The Danish Government through their very active Ambassador Casper Klynge are pursuing a number of high profile projects in Indonesia to further their laudable goals of protecting the environment, encouraging renewable, clean energy and mitigating climate change. Alistair Speirs finds out why Denmark feels it has a lot to offer Indonesia as it continues its development process.
You have recently committed to a new major project to improve forestry management in Indonesia. Why did Denmark think this is important?
Our projects on improving forestry management is one part of our development program which covers environment, energy and climate change. The climate aspect of the forestry management program is super important and we have been involved with the Hutan Harapan Rainforest in South Sumatra and Jambi for over 5 years. But I also have to be honest with you, cooperation development funding is not always easy, in fact it can be damn difficult! I recently visited Harapan together with Minister of Environment and Forestry Ibu Siti Nurbaya, and the question is: how do you protect a unique forest - together with the tigers and endangered birds - which constitutes 20% of the remaining lowland Sumatran rainforest. Can you protect it by transforming it into an eco-restoration zone where you actually have commercially driven forestry? The idea is to take out products of the forest in a surgical way and market them while at the same time protecting and rehabilitating the vulnerable and damaged parts of the forest at the same time. Why are we doing this? Simple. It’s a pilot project that if successful can be applied to other forest areas, demonstrating real value, sustainable forest management and partnership with the Indonesian government.
Of course, it is not yet a success, 20 percent of the forest has already disappeared in the past 5 years converted to palm oil plantations. So can we really put Danish tax payers’ money into a forest that might still be disappearing? Well, it is definitely worth giving it a good shot for a number of environmental and nature preservation reasons and we are investing DKK 40m which we hope will make a real difference.
We also have a project under the REDD+ program for a new contribution to Forest Management Units with concrete plans to set up a new governance structure operating with local law enforcement agencies. Minister of Environment and Forestry Ibu Siti Nurbaya has a clear vision for how to improve forest management. And we will certainly do our part to support her work to save Indonesia’s forests.
What other sustainability focused programs are you working on?
Climate and environmental protection continue to be a big thing, also in our work, but it is not only focused on forestry but on reducing CO2 emissions as well, and we want to assist Indonesia in reducing emissions by the targeted 5 percent, announced at COP21 in Paris last year.
We have a multi-facetted relationship with Indonesia on energy, much of it Business-to- Business and Government-to-Government with an Energy Advisor posted at the Embassy. The basic idea is that we are making Danish expertise and experiences available to Indonesia. This is not only in renewable but also by improving so called “black energy” sources such as coal by making them less harmful to the environment. We have established a strategic energy sector cooperation with Indonesia to improve energy planning. This will be a bridgehead to the relevant authorities and the private sector, assisting Indonesia to increase its share of renewable energy to 23 percent and to help PLN to achieve 35,000 megawatts of additional power generation.
What are the most important projects you have undertaken in the last 12 months?
In Indonesia, there is obviously an abundance of waste and not enough energy. And if you combine those two factors you can get significant results. We have two Waste-to-Energy projects running: one in Semarang where we are doing gasification in a landfill site, the second in Cilacap where we are working with Holcim to turn household waste into burnable energy to power their cement plant.
Our vision is to show results to two audiences: first, to the Indonesian audience that with new technologies you can solve the waste challenges by simply turning waste into energy – a clear win-win situation. Secondly, to international investors that our pilot projects illustrate that investments in Indonesia’s green transition makes perfect sense also from a business perspective. Back to wind energy… the conventional view is that “there is no wind in Indonesia” but through our development cooperation, Denmark funded a study which completely refutes that. The study clearly showed significant potential for wind power in all coastal areas in Indonesia, the longest coastline in the world!
We also work with other sustainable energy sources. My favorite example is our solar energy project in Karimunjawa, which is excellent. The prices for solar power technology are going down – and have already dropped by 50%. If that continues, in just 19 years from now the whole world could be powered by solar energy. That could e.g. be used for solar powered desalination plants that could irrigate the Sahara and help feed the world!
What progress has been made on the “Bike to Work” project?
The “Viking Biking” project is very much alive and kicking, so to say. Over the past year we have had a number of biking events in combination with other events. The State Visit by the Danish Royal Couple was, of course, marked by a biking event, and the joint Nordic National Day Celebration also kicked off with a large biking event from MONAS. There is of course still a long way to go in promoting bicycling culture in Jakarta, but we are not giving up. In fact, we will soon host “Viking Biking” events in other major cities around Indonesia to promote biking as a healthy and sustainable way of transportation. This all lies within our concept of “Livable Cities”, working to decrease air pollution and to avoid wasting valuable time in traffic jams which results in billions of dollars’ worth of productive time being lost every year.
What are your personal goals and aspirations for the next 12 months?
When looking ahead over the next year, we have many ambitious goals. We are working tirelessly to increase the number of ministerial visits between our two countries. We have been fortunate enough to have had a range of visits in over the past year – both from Denmark to Indonesia and from Indonesia to Denmark. But we aim to have even more visits to strengthen the Indonesian-Danish partnership as well as our political and commercial cooperation. Visits by Ministers are key to promote trade, investments and closer political ties. We saw this during Minister for State-Owned Enterprises, Ibu Rini Soemarno’s visit to Copenhagen in September, where she together with the Danish Minister for Energy, Utilities and Climate witnessed the signing of an agreement on the construction of Indonesia’s first and biggest wind farm in South Sulawesi. It represents a crucial step in Indonesia’s green transition. We are confident that this project holds strategic importance, and will illustrate to international investors that sustainable energy projects in Indonesia are worth investing in.
One upcoming event I personally look forward to is our collaboration with The Wahid Institute on promoting inter-religious dialogue, tolerance and people-to-people ties between Indonesian and Danish religious communities. By inviting Indonesian religious leaders and scholars to Denmark to meet with Danish religious groups and communities, we hope to strengthen the cultural and religious ties between our countries and promote the Indonesian virtues of dialogue and tolerance. I wholeheartedly believe that this is an area where Indonesia has a lot to offer to the global community.
At the Embassy, we have an ambition to increasingly engage with more of Indonesia’s major regional cities. I have just returned from Manado and Bitung in North Sulawesi, and will soon visit other major cities in Java, Kalimantan and Sulawesi. We think it is important to strengthen our relationship with all of Indonesia - not just Jakarta. Local and regional governments, businesses and organizations are excellent partners, and we seek to cooperate -politically, culturally and on a business-to-business level - with as many parts of Indonesia as possible.
On a personal level my goal is to improve our Embassy’s futsal team’s performance. In a recent tournament, we suffered a humiliating defeat already in the first round, so in our upcoming Futsal Tournament organized together with UNDP and the Indonesian Foreign Ministry to create attention around the Sustainable Development Goals in Indonesia, my aim is that we can make it all the way to the finals and hopefully take the trophy home. Don’t put your money on it though!