Indonesia is home to more than 275 million people – the fourth most populous country in the world – and has been ranked as one of the top ten emitters of global greenhouse gasses (World Resources Institute, Friedrich et al., 2023). Indonesia is rich in natural resources (UNFCCC, 2022): most of the country’s emissions stem from land use, particularly from deforestation and the clearance of carbon-rich peatlands for agriculture development – often for oil palm plantations (Groom et al., 2022; The World Bank Group and Asian Development Bank, 2021). Emissions from land use represent over half of Indonesia’s total emissions (The Ministry of National Development Planning/National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas), 2019), which significantly contribute to the country’s ranking as a major emitter of greenhouse gasses. Another primary source of Indonesia’s emissions is the energy sector’s use of fossil fuels – representing about one-quarter of the country’s total emissions (Carbon Brief, Dunne, 2019).

Indonesia is highly exposed to various climate hazards and vulnerable to the impacts of climate change (The World Bank Group and Asian Development Bank, 2021). According to the 2023 INFORM Risk Index, Indonesia has been ranked in the top third of countries most at risk to climate hazards (48th out of 191), including flooding, droughts, and heatwaves (European Commission, 2023). The frequency and intensity of climate hazards are expected to grow as climate change worsens. With Indonesia’s large low-elevation coastal population – ranked 5th in the world – the country is especially vulnerable to the impacts of flooding and sea-level rise, including harmful effects to the communities living in coastal areas, as well as to the agricultural and fishing industries (Neumann et al., 2015). For example, Indonesia’s capital city, Jakarta, on the island of Java, has been ranked as the world’s most vulnerable city to environmental threats (Environmental Risk Outlook, Nichols, 2021). It is estimated that by 2050, up to 95% of Jakarta’s coastal areas could be submerged due to sea-level rise (The World Bank Group and Asian Development Bank, 2021). Given that a majority of Indonesia’s population live in coastal areas – particularly on the island of Java – many communities, especially rural communities, are at an increased risk to climate change-related hazards, including tidal floods and storms (Rudiarto et al., 2018).

Because of its geographical location, Indonesia is also among the countries most at risk to extreme heat caused by global warming (Matthews et al., 2017; Mora et al., 2017). In 2015, El Niño reduced rainfall in parts of Indonesia’s Borneo and Sumatra islands, resulting in drought and more intensive seasonal fires (NASA, Jenner, 2016). Indonesia’s agriculture is particularly vulnerable to climate change. The provinces of East and West Nusa Tenggara, which are prone to drought, are those that are most at risk from food insecurity (USAID, 2022). For instance, the production of rice, a key food staple in Indonesia, is sensitive to fluctuations in the start and duration of the wet season. El Niño events have an impact on rice production by delaying rainfall and increasing chances of yearly rice shortages, and these events are predicted to become more frequent due to climate change (The World  Bank Group and Asian Development Bank, 2021).

Indonesia’s large tropical rainforests make it among the most biodiverse countries in the world (Margono et al., 2014). However, deforestation and forest loss (including peatlands), mainly due to the rise of agriculture development (e.g., palm oil plantations, illegal logging), threatens the growth of these carbon-rich forests and has implications for Indonesia’s climate change mitigation efforts (Earth.Org, Shahreen, 2022). It is estimated that Indonesia lost over 28 million hectares of tree cover from 2001 to 2021 (Global Forest Watch, 2023) – an area larger than the United Kingdom. Degradation and deforestation of mangroves, in particular, was responsible for 10% of the country’s overall forestry-related greenhouse gas emissions, even though mangroves make up only 2.6% of Indonesia’s total forest area (Budi Arifanti et al., 2022). Indonesia has also experienced a rise in wildfires in recent years, increasing the country’s carbon emissions and threatening the preservation of forests (Earth.Org, Shahreen, 2022). The 2019 fires (mainly among peatlands) were especially damaging, emitting twice the amount of carbon pollution released by fires in the Amazon during the same year (Mongabay, Jong, 2019). To address these issues, the Indonesian government has created new policies for the land use sector by creating a moratorium on new permits, and increasing the preservation of forests and peatlands through improved sustainability management (UNFCCC, 2022). In 2015, President Jokowi started a social forestry program to give people legal access to 12.7 million hectares of forests. The initiative includes land rezoning, capacity building, and enhancing the value chain for sustainable livelihoods (The World Bank, 2021).

