‘SEEING RED’ OR SEEING REDD ? CLIMATE CHANGE POLITICAL ECONOMY AND THE COLLAPSE OF THE INDONESIAN REDD AGENCY
133 Pages Posted:
Date Written: May 2017
In 2015 the Indonesian President, Joko Widodo, closed down a climate change regulatory institution which had been established by his predecessor five years earlier. The institution, which focused on avoiding deforestation and forest degradation (REDD ), had been making progressive steps toward implementing this UN backed policy framework in Indonesia, for which it was lauded globally. This thesis seeks to understand why the Indonesian REDD institution was closed by the Widodo administration, and what lessons this case reveals about the process of implementing climate change law and policy in developing countries in a post-Paris Agreement context.
Drawing on an emerging literature on climate change political economy, this thesis argues that the closure of the REDD Agency was a consequence of three interrelated factors. Firstly, was the Agency’s slow progress on making REDD reform. The institutional structure of the REDD Agency did not provided it sufficient regulatory power to pass some of the reforms central to the policy platform. At the time of the transition to the Widodo administration, many important elements of the REDD framework remained undeveloped.
Secondly, the new Widodo government and civil society held negative perceptions of the REDD Agency. These negative perceptions arose from the Agency’s slow regulatory progress, and concerns that REDD was ultimately benefiting international constituencies more than domestic Indonesian interests. In addition, the structure of the institution led to a cultural clash between REDD Agency staff and the ministries with which it was tasked to collaborate.
Thirdly, the Agency focused most of its resources on establishing the technocratic elements required for REDD reform, and not on building the political coalitions of support needed to achieve REDD . As a consequence, when the new Widodo administration came to power, the REDD Agency had few political allies or interest groups willing to advocate on its behalf.
These three findings about the REDD Agency in Indonesia have some significance with respect to the way that developing countries implement their climate change law and policy settings. Firstly, developing country governments and donors should invest in and manage the politics of reforms, and not just its technocratic aspects. Secondly, policymakers should invest time and political capital in creating a secure regulatory footing for climate law and policy as early as possible. Thirdly, policymakers should take account of the costs of advancing reforms through institutional structures which sit outside the regular bureaucracy. Using such structures create the risk of alienating the reformers and threaten the long term prospects of achieving climate reform.
Keywords: Climate change; mitigation; REDD ; Indonesia; political economy
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