The 2024 political year can strengthen environmental issues among political parties and the public, especially the younger generation. It is time for the climate crisis to become a priority agenda for policymakers and receive significant public attention. This is because it greatly affects people’s lives.

“It’s time to use the election for change,” said Furqan AMC of the Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI) at a hearing organized by The Society of Indonesian Environmental Journalists (SIEJ) supported by the United States Embassy at the Savoy Homann Hotel, Bandung, Wednesday (27/9/2023).

Furqan believes discussion alone will not solve environmental problems. He added that it is necessary to map the stakeholders in this environmental issue.

Each of them can choose their own role. All actions must be synergized. Then we determine who can put them all together,” he said.

The discussion titled “Strengthening Environmental Narratives in the Political Year” was also attended by 20 journalists and citizen journalists who participated in the training on September 26 and other journalists working in Bandung. The event was the last in a series of similar events held in Sorong, Kupang, Medan, and Surabaya.

Haru Suandharu, chairman of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) in the West Java legislative, shares Furqan’s view. Suandharu recognizes major environmental problems in West Java. Starting with waste management, clean water crisis, air quality, deforestation, coastal environmental damage, natural resource conflicts, and biodiversity loss.

He said penta helix collaboration is needed to deal with environmental issues. The government, the business sector, academia, the media, and the community need to participate.

“It’s time to shift to a development approach that prioritizes environmental sustainability,” said Suandharu.

Padjajaran University political observer Firman Manan said that political parties are market or voter-oriented. “What the market wants becomes the party’s orientation. The majority talk about the economy, not the environment,” he said.

Manan believes this is why not many political parties make the environment a priority issue. “In the end, not many will put the environment as a priority issue. They will talk about the economy,” he said.

Survey results from several institutions support Manan’s analysis. A YouGov survey in 2020 ranked Indonesia as the country with the most global warming deniers.

While a survey by the Department of Politics and Government (DPP) of Gajahmada University in March 2023 also found paradoxes. The majority of 1,083 respondents from 22 universities in Indonesia admitted to being exposed to and affected by climate change. However, they don’t consider the issue a top priority for the government to deal with.

The first priority, according to the majority of respondents, is poverty alleviation; followed by corruption and inequality.

The U.S. Embassy spokesperson Michael Quinlan says the climate crisis is the most urgent issue to address at the moment.

“Making this issue a priority in public discourse is very important, especially given how many things are at risk in this important year,” he said.

Quinlan cited recent study conducted by Yayasan Cerah Indonesia. The report shows that most political parties have not included the climate crisis or energy transition on their platforms.

He encouraged Indonesian journalists to provide information to people in West Java about climate change’s impacts on the environment, the economy, and society. In addition, he encouraged them to shape public opinion and promote conversations around climate change.

During the hearing, the head of Human Resources and Research and Development of the West Java elections body, Abdullah Syafii’i mentioned e-voting as a way to contribute to environmental sustainability.

West Java is currently home to the most voters. For 35.7 million voters in the province, Syafii’i said, the West Java elections body has to print 1.2 billion ballots for the 2024 elections.

“According to a study, to make one rim of paper, one tree has to be cut down. How many trees will be felled to print all those ballots?” asked Syafii’i.

Syafii’i says the elections body will continue to side with the environment in elections. Although it has not yet organized electronic voting, the elections body will try to implement electronic recapitulation of election results next year.

Encouraging youth voters

For SIEJ, encouraging young voters to be more concerned about environmental issues is paramount as millennials and Generation Z will be the majority of voters in the 2024 elections.

The Indonesian population included in the permanent voter list (DPT) according to the General Election Commission (KPU), reached 204,807,222 people. Of these, 66.8 million (33.6%) are millennials (born between 1980 and 1994), while 46.8 million (22.85%) are Generation Z (born between 1995 and the 2000s), making up 56.45% of the total number of voters. A vital group in the 2024 elections.

“It is critical to give more space to youth voices in the media. They should be encouraged to become opinion leaders, represent various communities to speak out, and demand climate commitment from politicians in their respective regions,” said Joni Aswira, chairman of SIEJ.

Aswira hopes that the media will not be trapped by “political gimmicks” in reporting on the 2024 elections, forgetting to prioritize politicians’ issues and ideas. He believes the political year is the right time to demand commitment from those in public office.

One of the efforts to strengthen environmental issues, Aswira explained, can be done by strengthening media literacy on climate and environmental issues in various regions. This includes mainstream media, community media, and youth conservation activists in the regions.

It is also imperative to adopt new media platforms to raise climate and environmental issues in their region. Media and journalists must become collaborative partners of youth for climate action.

“Hopefully, environmental and climate crisis issues will become a common concern and a conversation and agenda carried by candidates for presidential, regional, and legislative elections who will compete in the 2024 elections,” said Aswira.

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