the economies of scale of Pacific countries and Peter Wilson is banking on it to transform lives in Samoa, Cook Islands and Tonga.

The Pacific Media Centre shares content with the NZ Institute for Pacific Research as part of a collaboration agreement. The video was edited by Blessen Tom as part of the partnership.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Climate change advocacy calls for more ‘action’ response to Ardern’s UN plea

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern recently addressed the UN General Assembly about the reality of climate change in the Pacific, and the threat inaction holds for the island nations. Maxine Jacobs reports for Asia Pacific Journalism that while climate and energy commentators welcome her leadership, they call for an even stronger “action” approach.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s challenge to United Nations members last month to reflect on the impact climate change is having on the Pacific has been welcomed by social justice advocates.

But they would like to see the rhetoric matched by even stronger action to give the world its “best shot”.

The Prime Minister spoke of Kiribati, Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands as the Pacific’s most at risk nations which have contributed least to global emissions but are facing the full force of their consequences.

ASIA-PACIFIC JOURNALISM STUDIES – APJS NEWSFILE

“Our actions in the wake of this global challenge remains optional, But the impact of inaction does not,” she told the UN.

“If my Pacific neighbours do not have the option of opting out of the effects of climate change, why should we be able to opt out of taking action to stop it?”

Ardern said that in the South Pacific there was a reality of rising sea levels, increases in extreme weather events and negative impacts on water supply and agriculture.

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“For those who live in the South Pacific, the impacts of climate change are not academic, or even arguable.

‘Grinding reality’
“We can talk all we like about the science and what it means … but there is a grinding reality in hearing someone from a Pacific island talk about where the sea was when they were a child, and potential loss of their entire village as an adult.”


Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s speech at the United Nations. Video: UN

Although New Zealand represents less than 0.2 percent of global emissions, the Prime Minister then vowed to “play our part” in continuing to decrease in emissions and support the global climate change battle.

Goals have been set of:

• 100 percent renewable energy generation by 2035;
• zero emissions by 2050;
• a halt on offshore oil and gas exploration permits;
• a green infrastructure fund to encourage innovation, and
• a 10-year plan to plan one billion trees.

“These plans are unashamedly ambitious [but] the threat climate change poses demands it.”

Real commitment
A few days before her address to the UN in New York, the Prime Minister announced a $100 million increase to its global climate finance – an increase from $200 million, which will be spread in $25 million blocks over four years.

The Prime Minister said the additional funding would focus on practical action, helping Pacific states to build resilience and adapt to climate change.

“The focus of this financial support is on creating new areas of growth and opportunity for Pacific communities. We want to support our Pacific neighbours to make transition to a low carbon economy without hurting their existing economic base.”

The Prime Minister said she planned to bring greater attention to the impact of climate change alongside Pacific leaders and ensure global awareness of the cost of inaction.

“We recognise our neighbours in the Pacific region are uniquely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

“We have a responsibility to care for the environment in which we live, but the challenge of climate change requires us to look beyond our domestic boarders.”

Communications accounts manager for the Ministry for the Environment, Karen Goldsworthy, says two thirds of the global climate funding would be going towards Pacific nations to help adapt to their warming climate.

“We recognise that New Zealand alone cannot fix the challenge climate change poses to our region: it is a global problem that requires a global solution.

“New Zealand will continue to work actively to contribute to an effective global response to climate change through which Pacific resilience improves … and lose work more widely to encourage ambition through our leadership.”

A global model
Renewable energy and climate change consultant Dr Bob Lloyd, a former director of energy studies at Otago University, says New Zealand’s commitment to climate change is a show of leadership to the rest of the world of what is achievable.

Lloyd called New Zealand a small-scale model of what can be achieved on a global scale, however this issue is one which cannot be resolved by one small nation.

“It’s up to countries like Australia, New Zealand, Europe and unfortunately the US to bring their emissions down.

“The big dilemma at the moment is that a lot of the poor countries want to increase their emissions and they’re not going to consider bringing their emissions down unless the big countries bring their emissions down first.

“The other onus is on the rich countries to actually help the poor countries come down, which means they need to transfer money to them to achieve their goals.”

Lloyd said the extra $100 million from New Zealand towards the global climate change fund was a good effort but would not have a huge impact. To achieve emissions reductions, developing countries would need trillions of dollars.

