（Photo: General Elections Commission of Indonesia)
Indonesia’s presidential election held its fourth debate last Sunday (Jan. 21), where vice-presidential candidates from the National Democratic Party, the Great Indonesia Movement Party, and the Democratic Struggle Party engaged in heated discussions regarding sustainable development, energy, and agriculture issues. Analysts suggest that the candidates focused more on theatrics and attacking each other, leading to a lack of substantial policy disclosure during the debate.
The opening remarks started from Muhaimin Iskandar, the vice-presidential candidate of the National Democratic Part (Nasional Demokrat, NasDem). He firstly criticized President Jokowi’s “food estate” project and accused the government of inadequately addressing the climate crisis. Took the national budget as an example, he highlighted the disproportionately low allocation for climate-related funds compared to other projects, resulting in a decrease in the share of new and renewable energy (EBT) to 17%. Muhaimin did not rule out the possibility of implementing a carbon tax, but also prioritizing energy transition.
Gibran Rakabuming Raka, the vice-presidential candidate of the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerakan Indonesia Raya, Gerindra), expressed support for the current government’s direction in energy transition. He pledged to continue the “downstream project”, prohibiting the export of raw minerals to foreign countries, aiming to enhance the domestic value in manufacturing sector. Additionally, he plans to expand this initiative to include agriculture, maritime affairs, and the technology industry.
In order to reduce dependency on fossil fuels, Gibran also pledged to expand the use of renewable energy and continue to promote bioethanol, biodiesel, as well as aviation biofuel. He even emphasized the importance of implementing a carbon tax and estimated the creation of 19 million new job opportunities, where 5 million jobs are expected to be related to environment sustainable development, known as green jobs. However, he acknowledges that the high costs associated with the transition to green energy, stating that many businesses are currently unable to shift from fossil fuels to low-carbon alternatives.
Mahfud MD, the last vice-presidential candidate from the Democratic Struggle Party (Partai Demokrasi Indonesia Perjuangan, PDIP), also criticized the “food estate” project, arguing that it should aim to increase the country’s food production, but instead it neglects the welfare of farmers and damage the environment. In response, he proposed two primary work plans, including “Farmers are proud farming” and “Victory at the sea, prosperous fishermen”. However, he did not delve extensively into the energy policies.
The two-hour-debate received criticism from many experts who felt that all the candidates did not effectively utilize their time to discuss on the issues. Dewi Kartika, the secretary-general from Consortium for Agrarian Reform (KPA), expressed disappointment, stating that the candidates’ discussions were superficial. She noted the excessive use of irrelevant jargon, making it difficult for audience to understand the real meaning. Although many questions have directly mentioned about their strategic steps, they failed to produce real outcomes.
The Indonesian environmental group, “Indonesian Forum for the Environment” (WALHI), analyzed the debate and pointed out that it only focused on the upstream and sources of energy production, neglecting the overall issues within the energy supply chain. They emphasized that energy transition is a crucial factor in Jakarta’s effort to curb air pollution. Leonard Simanjutak, the director of the non-profit organization Greenpeace Indonesia, also highlighted the continuous nickel mining cause sea and air pollution. He expressed concern that none of these candidates discussed how to accelerate decarbonization or navigate through the energy transition period.