Charting the Path to Peace: Who Bears the Burden of Climate Variability in Indonesia?

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Written by Grazia Pacillo. Image credit: IRRI

CGIAR FOCUS Climate Security explores the role of climate and food systems for lasting peace. We do this through multidisciplinary research and by building strong networks with partners who want to contribute directly or indirectly to climate security and peacebuilding. Find out more and read all our latest stories. Recordings of the webinar sessions are available here. The webinar is also available in podcast format from the UN Global Dispatches Podcast Website.

In our eighth Webinar of the 2-part series on “Charting the path to peace”, we were joined by:

  • Athia Yumna, Deputy Director of Research and Outreach, The SMERU Research Institute
  • Henriette Faergemann, First Counsellor, Environment, Climate Action and ICT, Delegation of the European Union to Indonesia (EU)
  • Maliki, Director for Poverty Alleviation and Community Empowerment, Indonesia Ministry of National Development Planning (BAPPENAS)
  • Mubariq Ahmad, Country Director, Conservation Strategy Fund (CSF) Indonesia

In a recent study “Who bears the burden of climate variability? A comparative analysis of the impact of weather conditions on inequality in Vietnam and Indonesia”, Pacillo et al. (2020) find that the effect of climate variability in Indonesia is regressive as the impact of changing climatic conditions is not equally distributed across the Indonesian population, bringing disproportionately higher impacts upon farming households and on the poorest and most vulnerable people, who are less capable of coping with climate hazards. The analysis finds lower climate coping ability to be linked to multiple dimensions such as age, gender, and education, with rural women, elderly and less educated suffering the most the consequences of climate variability.

The objective of this event was to reflect on the impacts that the current climate crisis has on the most vulnerable in Indonesia. We asked our participants: is climate variability regressive?  Does climate variability impact more on those who are less able to cope with its consequences? And if so, what can we do to ensure an equal, sustainable economic development for all in Indonesia?

The panellists discussed policy options to mitigate the impact of climate variability on the inequality of opportunities for the poorest and most marginalised people, ultimately contributing to peace and security in Indonesia. Three main priority actions were identified:

1. Strengthening evidence on who bears the biggest burden of climate impacts

The multi-dimensionality and complexity of the impacts of climate on inequality should be carefully considered when trying to address the needs of the most vulnerable. One of the main challenges in this regard is data. The quality of the data collected from the poorest, most vulnerable, and most marginalized, such as the elderly and disabled, is often exceptionally low and more high-quality information must be collected. Mr. Maliki emphasized that increasing the quality of the evidence on how these groups cope and react with socio-economic and environmental challenges will be critical for their integration in the GoI’s social protection programs and for a timely response when climate hazards happen. 

2. Mainstream climate impacts into social protection programs, investments and policies to protect the most vulnerable in a context of the climate crisis

Policies, investments and specifically social protection schemes must keep the pace of the climate challenge. Mrs. Yuma, Deputy Director of The SMERU Institute, noted that increasing climate sensitiveness of decision-making processes will mean ensuring that the needs, livelihood conditions and vulnerabilities of the poorest and most marginalized will be heard and considered in the places of power. Maliki highlighted that this is an ambition that BAPPENAS is taking very seriously. A roadmap on the implementation of an integrated social policy, to be launched in 2021, will foster the implementation of an “Adaptive Social Protection” program with the main objective of protecting the most vulnerable during emergency situations.

3. Enforcing the recognition of people’s right over natural capital, improving land governance and invest more in renewable energy

After 150 years since the adoption of the law “domein verklaring”, many poor and more marginalized people still lack the right to own land. Mr. Ahmad, CSF Country Director, emphasized that social protection schemes will not alleviate the burden that climate change poses on the poorest and most vulnerable if the recognition of their right to capital is not enforced throughout.

Land-use changes in Indonesia, with tropical forest and traditional agricultural crops such as rubber, shrinking in favor of big oil palm plantations, have caused severed deforestation concerns over the past decades (Bou Dib et al., 2018) and recent regulations, including the new Labour Law, seem to contribute to this trend, reducing even further the capacity of the most vulnerable, especially those who rely on forest products and land, to cope with socio-economic and environmental impacts. Mrs. Faergeman and Mr. Ahmad both highlighted the need to invest more in non-oil palm-based renewable energy sources to reduce the environmental footprint and protecting the most vulnerable.

CGIAR’s role in Climate Security in Indonesia

CGIAR scientists are actively involved in supporting the GoI in dealing with climate impacts on agriculture and food systems. Since 2013, the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security in Southeast Asia (CCAFS SEA) aimed to help Indonesia, particularly the government and smallholder farmers, cope with the impacts of climate change in agriculture. CCAFS SEA brings together the world’s best agricultural scientists and climate experts to study and address the interactions, synergies, and trade-offs among climate change, agriculture, and food security. In Indonesia, CCAFS research has helped to identify opportunities and barriers to producer participation in the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) Certification; designed innovative approaches to agriculture and forest management and supported the implementation of REDD+ initiatives highlighting the importance of strategies that prioritize the livelihoods of local communities as well as emissions reduction.

If you are in a rush, check out a quick 2-minute summary video of our webinar discussion here:


Acknowledgments: This dissemination event is part of the research project “Climate variability in Indonesia and Vietnam” from the EU-AFD Research Facility on inequalities, developed with the financial support of the European Commission and the coordination of the French Development Agency (AFD). The research initiative presented is a complement to other climate initiatives in Indonesia that AFD supports, such as a non-sovereign loan to strengthen the capacities of the Meteorological, climatological and geophysical agency (BMKG) for marine meteorology data acquisition and modeling and two credit lines to PTSMI dedicated to adaptation and mitigation of climate change with some allocations to health and social projects.


Bou Dib, J., Alamsyah, Z., & Qaim, M. (2018). Land-use change and income inequality in rural Indonesia. Forest Policy and Economics, 94, 55–66.

Pacillo, G., Nguyen Viet, C., Hafianti, S., Abanokova, K., Dang, H.-A., Armando, H., & Estrella, A. (2020). Research papers.

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