“The amounts of money which are needed just for the Pacific region – which are tiny compared to the rest of the world – are enormous,” he said.

Putting over ideas
Although Lloyd, a self-proclaimed pessimist, thinks the world would not be able to outrun climate change he does not want to stop people from giving it their “best shot”.

“Without some countries trying, then the poorer countries and other countries will give up completely, so I think it’s extremely good that Jacinda is putting these ideas over and they’re trying to help as much as possible.

“She’s doing a remarkable effort. It’s also enthusing government. I was pleasantly surprised at how much influence Jacinda and the Labour Party is having on both New Zealand and internationally.”

Dr Kevin Clements, the foundation professor of Otago University’s National Centre for Peace  and Conflict Studies (NCPACS) and current director of the Japan-based Toda Peace Institute, says the Prime Minister’s plea for climate change awareness has powerful emotional and normative appeal, but at the end of the day it is a numbers game.

“Every little bit helps. New Zealand’s voice on its own isn’t going to change Donald Trump or the behaviours of the major US multinational companies, but on the other hand it’s all part of creating a normative order which acknowledges the centrality of climate change and what it’s doing to us.”

Dr Clements says the Pacific is feeling the brunt of global emissions and has little capacity to do anything about it. However, the moral weight of New Zealand and the South Pacific can help larger nations become more proactive.

The Prime Minister advocating for climate change issues humanises her, says Dr Clements, but she needs to be stronger to be seen as a serious political leader on these issues.

“She really needs to make sure she’s coupling her soft power appeal and her own personal charisma with some hard-headed arguments and evidence based research so she is seen both as a wonderful human being but equally as a hard-headed negotiator on the issues that matter.”

Maxine Jacobs is a postgraduate student journalist on the Asia Pacific Journalism Studies course at AUT University.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Gallery: Stimulating insights, vision for gender diversity summit

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

Former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark is the new patron for the National Council of Women and she shared her stimulating thoughts and insights at the national conference in Auckland yesterday.

In an interview format with NCW chief executive Dr Gill Greer, Clark talked about violence against women, pay equity, leadership, abortion law reform, and sustainable development aid in the Asia-Pacific region.

Clark is a former administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The conference theme was He Toa Takitini – “strength in diversity”.

The Pacific Media Centre’s Del Abcede, of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), was on hand at Mount Wellington to get some pictures.

1. “All that separates whether of race, class, creed or sex, is inhuman and must be overcome.” – Kate Sheppard. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

2. Former Prime Minister Helen Clark … keynote speaker in interview. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

3. Former PM Helen Clark being interviewed by National Council of Women chief executive Dr Gill Greer. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

4. He Toa Takitini …. “Strength in diversity”. The theme of this year’s NCW national conference. Image: De; Abcede/PMC

5. Scenes from the NCW national conference. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

6. Scenes from the NCW national conference. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

7. Scenes from the NCW national conference. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

8. Scenes from the NCW national conference. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

9. Scenes from the NCW national conference. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

10. Vira Grace Paky of UN Youth Auckland at the NCW conference. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

11. Pacific Media Centre and WILPF’s Del Abcede at the NCW conference.

12. Former PM Helen Clark at the NCW conference. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

13. Helen Clark with Ruth Coombes of WILPF at the conference. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

14. Helen Clark with the PMC’s Del Abcede at the conference.

15. A cartoon message for men – “listen!” Image: Del Abcede/PMC

16. He Toa Takitini – “Strength in diversity”. Image: Del Abcede/PMC

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

‘It’s up to God and the land’ on Vanuatu’s Ambae volcano isle

What the documentary team found on Ambae: “Volcanic ash is ever-present. Roads are carpeted with it, creating an uncannily smooth ride—where vehicles can still pass. Drone footage of an abandoned village on the approaches to the volcano shows a house constructed of timber and local materials that’s been flattened by the weight of ash upon it.” Image: Vanuatu Daily Post

By Dan McGarry in Port Vila

Over the course of a week earlier this month, a French/Ni-Vanuatu documentary team ventured to the summit of Ambae’s Mount Lombenben to see for themselves the effects of the Manaro-Vui volcano in Vanuatu.

What they saw was an island transformed.

