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The lure of IUPs a challenge for faith-based green movement

On May 30, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo issued Government Regulation (PP) No. 25/2024, granting mineral and coal mining business licenses (IUPs) to mass-membership religious organizations without going through an auction process. The policy immediately sparked controversy and protests from various groups.

This move reinforces the assessment that the government’s climate actions and targets are still very poor or categorized as “critically insufficient” (Climate Action Tracker, 2023). The report suggests that Indonesia failed to comply with the Paris Agreement, an international treaty on climate change mitigation, adaptation and finance adopted in 2015.

Will Indonesia’s faith-based environmental movement remain promising in reducing the pace of the climate crisis amid Jokowi’s power consolidation?

As Emile Durkheim (1912) points out in his functionalism theory, religion can serve as a means of social integration, collective expression and strengthening solidarity. In this context, religion is seen as very viable to raise awareness of the wider community to be responsible for preserving nature.

In recent years, religious mass organizations have played a crucial role in raising the moral environmental consciousness of religious communities in Indonesia. They have promoted the articulation of a religious environmental ethic to address the threat of global ecological crises, such as natural disasters, pollution and climate change.

We should be proud of the efforts made by religious mass organizations, such as Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Muhammadiyah, the Indonesian Bishops’ Conference (KWI), the Indonesian Communion of Churches (PGI), Parisada Hindu Darma Indonesia (PHDI), the Indonesian Buddhist Association (Permabudhi) and the Indonesian Supreme Council of the Khonghucu Religion (Matakin), which are involved in mainstreaming and advocating environmental issues in Indonesia.

In campaigning for environmental conservation, they have also collaborated in initiating various conference forums and declarations of religious figures to voice the crucial role of religion in addressing the climate crisis both at the national and international levels.

Mass religious organizations in Indonesia have also developed good practices through religious socio-ecological projects, as can be witnessed with environmental programs such as eco-dawah, eco-mosque, eco-church, eco-pesantren, eco-Ramadan, joint tree planting, waste management, energy transition changes and others.

To demonstrate its commitment to environmental concerns, one of the largest religious organizations in Indonesia, Muhammadiyah, for example, established several dedicated institutions, such as the Muhammadiyah Environmental Council (MLH), The Environmental and Disaster Management Institute (LLHPB) and the Muhammadiyah Disaster Management Center (MDMC). Meanwhile, NU also established the Nahdlatul Ulama Disaster Management and Climate Change Agency (LPBI-NU).

Both religious organizations are also active members of environmental organizations such as the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative (IRI) Indonesia, Humanitarian Forum Indonesia (HFI) and Muslims for Shared Action on Climate Impact (MOSAIC).

Although faith-based environmental activism is growing, the environmental movements initiated by such organizations may still be categorized as small-scale socio-ecological projects. They fail to challenge the state’s development agenda, which still relies on the extraction of natural resources, fossil fuels and deforestation, thereby accelerating the climate crisis in Indonesia. Instead, they remain powerless.

A recent case that underscores the situation is the absence of religious mass organizations’ opposition to the expansion of oil palm plantations, which have seized over 36,000 hectares of Papua’s customary forest with state permission.

Ironically, the government has previously allowed deforestation in Papua, which reached 765.71 hectares only in the January-February period this year.

In an era of democratic deficit and power consolidation in the Jokowi administration, along with the weakness of opposition parties, religious organizations have become an attractive target for cooptation.

Granting mineral and coal IUPs to religious mass organizations will only silence potential watchdog groups, while the public expects that they are supposed to play a significant role in overseeing the government’s agenda to realize the acceleration of the green energy transition.

NU’s proximity to and lack of criticism of the Jokowi administration signal that religious mass organizations have contributed to tolerating an exploitative political economy system and consolidation of power dominated by the relationship between the ruling power and oligarchy.

The most recent case was attributed to the support of the NU executive board (PBNU) for the plan to grant IUPs to religious mass organizations and its swift decision to be the first religious mass organization to submit a mining license to the government.

However, while NU has requested mineral and coal mining licenses from the government, we may still be optimistic about Muhammadiyah and PHDI. These religious organizations have not yet decided whether to submit or reject the granting of IUPs by the government.

We need to appreciate KWI and PGI, which represent the Catholic and Protestant Christian religious minorities in Indonesia. They collectively affirmed that they would not propose the mining business license.

What is left for optimism then? Ensuring that the government realizes a just energy transition in Indonesia might hinge on the consistency and resistance of the civil society movements.

We hope that other religious mass organizations and wing organizations affiliated with them will still care about this critical issue and soon express a firm stance against the granting of IUPs in order to maintain their independence and religious moral commitment to realizing the sustainable life of the global community.

The second reason for optimism is the fact that we still have environmental civil society movements that dare to challenge the government’s agenda, which is still not committed to global climate action.

The emergence of faith-based environmental movement groups such as the Nahdliyin Front for Natural Resources Sovereignty (FNKSDA), the Muhammadiyah Green Cadre (KHM), the Green Christian Youth Network and Ummah for Earth, which have strong grassroots constituencies and networks of prominent environmental activists in Indonesia, is a sign of hope for halting environmental destruction.

Protecting the social rights of individual citizens requires more than just outrage. To secure the right to a decent, healthy and sustainable life in the future, we must work harder to insist on climate justice.


Writer: Aldi Nur Fadil Auliya

Published on https://www.thejakartapost.com/opinion/2024/06/25/the-lure-of-iups-a-challenge-for-faith-based-green-movement.html