“Civil society questions climate commitments of Indonesian governor as host of meeting”

[Balikpapan, 26 September 2017]–An international meeting gathering 35 governors from nine countries in the Americas, Africa and Asia kicks off today in Indonesia’s home of coal.

The annual meeting of the Governor’s Climate and Forests Task Force (GCF) takes place in the city of Balikpapan in the province of East Kalimantan, a regional hub for fossil fuels, notably coal.

The meeting seeks to advance commitments on broader sustainable development commitments beyond its original focus on forests, including advancing the welfare of rural and indigenous people.

Fifteen local civil society groups have gathered to protest the leadership of East Kalimantan in the meeting, citing their climate commitments as hoax.

“It is truly ironic that a climate gathering of such high profile should take place in the home of fossil fuels, hosted by a governor with no real commitments to climate change,” says Pradarma Rupang of the Mining Advocacy Network of East Kalimantan.

The network advocates for the reclamation and rehabilitation of abandoned coal mining sites that have claimed dozens of children’s lives and are poisoning nearby rice cultivation sites.

East Kalimantan saw a boom in coal mining in 2010-2013 during the big spike in global commodity prices.

Coal mining was allowed to proceed in an unbridled and unsupervised manner under the reign of Governor Awang Faroek Ishak, replacing hundreds and thousands of residents from their homes and destroying vast swasthes of rainforest.

The same governor currently acts as the chairperson to the task force and host to the international meeting.

GCF was famously initiated in 2008 by then California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger at the Governor’s Climate Change Summit in Los Angeles, California.  Membership quickly grew to 35 from 10 governors, out of which seven are from Indonesia.

“The GCF is obviously a sham – by naming Awang Faroek Ishak, one of the worst climate offenders, as its chairperson, it is clear that it seeks to greenwash the sins he has commited during his reign.” said Husein Suwarno from Balikpapan Bay Care Group (Forum Peduli Teluk Balikpapan).

“Environmental quality in the province is on the decline, and so is the living conditions of rural and indigenous communities, whose lives depend on the health of the environment.” Added Suwarno, who represents a community movement that seeks to protect the Balikpapan bay currently polluted by the activities of the oil and gas extractive industry in its offshore.

East Kalimantan justifies its climate leadership by claiming to have embarked on a Green Growth Plan. Launched in 2016, the Green Growth declaration of East Kalimantan stipulates a development approach that balances environmental protection with development.

However, in the year that it was launched, the Governor passed a provincial spatial law that designated a fraction of the province to forest areas, below the 30% that is stipulated by national law.

The rest of the province has been carved up and nearly half has been handed out as coal and mineral mining concessions with the rest divided up between palm oil and production forests concessions, while nearly all of offshore areas have been allocated as oil and gas exploration blocks.

Topan Wamustopa of Friends of the Earth (FOE) or WALHI in East Kalimantan, directs his criticism to the backers of the meeting. “Major donors such as the Norwegian government should pull out from backing such a scam. The reality remains: East Kalimantan has no intentions to phase out of the coal and fossil fuels and will continue to exploit natural resources as it sees fit.”

The coalition includes fifteen local organizations comprising environmental, rural development, farmer welfare and indigenous rights groups.

For more information, please contact:

Pradarama Rupang, JATAM Kaltim, 0852 5050 9899

Topan Wamustopa, WALHI Kaltim, 0813 4778 3390

Melky Nahar, JATAM Nasional, 0813 1978 9181

Merah Johansyah, JATAM Nasional, 0813 4788 2228