One team member, a Ni-Vanuatu man, told the Vanuatu Daily Post how he had spoken to one Ambaean woman who was nearly ready to give up on trying to grow food.

READ MORE: Latest Ambae eruption produced worst ashfall

The crops kept dying, she said, and she kept planting. All she can do now, she told him, is hope that her garden would survive.

“It’s up to God and the land,” she said.

The Ambae volcano article as it appeared in the Vanuatu Daily Post at the weekend.

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Throughout Ambae, and particularly in the western half of the island, communications are sparse, travel is becoming increasingly difficult, and supplies are alarmingly short. Water is a particular concern in the west.

The two roads joining the western and eastern ends of the island are cut by mudslides.

According to eyewitnesses, the roads are impassable to vehicles, so all travel and transport between the two sides has to go by boat or by plane.

Supply shortages
This appears to be leading to supply shortages in the west. According to one report, a 36-litre carton of bottled water now costs VT2400 (NZ$32).

But the biggest worry is what is on top of the island. The Manaro-Vui volcano, situated at the summit of Mount Lombenben, has utterly transformed its immediate vicinity, and a growing area around it.

The approach to the summit is tortuous, according to Philippe Carillo, whose video production company, Fusion Productions, has operated in Vanuatu since June last year.

The team was advised that fog descends on the summit by mid-morning most days, so in order to ensure clear skies for the crew, they departed from the area of Ndui Ndui village shortly after midnight.

The team struggled for eight hours through a morass of mud, muck and ash. Ash has blanketed a substantial area, killing all vegetation in a ring that’s now several kilometres in diameter.

Outside that area, volcanic ash is ever-present. Roads are carpeted with it, creating an uncannily smooth ride—where vehicles can still pass. Drone footage of an abandoned village on the approaches to the volcano shows a house constructed of timber and local materials that’s been flattened by the weight of ash upon it.

In some villages, ash is ankle-deep on the ground.

Shocking transformation
The higher you go up the mountainside, the more shocking the transformation. Even kilometres away from the caldera, a deep blanket of ash has choked all life. Deep runnels carved by rainwater make the path a tricky one.

The ashfall is so heavy in some areas that even locals no longer recognise the place. The group’s guide lost his bearings at least twice, sending the team casting about across the hillside waste land, trying to find their way.

After a gruelling eight-hour slog, the team finally crested the last hill overlooking what used to be lake Vui. It has been replaced by a kilometre-wide ash plain, reminiscent of a lunar landscape.

A tiny vestige of the lake remains, coloured brilliant red because evaporation has left it super-concentrated with iron and other minerals.

The scale of the devastation is hard to grasp from the ground. But drone imagery shows the true size of the cone that’s risen from the waters. Human figures almost are almost vanishingly small in this post-apocalyptic landscape.

The visuals are stunning, but the implications for the island are cause for concern. With this volume of ash, much of it still not packed down by wind and rain, the prospect of further damage downhill rises as the rainy season approaches.

Tree trunks and large limbs killed by the ashfall could well accompany the large volumes of mud that will inevitably flow down the hillsides. These could block existing streams and creeks, sending mud and water elsewhere and potentially posing an additional danger to villages, which are often situated near watercourses.

Mud damage risk
The Geohazards Unit has already issued advisories concerning this risk, and has identified an area covering more than two-thirds of the island as being at risk of damage from mud and water.

The team returned from the summit the late in the day, and later shared their results with local villagers. One member, Terence Malapa, assured the Daily Post that the team had shown deep and sincere respect for the strong tabu associated with the volcano.

They performed kastom ceremonies with the relevant chiefly authorities, he said, and went nowhere without permission.

Will they be returning soon? No, says Philippe Carillo. The walk to the summit was arduous.
“It was a once in a lifetime journey,” he said.

The team voluntarily briefed the National Disaster Management Office, who thanked them for their contribution.

Dan McGarry is media director of the Vanuatu Daily Post group. This article is republished with permission.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Indonesia risks ending up with a doomed ‘can’t-do’ climate plan

By Warief Djajanto Basorie

Three hundred schoolchildren from the greater Jakarta area sat on a red carpet covering the cavernous Soedjarwo auditorium—named to honour the country’s first forestry minister—at the Ministry of the Environment and Forestry in January this year.

They were there to participate in the government-led Climate Festival; the theme was “Three Years of Climate Change Achievements”.

