May 1, 2009
A push by the government to include oceanic carbon trading on the agenda for the upcoming World Ocean Conference has been scuttled by the country's very own National Council on Climate Change.
Council chairman Agus Purnomo said that the idea, pushed by Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Freddy Numberi, should not be debated until the scientific community had a clearer sense of the ocean's ability to affect global warming by either absorbing or releasing carbon.
Numberi had been hoping that the country would be compensated for its territorial waters' sequestration of potential greenhouse gases.
"There is still great debate about the ocean's ability to absorb carbon," Agus said in Jakarta on Thursday. "No conclusions have been reached among experts."
"Hopefully we can get worldwide consensus about this matter in the fifth assessment report of the [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] in 2014," he said, adding that without widespread scientific agreement it would be premature to propose that this month's conference adopt an oceanic carbon trading scheme.
At a press conference held two weeks ago, Numberi stated that the World Ocean Conference, to be held in Manado, North Sulawesi, could be a great place for Indonesia to propose an oceanic carbon trading scheme.
He said at the time that the country's seas had the ability to absorb 67 million tons of carbon a year, with about 20 million tons absorbed by coral reefs, 20.6 million tons by mangroves, 15.3 million tons by seaweed and 11 million tons by phytoplankton.
"Conserving oceans can bring about economic benefits for us," the minister said. "At present, we are drawing up the necessary formula so that [developed] countries will pay us because of our efforts in taking care of the ocean, given that this could reduce carbon emissions."
Riza Damanik, secretary general of the Fisheries Justice Coalition (Kiara), said on Friday that proposing such a mechanism without having the science in place to back it up could cause major losses for the country, especially since there were indications that Indonesia's seas could actually release more carbon than they absorbed.
"The temperature of our ocean is relatively higher than the northern oceans," while carbon dioxide dissolves more easily in colder water, Riza said. "Considering that fact, Indonesia's seas may release more carbon than they absorb."
Rather than receive compensation for its maritime assets, he explained, the country could find itself having to pay out large amounts of money in compensation for carbon released.
Given that possibility, Riza added, it would be better if the nation pressed ahead with more research on oceanic carbon releases before deciding to effectively sell its oceans as a commodity.