Indonesia is home to about 50–70 million Indigenous people – about 18–25% of the total population (IWGIA, n.d.). For Indigenous people in Indonesia, the loss of land has greatly impacted their livelihoods including threats to their homes, identity and culture, access to food and water, economic structures, and well-being. Indigenous populations (Masyarakat Adat) are especially affected by deforestation and forest loss, particularly as a result of oil palm plantation development (Human Rights Watch, 2019). Conflicts regarding land are common and have been frequently connected to oil palm plantations (Human Rights Watch, Nnoko-Mewanu, 2019). This often leads to the forced displacement of Indigenous people to relocate their homes and communities. There has been a great deal of criticism about government oversight and corporate accountability arguing that the government has failed to protect Indigenous people and has ignored massive forest clearance, allowing for the expansion of oil palm plantations (Human Rights Watch, Nnoko-Mewanu, 2019). In May 2023, the Nusantara Fund was launched, which is Indonesia’s first program to directly support Indigenous populations and local communities (Mongabay, Jong, 2023). The Nusantara Fund aims to reach $20 million in funding from donors and will enable Indigenous populations and local communities in Indonesia to map, protect, and rehabilitate millions of acres of land.

Indonesia is prioritizing the development of clean energy sources in national policy, eventually putting the country on a path toward decarbonization. While Indonesia is one of the largest global producers of coal and the largest gas supplier in Southeast Asia, the country has ambitious plans to become one of the world’s largest biofuel producers (IEA, n.d.; UNFCC, 2022), and to cut emissions by about 32% on their own or 43% with international support, exceeding the goals set by the Paris Climate Agreement (Reuters, 2022). During the G20 event in November 2022, Indonesia signed the Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP) with international lenders and the G7 nations to help reduce dependency on fossil fuels and increase the use of renewables. The USD 20 billion funding will be disbursed in the next five years and expects to see the early retirement of coal-fired plants (Mongabay, Jong, 2022). Also, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) will incorporate climate change adaptation and mitigation measures into its infrastructure investments and assist Indonesia’s nationally set contribution goal of 23% renewable energy production by 2025. ADB will assist gas-fired power production facilities to provide backup capacity for intermittent usage of renewable energy and the replacement of diesel in Indonesia. Importantly, Indonesia has significant solar photovoltaic and wind resources that can be used on a massive scale (The World Bank Group and Asian Development Bank, 2021).

An effective national strategy in Indonesia, however, must consider the public’s beliefs and attitudes about climate change, risk perceptions, and other responses to the environment (e.g, values, behavior). People in Indonesia will play a critical role in the success or failure of this strategy through their actions as citizens, consumers, and communities. Understanding how Indonesians respond to climate change and environmental problems – including what they know, believe, and support, as well as what they misunderstand, disbelieve, or oppose – has important implications for educating and communicating with the public to build more support and demand for climate policy.

In an effort to understand public responses to climate change and the environment in Indonesia, Development Dialogue Asia, the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, Communication for Change, and Kantar Indonesia collaborated to conduct a nationally representative survey of Indonesian adults (18+). This research investigated the public’s climate change awareness, beliefs, and attitudes, as well as perceived risks of environmental problems (e.g., deforestation, forest fires), awareness and beliefs about Indigenous peoples, and other responses to the environment (e.g., norms, values, activism). The goals of this research include contributing to both scientific and public understanding and dialogue about climate issues, and providing relevant information for the climate change community in Indonesia.


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