Dr Nur Masripatin, the then Director General of Climate Change (she stepped down in February 2018), tossed the kids a question on climate change: what will become of Indonesia if nothing is done about climate change by 2030?

An elementary schoolboy said the country would become hotter and drier. Another two students added to his answer, talking about global warming and the greenhouse gases that lead to climate change.

The director-general beamed broadly. Dr Nur Masripatin, who has a PhD in forest biometrics from Canterbury University in New Zealand, has been a veteran negotiator for Indonesia at the annual United Nations climate conference since 2005.

Indonesia is a country of islands, with a majority of the population living along coasts vulnerable to climate change, she explained to the assembled pupils. The government hopes that such an event will equip children with information on climate change that they’ll carry into adulthood.

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Reaching Indonesia’s targets
The event also sought to inform the public on the progress made in implementing international agreements and national policies, such as the Paris Agreement and the Nationally Determined Contribution, related to climate change. Government projects such as this one are only deemed successful if the people meant to benefit from the project feel that they have a stake in the issue, and commit to seeing it through.

The Paris Agreement, reached at the UN climate conference in Paris in 2015, is a legally binding international contract to limit global warming “well below” 2˚C, through lowering carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels and the degrading of forests. The ultimate aim is zero carbon emissions worldwide by 2050.

In undertaking to realise the Paris Agreement, Indonesia’s Nationally Determined Contribution, or NDC, sets a target of cutting emissions by 29 percent against a “business as usual” scenario (in which no planned action is taken) and by 41 percent with international cooperation. This climate action plan is due to be implemented from 2020 to 2030.

One of the many documents handed out to participants of the Climate Festival was the country’s NDC Implementation Strategy, listing nine programmes with assigned activities spanning from ownership and commitment development to implementation and review. Also included was an academic paper on the draft government regulation for climate change.

The festival, and its accompanying books, talks, and handout material produced by the director general and her team, outlines an ambitious climate agenda. Yet what’s not covered is interesting, too.

While the NDC Implementation Strategy cites projected greenhouse gas emission levels, it does not provide details on whether, or how much, emissions have already been reduced since 2011, when the government issued its national action plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent by 2020. Nor does the NDC explain the formula it uses to reduce emissions in the five slated sectors: land-use, energy, IPPU (industrial processes and product use), agriculture and waste. The first two sectors alone produced 82 percent of the country’s carbon emissions in 2010–2012.

Despite its absence in the Climate Festival’s documents, information on emission reduction is provided by the National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas). From 2010–2017, Indonesia has cut greenhouse gas emission by only 13.46 percent. It’s a figure the Indonesian government aren’t eager to publicise—it’s a long way from their target. The government doesn’t officially state how much carbon emissions has been reduced because the NDC does not start until 2020, a government official explained.

“The government shall regularly provide emission reduction achievements in line with the NDC target it has committed to after Indonesia ratified the Paris Agreement. This is in line with our commitment to the NDC up to 2030. The information can be accessed in SIGN SMART prepared by the Environment and Forestry Ministry,” says Dr Agus Justianto, Head of the Ministry’s Agency for Research, Development and Innovation.

A major emitter of greenhouse gases
According to the World Resources Institute (WRI), Indonesia is the world’s sixth largest emitter of greenhouse gases, and the largest contributor of forest-based emissions—an unsurprising fact if one thinks back to the devastating forest and peat fires in 2014 and 2015. Images from the United States’ National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) released in 2014 and 2015 show dense smoke blanketing parts of the country and its neighbours. Those two years were exceptionally bad, but such burning takes place annually.

In September 2017, WRI Indonesia published a 36-page working paper on how Indonesia can achieve its climate change mitigation goal. The organisation found that existing policies in the land-use and energy sectors, even if fully implemented, are inadequate if the country is really serious about reaching the 29% target by 2030. Using its own methodology, WRI Indonesia estimated that the existing policies would only result in a 19% reduction.

A failure to achieve its mitigation target means that Indonesia won’t be able to contribute its declared share in global fulfillment of the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Rethinking policies
Reaching the NDC goal would require revisiting existing policies, particularly in agriculture and energy.

In agriculture, the government wants to double the output of the highly lucrative oil palm by 2020. This would require the clearing of more forest and peatland to add to the 14 million hectares of oil palm plantations already present in the country—a move that would surely lead to more carbon emissions. The policy also undermines a forest moratorium, in place since 2011, on the issuing of permits to convert primary forest and peatland to oil palm plantations, pulp and paper estates and other land-use change activities.

Dr Agus denies any planned clearing of peatland, insisting that the moratorium is still in place. What the government wants to increase, he stresses, is productivity per hectare on existing oil palm plantations.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo also has a plan to boost the country’s energy capacity by 35,000 megawatts during his current term, which comes to an end in 2019. Only 2000 megawatts of that energy will come from renewable energy; 20,000 megawatts will come from coal-fired plants, another major source of greenhouse gas emissions. Oil and gas, as well as hydropower, will provide the rest.

This matter of generating 20,000 megawatts of energy from coal-fired plants was put to Bambang Brodjonegoro, Indonesia’s Minister for National Development Planning and Head of Bappenas, at the Southeast Asia Symposium jointly organised by Oxford University and the University of Indonesia’s School of Environmental Science.

The “best solution”, advocated by environmentalists, would be to phase coal-fired plants out completely and embrace renewable energy sources. It’s in line with the call of the “Powering Past Coal” alliance, a partnership of over 20 governments who intend to move away from coal. No Southeast Asian government has joined the alliance thus far.

Brodjonegoro, a former dean of the University of Indonesia’s School of Economics, replied that Indonesia’s plan relies on the “second-best solution”: new coal-fired power plants will use clean coal technology, and that renewable energy, such as solar, wind or biomass, will be developed for isolated areas that are not yet part of the country’s power grid. Energy is required for economic growth, he argued, and Indonesia has abundant coal deposits to meet that energy need.

But Indonesia might not need as much energy as policymakers initially thought. According to the Electricity Supply Business Plan 2018-2027 drafted by the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry, a projection in Indonesia’s additional power needs dropped from 78 gigawatts under the 2017–2026 plan to 56 gigawatts in the 2018–2027 plan. The decrease was due to overestimating the growth in demand; if the government had followed through with the initial plan, it would end up overspending by building unused power plants.

Plans are also underway to increase the portion of renewable energy—while renewable energy only provided 12.52 percent of Indonesia’s energy in 2017, it’s expected to rise to 23 percent in 2025. Coal is expected to decline as a source of energy from 58.3 percent in 2017 to 54.4 percent in 2025. But environmental groups say it’s still not good enough.

“Many nations like India, China and even Saudi Arabia have altered their investment direction to renewable energy, whereas Indonesia still depends on coal for more than 50 percent of its power source,” said Hindun Mulaika, Greenpeace Indonesia’s climate and energy campaigner, in a recent press release.

Other organisations have called for more ambitious action from the Indonesian government. Germanwatch and Climate Action Network pointed out in their 2018 Climate Change Performance Index that Indonesia has the potential to further develop renewable energy, particularly since it has relatively large amounts of hydropower. WRI Indonesia recommended other mitigation actions, such as strengthening and extending the forest moratorium, restoring degraded forest and peatland, and implementing energy conservation efforts.

According to WRI Indonesia, increasing renewable sources in the energy mix will require implementing multiple policies, such as a carbon tax on fossil fuel power plants, the replacement of coal-fired plants with wind or solar sources, and the provision of subsidies for the promotion of renewable energy.

Indonesia already has bilateral and multilateral agreements for cooperation in climate change, such as an accord with Norway signed in 2010, where the Scandinavian country pledged up to USD1 billion for “significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation, forest degradation and peatland conversion”. The financial contribution is made based on a verified emissions reduction mechanism. However, an influential coal lobby makes it difficult for the country to take bolder steps away from coal power plants.

A target that cannot be achieved
As it stands, Indonesia’s 29 percent NDC target is not achievable, says a government technocrat.

“It is not based on what sectors knew, what the energy sector knew, what the road transport sector knew. No one has reliable data. Everyone has some sense of statistics,” says the technocrat, who has asked to remain anonymous as he’s not authorised to speak to the press.

The distinction between data and statistics is an important one—while statistics present a snapshot of one aspect of an issue, data is a real mapping of what exists, providing a more holistic picture. A good NDC should have reliable data from every sector, disaggregated to show the reality in each of Indonesia’s 465 sub-national districts and town governments. While there might be a political aspect to this process, politics should not be dominant, the official added.

