Indonesia's Environmental Crossroads: The 2024 Presidential Election - Pager Power
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Indonesia’s Environmental Crossroads: The 2024 Presidential Election

Indonesia’s Environmental Crossroads: The 2024 Presidential Election
February 22, 2024 Ayda Yates

Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto has supposedly emerged victorious in Indonesia’s monumental presidential election following an unofficial quick count, potentially securing the leadership of the world’s fourth most populous nation for the next five years [1]. As the globe’s third-largest democracy, boasting nearly 205 million eligible voters tasked with electing a new president and approximately 20,000 other public officials spread across over 17,000 islands, the election was significant for its scale and for bringing attention to the delicate balance that Indonesia must strike between environmental sustainability and economic progress [2].

Indonesia 2024 election

Figure 1: Man holding an Indonesian Flag [8].

Mr. Prabowo, who served as the defence minister since 2019, faced dismissal from the army for alleged involvement in the kidnapping of political dissidents [3]. Climate campaigners have expressed concern about his human rights record. Throughout the campaign, Mr. Prabowo denied these concerns, emphasising that he has never been charged in a court of justice.

Indonesia is at a pivotal crossroads as the world’s largest nickel reserve holder and leading producer of palm oil, coal, and other natural resources [4]. The global shift towards green energy, particularly the use of renewable energy and electric cars, highlights the environmental trade-offs inherent in its abundant resource base. Prabowo’s challenge is to create a balance between leveraging these resources for economic expansion and resolving environmental concerns.

Prabowo’s pledge to maintain previous President Joko Widodo’s restriction on raw nickel exports is aimed at encouraging the development of a domestic battery-making industry [5]. However, a conflict occurs since the energy-intensive nickel processing necessitates significant power, resulting in an increase in coal-fired power plants. The need to achieve a green transition while maintaining economic growth is a critical challenge.

Green Energy Transition and Environmental Concerns

All three presidential candidates, including Prabowo, have voiced support for Indonesia’s transition to sustainable energy. At the G20 summit in Bali in November 2022, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak joined other world leaders to launch the Indonesia Just Energy Transition Partnership, indicating a collective effort to transition away from coal [6]. However, challenges remain as new coal-fired power plants are built to meet industrial demands. Prabowo’s alleged intentions to gradually wean Indonesia off of coal power raises questions regarding the effectiveness and speed of Indonesia’s transition to sustainable energy [5].

The recent election and Prabowo’s leadership have brought disputed environmental issues—most notably, the bold proposal to relocate the capital to Borneo—to light. Environmentalists have expressed their concerns, pointing out that the project will put a financial burden on the country and that it has the potential to destroy the environment and displace indigenous peoples [7]. With Prabowo in charge, he and the other elected ministers have the task to resolve these concerns in order to create an inclusive and sustainable growth model.

Global Impact on Climate

Indonesia’s role in the global climate effort is significant, considering its huge forests that serve as carbon sinks and its vast natural resources that can aid in the transition to renewable energy. Prabowo’s pledges to develop more biofuels, particularly increased palm oil production and mining, raise concerns about future deforestation [5]. Indonesia’s commitment to global agreements, such as the Just Energy Transition Partnership, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Kyoto Protocol, the Paris Agreement, and the Convention on Biological Diversity (to name a few), must be closely examined to ensure that it is consistent with effective climate action.

With its new leader, Indonesia is at a turning point in determining the direction of its green energy and environmental policies. It will be extremely difficult to strike a balance between environmental sustainability and economic growth, necessitating calculated choices about deforestation, carbon emissions, and the fine line between resource extraction and preservation. Under Prabowo’s direction, the world observes Indonesia as it attempts to move towards a more environmentally friendly and sustainable future.

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[1] Nikkei staff writers, “Indonesia election latest: How Prabowo’s big night unfolded”, Nikkei Asia, 2024, Accessed: 15 November 2024.  

[2] Niniek Karmini, “What’s at stake in Indonesia, which is choosing a president and some 20,000 other office holders”, ABC news, 2024, Accessed: 14 November 2024.  

[3] Sui-Lee Wee, “Why This Presidential Front-Runner Is Stirring Fears of the ‘Death of Democracy’”, The New York Times, 2024, Accessed: 15 November 2024.  

[4] International Renewable Energy Agency, “Energy Transition Investment Opportunities in Southeast Asia a Preview of Asean and Indonesia Findings”, IRENA Report, 2022, Accessed: 14 November 2024.  

[5] Somini Sengupta, “Indonesia’s Vote: Three Takeaways for Climate Change”, The New York Times, 2024,  Accessed: 14 November 2024.  

[6] Cabinet Office, “Indonesia Just Energy Transition Partnership Launched at G20”,, 2022, Accessed: 14 November 2024.

[7] Paige Van de Vuurst & Luis E. Escobar, “Perspective: Climate Change and the Relocation of Indonesia’s Capital to Borneo”, Frontiers in Earth Science, Volume 8, 2020, Accessed: 14 November 2024.  

[8] Irgi Nur Fadil, Image of “Man Holding a Flag” 2019 from Last accessed on 14 February 2024. Available at:


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