Sustainable bioenergy and the Sustainable Development Goals in Indonesia
Bioenergy can play a role in Indonesia in achieving Sustainable Development Goal 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. And several other Goals. But some conditions need to be met.
‘Bioenergy is unique within the renewable-energy domain in terms of smallholders being active producers. Consequently, bioenergy can play a role in achieving Sustainable Development Goal 7 for Indonesia if, first, bioenergy value chains and distribution are effective’, said Dr Sonya Dewi, Indonesia country coordinator and landscape ecologist with the World Agroforestry Centre, speaking at the Renewable Energy Forum hosted by the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources in collaboration with the United Nations Office for REDD+ Coordination in Indonesia and the World Agroforestry Centre held in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia, 16–17 October 2015.
‘This is but one of several factors that need to be addressed’, Dr Dewi continued. ‘The second is that life-cycle assessments of greenhouse-gas emission savings need to be taken into account for climate-change mitigation. Another is that restoration and a landscape approach must be followed to integrate forestry and agriculture for sustainable landscapes, in which agroforestry can play a role. Fourth, energy and food security should be integrated in multifunctional landscapes, again, for example, through agroforestry. Fifth, the many millions of smallholding farmers throughout the nation need to be engaged in the program and, in particular, provided with clear rights to land. Finally, income generation and social benefits have to be improved through public-private-people partnerships’.
The way to meet these seemingly huge challenges in such a culturally diverse and geographically widespread archipelagic nation of more than 250 million people and around 6,000 inhabited islands was through multi-level policies, for the global, national and local jurisdictions, said Dr Dewi.
‘As well, people charged with the governance of landscapes need improved capacities to understand and effectively implement government policies’, she said. ‘Markets, too, must be made to work for smallholders, particularly, because smallholding farmers already contribute nearly as much as large estates in palm-oil production alone, and are also major contributors to other potential bioenergy crops. But at the moment, market access is not easy for smallholders’.
She also stressed that strong public-private-people partnerships were critical for making the transition to a sustainably fuelled economy.
Dr Dewi continued to explain how she and the research team at the World Agroforestry Centre came to these conclusions.
1. Effective bioenergy value chains
Presenting an image that demonstrated the value-to-volume bioenergy path, Dr Dewi explained the process from low to high value and noted that biomass production is at the lower end of the value scale and involves both agriculture and forestry. She pointed out that the sustainability potential changes as the product moves upwards. For example, in Indonesia at the lower end of the scale, social issues take up more importance than at the higher end, where economic issues dominate. In Indonesia, this translates into land tenure at the lower end and finance at the higher end.
‘The issues at the bottom of the path shouldn’t be dismissed too readily. We don’t want the Jatropha experience again’, she said, referring to the much-vaunted oil-producing tree that failed to live up to its promises owing to a range of factors, not the least of which was weak value chains.
- Life-cycle assessment for emission savings in mitigation
To help meet Sustainable Development Goal 13 on Climate change, Dr Dewi put forward results of a study carried out by the World Agroforestry Centre in which a life-cycle assessment was made involving 23 oil-palm plantations. The research team found that if an oil-palm plantation had been established through conversion of forest on peatland there were no emission savings but rather increases in emissions.
‘We took into account emissions from land conversion to ensure that the entire life cycle was accounted for,’ explained Dr Dewi. ‘This was important. It showed that only if plantations had been established on non-forest land could there be an emission saving’.
Most importantly, the study found that only 39% of palm oil from the sampled plantations met the 35% emission saving standard set by the European Union to allow importation of the commodity. The rest did not.
3. Restoration with landscape approach
In Southeast Asia, mostly the opportunities to restore landscapes are mosaics with multiple functions rather than single, large areas.
This represents huge opportunities for agroforestry to be deployed in such landscapes to help restore the land’s environmental services while also producing bioenergy and food. She stressed that this meant restoring the functions provided by trees in these degraded landscapes, not ecological or forest restoration or planting trees alone.
4. Energy and food security integrated in multifunctional landscapes
‘We don’t want fuel to compete with food if we are to meet Sustainable Development Goal 2: Zero hunger’, said Dr Dewi. ‘Both functions can be integrated in multifunctional, rather than monocultural, landscapes.
To help ensure this integration, Dr Dewi and team have developed a methodology called Land-use Planning for Multiple Environmental Services (known as LUMENS). Using the method with local government planners and local communities, forecast scenarios can be produced based on business as usual or other sets of activities, such as a ‘green’ economy.
5. Promote smallholders’ engagement, including access to land
The World Agroforestry Centre also examined the area under oil palm and found that the growth rate by area of both large estates and smallholders grew at the same rate and smallholdings were not far behind the large company-owned areas.
The area grew from 8 million hectares in 2009 to 11.4 million hectares in 2015 (preliminary data), with about 75% of the area being productive. The share of small of smallholders increased slightly from 38.5% in 2009 to 41.4% in 2015 but was highly variable across provinces in Indonesia, ranging from 1.8% to 75.6% of total area.
The research team conducted an analysis of land categories, filtering those that weren’t ‘green’, and concluded that there were around 4 million hectares suitable for sustainable smallholding oil palm, which would double the contribution of smallholders (in area) from 41 to 82%. This would could go a long way towards Sustainable Development Goal 10: Reduced inequalities.
- Income generation and social benefits improved through public-private-people partnerships
‘We have found that with good partnerships and market access, smallholder systems can be profitable’, said Dr Dewi. ‘As well as sustainable oil-palm systems, increasing the profitability of other smallholding systems is also feasible.
For example, the research team identified that within a radius of 10 or 20 km around the 23 plantations mentioned above, 11.4% or 7.9% of the villages had oil palm as their primary economic activity and those villages had significantly lower prevalence of malnutrition and higher in-migration and percentage of male population than others. Further, 18% of those households had increased their income 2-to-3-fold after five years of engagement in oil-palm cultivation; about 35% had increased their income 4-13-fold after 10 years; and about 45% engaged for more than 10 years had increased their income up to 25-fold.
Oil palm can contribute to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals, concluded Dr Dewi, in the form of bioenergy if all of the above issues were dealt with effectively and in a participatory manner, which, in itself, was a challenge.
This work is supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry