Sidney Morning Herald—When British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the British Parliament last week that Indonesia was bringing forward its target to phase out coal to 2040, it surprised climate change watchers in Jakarta.

After all, the south-east Asian nation is the 11th biggest consumer of the fossil fuel, the world’s leading exporter of thermal coal and is, with Chinese financing, continuing to build new coal-fired power plants until 2023.

Previously, it had set 2056 as the year it would retire the last plants as part of its mission to reach net-zero emissions by 2060 or sooner.

Johnson, though, had been told the news directly by President Joko Widodo, known as Jokowi, and it was confirmed at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow this week.

Highly susceptible to the effects of climate change, from rising sea levels, floods and landslides to threats to food security, Indonesia used the gathering of world leaders to declare it was seeking to wean itself off coal in a partnership with the Asian Development Bank and the Philippines, another country in the top 30 global burners of coal for electricity.

It was the key takeaway of an appearance in Scotland by Joko laced with statesmanlike ambition, although not all was exactly as it seemed.

By the end of the week Indonesia had apparently turned its back on a multilateral agreement, also announced in Glasgow, to end deforestation by 2030.

The new goal on coal also comes with a significant caveat. It will cost a bomb and Indonesia can’t afford to pay for it.

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