“No one has reliable data. Everyone has some sense of statistics”

The lack of data is a big problem with a major impact on the way targets have been set. The government arrived at the 29% target via inter-sectoral meetings where each of the five mitigation sectors (energy, land-use, industry, agriculture, waste) stated how far they were willing to go in terms of reductions. But if the various groups only have “some sense of statistics” without actual reliable data, the targets set could easily be off the mark.

Hopes for a future generation
Indonesia’s climate future is not bleak; there’s still hope for significant progress moving forward. Beyond government policy and programmes, numerous civil society organisations are actively working on the issue.

One example is Climate Reality Indonesia, which had a booth at the Climate Festival. Its members, who have participated in Al Gore’s climate course, are from all walks of life: students, academics, public officials, business people, homemakers, journalists, artists, clerics. They’re committed to spreading climate awareness among their own circles to encourage a ripple effect that will increase public knowledge across the country.

“Climate change can be viewed from different angles: water, air, marine resources, forests, agriculture, energy, education, laws. Hence it’s important to break down the issue of interest to understand the ground sentiment,” says Amanda Katili Niode, manager of Climate Reality Indonesia.

There are signs that the public are interested. In 2015, a survey by the Pew Research Centre found that 63 percent of the country supported limiting greenhouse gas emissions as part of an international agreement. Climate Reality Indonesia is thus working on creating visual materials on specific climate change impacts and solutions to use in their outreach programmes.

Following Climate Change Director General Nur Masripatin’s session, Hidayatun Nisa, a 24-year-old university graduate, delivered a rousing speech before the assembled schoolchildren. She told them about her work as a facilitator in the Care of Peat Village project run by the Peat Restoration Agency in a village in Jambi province on the east coast of central Sumatra, calling on students to study how to protect the environment for a better future.

“I do hope the children can learn to be sensitive to living things and protect the environment where they live. This also applies to their parents as the educational process that has the greatest effect is the education at home,” says Nisa.

Without a change in gear for a more ambitious and robust emphasis on renewable energy and the safeguarding of the environment, Indonesia’s climate change ambitions could end up amounting to little more than a can’t-do plan. As it is, the current generation is already not on track to meet its own stipulated goals. If the country does not undertake a course correction soon, today’s Indonesian children will find themselves having to pick up the slack in the future.

Warief Djajanto Basorie is a contributor to New Naratif, an independent research and journalism publication. He has reported for the domestic KNI News Service in Jakarta 1971-1991 and concurrently was Indonesia correspondent for the Manila-based DEPTHnews Asia (DNA, 1974-1991). DNA is a feature service reporting on development in Asia for Asian media in English and the vernacular. This article is republished under a Creative Commons licence.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

PNG prime minister slams gas failure report as ‘fake news’

The huge PNG Hides gas conditioning plant in Hela province, Papua New Guinea. Image: PNG-Geo

By Stefan Armbruster of SBS News in Brisbane

Papua New Guinea’s prime minister has dismissed as “fake news” a report that claims a partially-Australian funded liquefied natural gas project is failing to deliver a promised economic boom to his people.

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, in Brisbane for the Australian-PNG business forum, hit out at a damning report by social justice non-government organisation Jubilee Australia which questioned whether projected economic benefits were flowing from the ExxonMobil-led project.

“It’s quite disappointing to note that some of our experts who align themselves with political opponents are continuing to talk down our economy and continuing to release fake news,” O’Neill said in his address to the forum.

READ MORE: Failed predictions and the PNG resource curse

The project supplies eight million tonnes of gas a year to Japan, South Korea and China, with the flow starting in 2014.

Australia’s export credit agency Efic made its largest-ever loan of $500 million to ExxonMobil, OilSearch, Santos and the PNG government in 2009.

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Questions are now being asked why the project was backed by the Australian government.

“The people of PNG would have been better off had the project not happened at all,” report co-author Paul Flanagan, a former Australian Treasury official, said.

Report defended
Flanagan also defended the report: “I feel at this stage very, very confident in the numbers we had in that report. The report indicated that welfare in PNG has decreased because of the PNG LNG project.”

But O’Neill characterised the report as “utter nonsense” in his keynote address.

