The World Today for October 25, 2021


On a High Wire


Indonesian President Joko Widodo – known as Jokowi – is urging the world’s rich countries to give his Southeast Asian nation a hand in reaching its climate goals.

The fourth most populous country in the world, with the largest Muslim majority on Earth, Indonesia ranks in eighth place on the list of the world’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases.  It’s hoping, however, to curb carbon emissions to 29 percent even as Jokowi says he could reduce emissions by more than 40 percent if he had help from the US, Europe and Japan. Those countries have failed to reach a $100 billion target of aid to the developing world to fight climate change.

“It’s impossible if we don’t get funding help,” Jokowi told Reuters recently. “If we don’t have the technology, it’s also difficult.”

Indonesia would need $200 billion a year for the next decade and more than $1 trillion annually over the next 40 years to reach its goal of producing net-zero emissions by 2060, wrote Nikkei Asia, adding that the big bills stemmed from creating new energy infrastructures in a country that is heavily dependent on coal.

While bemoaning its coal business, Indonesia has also become the biggest supplier of the fossil fuel to China, where power outages are roiling the economy in part due to coal shortages, Bloomberg reported.

That’s not the only example of Indonesia claiming the moral high ground while at the same time sacrificing it. As the Guardian explained in a story that cited Greenpeace and TheTreeMap, for example, around 20 percent of the land used for oil palm plantations lies in Indonesian forests where the law bans the farms. Endangered orangutans and Sumatran tigers have lost habitat as a result.

Indonesian leaders may or may not be hypocritical. It’s more useful to see that they are struggling to contribute to solutions for the world’s climate problems while grappling with the poverty, corruption and economic challenges that face the sprawling nation of more than 17,500 islands.

Jokowi undoubtedly wants his tourism industry to open again but vaccine issues are slowing the return of visitors from Australia and Singapore, CNBC reported. In the absence of tourism dollars, he’s likely happy to accept billions in investment in Indonesian companies like GoTo, a so-called “super app” that offers ride-hailing, food deliveries and online shopping and banking. With Persian Gulf financiers backing it, GoTo was recently valued at $28.5 billion, according to the Financial Times.

The country’s tech sector has grown explosively in recent years but needs more investment in education, training and human capital, added the Council on Foreign Relations.

Officials just need to make those investments before sea levels rise too high.

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