Indonesia and Denmark have signed bilateral agreements on environmental issues and many more. NOW! Jakarta spoke to the Danish Ambassador about the relationship between the two countries.

H.E. Rasmus Abildgaard Kristensen Ambassador of Denmark in Indonesia. Photo by Raditya Fadilla/NOW!JAKARTA

You’ve spent many years in Asia and the past year as Ambassador to Indonesia. Where do things stand, in terms of development, in this part of the world? Climate change has affected this region quite a bit, there have been economic issues. What’s your take on the situation today?
My career has taken many twists and turns, but yes, geographically, I’ve had a strong focus on Asia, both working on the continent from headquarters but also from China. Apart from that, I’ve been working on climate and energy issues for a long time, so before coming here I was on leave from the Foreign Service and working with the Ministry of Energy and Climate. The field of energy and climate is something I feel strongly about.

Asia in general plays a big role in relation to sustainability. Many countries in the region are looking towards expanding capacity in their energy system, transportation, etc. When you have large populations who have achieved middle class status in a short period of time, there is a lot of pressure on the planet’s resources, so in that sense it’s a key priority region for my country. When we look at climate and clean energy we have a number of countries we partner with, and in this region it includes China, Vietnam, India and Indonesia.

The logic is clear. We are doing what we can in Denmark and by 2030 our power sector will be 100 per cent renewable. However, our emissions in Denmark are minuscule on a global scale, but if we can inspire the likes of China, India and Indonesia to do the same, then we can have a much bigger impact. That’s why we are investing resources and making partnerships with those countries to make the transition in a more clean and green way.

For the past couple of years we have worked closely with Indonesia on promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency. I think the Indonesian government has done a lot to address some of the climate challenges related to the land use and forestry sector. The majority of Indonesia’s emissions come from that sector, but the key thing is to look ten years ahead, and then the majority of Indonesia’s emissions are going to come from the energy sector. So it’s important that Indonesia gets it right.

The Danish Government presented the Digital Growth Strategy earlier this year. How does Indonesia play into this?
Denmark is one of the most digitised countries in the world and the government has developed strong capabilities in that area. It’s about using data in an effective manner that would pertain to any area of society. Going back to the energy sector, it’s one of those sectors where using data is going to completely revolutionise the way energy systems are thought of and managed and that will have implications in Denmark and abroad. In terms of E-government, Denmark is the best in Europe, and possibly the world. This is something we can also collaborate on with Indonesia.

Late last year, the Danish-Indonesian bilateral relationship was enhanced by the signing of agreements on environmental issues and related areas. How have these agreements changed the practices of these various industries?
I’m happy that the relationship is not only broad but increasingly deep. We cooperate in a number of areas like energy and environment but also food and agriculture, where Denmark has a stronghold. We are also looking to strengthen relations in terms of education and culture, etc.

So, I’m happy we are not cooperating in just one or two areas, but in a range of sectors, so that’s how we characterise the relationship. We have identified Indonesia as one of our strategic partner countries. It’s a limited list of countries like Japan, China, etc and also Indonesia. 

Although it has been just a year into your tenure, what can you count among your successes in terms of the Danish-Indonesian relationship?
Last year there was the visit of the Prime Minister, which was a follow up from the visit by our Queen earlier. Last year, Denmark signed a joint action plan with Indonesia which contains almost 100 deliverables in a number of sectors with a clear timetable for implementation. It’s a great platform for the cooperation going forward and I understand the Indonesian side is using it as best practice for how they would like to cooperate with other countries because it’s easy to take stock and to coordinate among the various public and private entities that are involved in  the cooperation activities. I’m happy to note that so far more than half of the deliverables have either been completed or are under implementation. 

What are the Embassy’s plans in the year ahead? Any new developments planned to further the connection between the two countries?
Quite a few. We would like to place more emphasis on islands in the Eastern part of Indonesia and help them progress and transition in the fields of clean energy and waste management. In Denmark, we also face some of the same challenges, remoteness, vast distances, etc. Especially in Greenland. But we have clean technology solutions that are extremely well-suited for small islands with isolated energy systems.

If we talk about renewable energy, it is extremely competitive in such locations, because the alternative is expensive diesel fuel. Solar power, wind power, biomass small-scale hydro and small-scale geothermal would be obvious choices. We would like to expand that and also make sure that islands plan in a way that they can get an optimal mix of renewables and combine it with waste management like waste to energy and that would not only generate stable and affordable power to the islands, but also in clean way that the islands attract tourists in the future.


This article is originally from paper. Read NOW!Jakarta Magazine November 2018 issue“Travel Issue”. Available at selected bookstore or SUBSCRIBE here.

Ranjit Jose

Ranjit Jose

Ranjit is a previous Editor of NOW! Jakarta. A cultural journalist and anthropologist by training, he has reported on arts and culture for a variety of publications in the USA and Indonesia.