“It’s quite disappointing to note that some experts, who align themselves with political groupings, continue to talk down the (PNG) economy and continue to release fake news,” O’Neill said.

“It’s quite unrealistic to suggest the LNG project is not contributing to the economy of the country.”

ExxonMobil has defended the project saying it had contributed $5.69 billion to local businesses and the government through employment tax and royalties.

“Good governance, accountability and revenue transparency are critical to ensuring that the value unlocked from gas resources in PNG results in economic growth, increased opportunities and a better standard of living for Papua New Guineans,” a spokeswoman said.

A failure to identify landowners who would get hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties has triggered violence in PNG’S Highlands, raising fears of a resources civil war like the 1990s Bougainville crisis.

Australian backing questioned
Australian Australia’s backing of the project before the landowners’ issue was resolved is now being questioned. The report’s co-author, Paul Flanagan, says stakeholders need to be careful.

“It would seem sensible to ensure that local laws are followed before those funds are released,” he said.

Australia’s overseas-finance agency Efic backed the project with a $500 million loan. Australia’s Assistant Trade Minister, Mark Coulston, says there will be an investigation, but he says he cannot comment further at this stage.

“Obviously, there will be an investigation into the mechanism of how that works,” he said.

Coulton focused on the “game changer” upcoming Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders summit in Port Moresby.

“It is an opportunity to showcase the business potential of PNG to the world – a stable, reliable democracy and an attractive commercial environment,” Coulton said.

“It is incumbent on us, during tough times, to keep making the case about the growth and competitiveness that comes from opening markets to trade and investment.”

Free trade stand
He praised PNG’s decision to reconsider joining up to the Pacific Pacer Plus free trade agreement.

Australian companies have $18 billion invested in PNG and more than 4600 Australian businesses are exporting goods into PNG.

A Exxon natural gas project site in Papua New Guinea.

Santos says liquefied natural gas production in PNG will return to full capacity next month.

Stefan Armbruster is Pacific correspondent of SBS News. Additional reporting by AAP, Amanda Copp. This article is republished with permission.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

PNG LNG – failed predictions and PNG’s resource curse

The Exxon-led PNG LNG project … supplying about 8 million tonnes of LNG a year to Japan, South Korea and China. Image: Jubilee Australia report

“On almost every measure of economic welfare, the PNG economy would have been better off without the PNG LNG project.”

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

Papua New Guinea’s massive PNG LNG project is one of “broken promises” that has largely failed the country, according to a major study released yesterday by Jubilee Australia.

Entitled Double or Nothing: The Broken Economic Promises of PNG LNG, this report, co-authored by Paul Flanagan and Dr Luke Fletcher, compares the projected economic benefits of the PNG LNG project with actual outcomes.

The new study uses PNG government data to examine the predictions of the 2008 project report commissioned by ExxonMobil and promoted by Oil Search.

This examination finds that the positive predictions for the PNG economy were largely incorrect.

Key findings:

  • Despite predictions of a doubling in the size of the economy, the outcome was a gain of only 10 percent and all of this focused on the largely foreign-owned resource sector itself;
  • Despite predictions of an 84 percent increase in household incomes, the outcome was a fall of 6 percent;
  • ●Despite predictions of a 42 percent increase in employment, the outcome was a fall of 27 percent;
  • ●Despite predictions of an 85 percent increase in government expenditure to support better education, health, law and order, and infrastructure, the outcome was a fall of 32 percent; and
  • ●Despite predictions of a 58 percent increase in imports, the outcome was a fall of 73 percent.

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30-year span
PNG LNG is an Exxon-led project which supplies about 8 million tonnes of LNG a year to Japan, South Korea and China.

It is projected to run for 30 years. In 2009, Australia’s Export Credit Agency, Efic lent A$500 million to Exxon, OilSearch, Santos and the government of PNG.

Efic’s decision was based on advice from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) provided to the then-Minister for Trade, Simon Crean, on advice from DFAT. This is the largest loan ever made by Efic.

Paul Flanagan writes in PNG Economics:

Specifically, growth in the resource sector has matched the confident predictions even with the fall in oil prices in 2014.

However, all other parts of the PNG economy have not done as well as predicted.

