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Environment

Indonesia Could Be the First Country to Move Its Capital Because of Climate Change

Why Global Citizens Should Care
Megacities around the world are being forced to contend with rising sea levels, extreme storms, and sinking infrastructure. By 2100, billions of people could be displaced by climate change unless governments meaningfully address the environmental crisis. You can join us by taking action on this issue here.

Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo said on Tuesday that the government is preparing to spend $33 billion to move its capital city because rising levels threaten to submerge Jakarta, the Financial Times reports.

It would be the first time that a country moved its capital because of climate change.

The city, home to 10 million people, has been sinking into the the ocean twice as fast as the global average of coastal megacities, according to the BBC. By 2050, 95% of North Jakarta is expected to be underwater.

Take Action: Ensure All Communities Can Withstand Climate Disaster

Already, the city is facing increasingly severe flooding and coastal erosion. The advance of sea levels is compounded by the city’s overdevelopment and mismanagement of groundwater supplies. As the city depletes groundwater supplies, roads and infrastructure are sinking into the ground in a phenomenon known as subsidence, BBC reports.

Instead of improving the city’s resilience to climate change, developers throughout Jakarta are building new properties in areas highly vulnerable to sea level rise and extreme storms.

The city is also dangerously overcrowded, with traffic jams costing the national economy $6.8 billion annually, NPR notes.

All of these factors have spurred the government to look for an alternative home base.

Read More: How a Tiny Alaska Town Is Leading the Way on Climate Change

Joko Widodo, popularly known throughout the country as Jokowi, told press that three cities are in the running for the relocation, but before the plan can be approved, major preparations have to be made, including building appropriate infrastructure and raising the funds to enable the transition.

Jokowi also said that the move has been discussed for years now, indicating that government officials have long known that rising sea levels would make Jakarta unsuitable as a capital city.

Indonesia is ranked by HSBC as the 30th most vulnerable country to climate change, but the report also said that it has the ability to effectively adapt by investing in sustainable infrastructure and reforestation.

Residents in Jakarta worry that the relocation will merely shift the environmental degradation of the capital elsewhere.

Read More: Venice Faces Its Worst Floods in 10 Years — and Climate Change Could Cause More

"I hope the city will develop and the education will become as good as in Jakarta," a high school student told the BBC. "But all the land and forest that's empty space now will be used. Kalimantan [the Indonesian portion of Borneo] is the lungs of the world, and I am worried we will lose the forest we have left."

Jakarta’s relocation is a stark reminder of the urgency of climate change. For decades, governments have failed to meaningfully address the environmental crisis caused by greenhouse gas emissions pumped into the atmosphere.

Now the consequences of that inaction are being felt around the world — and by the end of the century, more than 2 billion people could be displaced by rising sea levels.