This is a major “broken promises” gap. This is the basis for the title of the latest report – the PNG LNG project promised to double GDP, but the outcome of 10 percent is close to nothing (especially when the size of PNG’s GDP is facing a major downgrade in the latest NSO 2015 update).

Revenues to the budget are only one-third of expected levels, and after allowing for project costs, will continue having a net negative impact on the budget (so below nothing) until around 2024.

Economy gone backwards
Of even greater concern, the examination finds that the PNG economy, apart from the resource sector, has actually gone backwards relative to its underlying growth path.

The most likely explanation for this sad outcome is PNG has slipped again into poor policies associated with the resource curse. The temptations of the rosy PNG LNG promises were too strong for politicians despite warnings from PNG Treasury, BPNG and outside academics.

During the O’Neill/Dion government, PNG descended into very damaging economic policies of a bloated budget and PNG’s largest deficits ever, fixing the exchange rate at an over-valued level, making foolish investments in areas such as Oil Search and harming the independence of PNG’s economic institutions.

With the focus being so strongly on getting the PNG LNG project operational, there was a lack of policy emphasis on other parts of the economy.

This is the “resource curse” gap.

Third time
PNG needs to learn the lessons from this experience. This is the third time that PNG has suffered from the resource curse:

  • the first was with Bougainville Copper and the experience of the late 1980s;
  • the second was the Kutubu/Porgera expectations that crashed so badly in the mid-90s;
  • and the PNG LNG period is the third resource crisis.

The benefits of PNG’s resource wealth could in theory be tapped without damaging the rest of the economy.

But it would require very different choices by PNG’s politicians. PNG probably lacks the strong governance and institutions required to deal with the powerful resource sector lobby.

Even in Australia, the power of vested interests around the resource sector is blocking sensible options for sharing resource benefits more equitably and efficiently.

The Oil Search facility near Lake Kutubu in Hela province, Papua New Guinea’s Southern Highlands. Image: Damian Baker/Jubilee Australia

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Greenpeace blasts palm oil industry deforestation in West Papua

One of the massive deforestation areas in the PT Megakarya Jaya Raya concession in Papua, Indonesia. Other images show a lunar-like devastation over huge areas. Image: Greenpeace International

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

A palm oil supplier to Mars, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever is destroying rainforests in the Indonesian-ruled Papua region, a new investigation by Greenpeace International has revealed.

Satellite analysis suggests that around 4000ha of rainforest were cleared in PT Megakarya Jaya Raya concession between May 2015 and April 2017 – an area almost half the size of Paris.

The findings come as a delegation from the Indonesian government arrived in Europe last week to defend the palm oil industry, in response to moves by European Parliament to discourage the use of palm oil in biofuels on environmental grounds, Greenpeace International reports.

Luhut Panjaitan, the Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs of Indonesia, is visiting several European cities, including Brussels and Berlin.

“After destroying much of the rainforests of Sumatra and Kalimantan, the palm oil industry is now pushing into new frontiers like Papua, said Richard George, forests campaigner at Greenpeace UK.

“If the Indonesian government wants to defend this industry, the best thing it can do is to force it to clean up its act, not threaten to start a trade war.”

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Photos and video taken in March and April 2018 show massive deforestation in PT MJR, a palm oil concession controlled by the Hayel Saeed Anam Group (HSA), including in an area zoned for protection by the Indonesian government in response to the devastating forest fires in 2015. Development is prohibited in these areas.

Supply chain
Although PT MJR is not yet producing palm oil, two other HSA subsidiary companies – Arma Group and Pacific Oils & Fats – supplied palm oil to Mars, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever, according to supply chain information released by the brands earlier this year.

Each of these consumer companies has published a “no deforestation, no peat, no exploitation” policy that should prohibit sourcing from rainforest destroyers.

“Brands have been talking about cleaning up their palm oil for over a decade. Companies like Unilever and Nestlé claim to be industry leaders,” said George.

“So why are they still buying from forest destroyers like the HSA group? What are their customers supposed to think? What will it take to get them to act?”

This case also raises serious questions for the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).

Many HSA Group palm oil companies are members of the RSPO, although PT MJR and the other HSA Group concessions in this district are not.

Members of the RSPO are not allowed to have unaffiliated palm oil divisions, and the development witnessed in PT MJR would also violate several of the RSPO’s Principles and Criteria.

Sourced from a Greenpeace International media release.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media