Meet Salsa: Regional Coordinator for Southeast Asia

Student Energy’s Global Youth Energy Outlook is led by a team of 12 youth Regional Coordinators who are working together to reach a total of 50,000 young people around the world in 2020 and 2021. As they engage young people in their region through a two-phase research process, the Outlook’s Regional Coordinators will be gathering insights and recommendations to develop the final Outlook report, with key findings set to be shared at COP26 in 2021.

In this interview series, we get to know each of our Regional Coordinators in-depth:

Introduce yourself and where you come from.

Hi! My name is Salsa from Jakarta, Indonesia. I am the Southeast Asia Regional Coordinator for the Global Youth Energy Outlook. I am also a representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific in the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI) Youth Challenge Team who will deliver policy recommendations for major oil and gas companies to enhance their climate ambition. I would describe myself as a sustainable development enthusiast who aspires to be a consultant and decision/policy-maker in the energy and climate space. I graduated from Bioprocess (Chemical) Engineering, Universitas Indonesia, and my research thesis explored the development of a village model with an integrated renewable energy system for rural productivity zone in East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia, from techno-economic, financing, policy, and environmental perspective.

As a young person, what are your concerns when it comes to climate change? What concerns are you seeing from other young people around you?

As a young person, I am terrified of the highly likely scenario that young people will not have the future that we deserve. This is due to the fact that global temperature has been rising for 1.1 degrees Celsius, leaving us with the remaining approximately 300 Gigaton carbon budget (under the 1.5 degrees Celsius scenario) and 1,000 Gigaton carbon budget (under the 2 degrees Celsius scenario). With the current emissions rate, the time left until the carbon budget is to be depleted are 7 years (under the 1.5 degrees Celsius scenario) and 25 years (under the 2 degrees Celsius scenario). Does this imply that the future of young people is predetermined to be at stake?

Unfortunately, it appears that the majority of youth in my region are not aware yet of this fact. That is why, as a part of Student Energy, I need to keep raising the awareness, and translating them into a call-to-action.

Why are you passionate about energy and/or climate action?

It is heart-breaking to know that roughly 840 million people still have no access to electricity and almost 3 billion people remain without access to clean cooking, in which the majority of them reside mainly in sub-Saharan Africa. I believe enabling access to energy and electricity are the key to improve people’s quality in every aspect of life, as it opens many doors to achieve other SDGs: quality education, decent work and economic growth, clean water and sanitation, good health and well-being, gender equality and women’s empowerment, and other good agendas about sustainable livelihoods.

On the other side, as energy consumption accounts for 2/3 of global emissions, we need to cut emissions by almost half to be on track with the Paris Agreement. We have less than a decade left to prevent the irreversible damage of climate catastrophe, and I believe all of us are liable for inducing the crisis.

What do you think are some of the biggest challenges to transitioning to a sustainable energy system in your region?

I believe the biggest obstacle to advancing the clean energy transition in the region is the perception of the energy policy-makers, who still believe in the idea that coal is the most affordable option to electrify the nation despite the fact that the cost does not take into account the negative health and environmental externalities from coal. As coal is a readily available energy source, particularly in Indonesia as one of the world’s major coal producers and exporters, introducing the idea to shift from coal remains a politically-challenging decision. Nonetheless, in the near future, I am optimistic that the declining cost of various renewables and storage technologies will initiate a significant move to cut back coal usage by shutting down coal mines and retiring old coal-fired power plants.

What impact do you personally hope the Outlook will have in your region, and globally?

I am convinced that the Outlook will close the data gap on youth engagement on energy and spearhead the bridge-building between youth and policy-makers. I hope that the leaders and policy-makers in the region will listen to young people’s voices and concerns about energy transition, sustainability, and climate action. Collectively, we need to start treating the climate emergency as a crisis. The clock is ticking, so here is a friendly reminder:

“The year 2078, I will celebrate my 75th birthday. If I have children maybe they will spend that day with me. Maybe they will ask me about you. Maybe they will ask why you didn’t do anything while there still was time to act. You say you love your children above all else, and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes.” – Greta Thunberg’s speech at COP24 in Katowice

How did you first get involved in Student Energy?

Five years ago marked my first encounter with Student Energy. I was a part of Friends of ISES, in charge as a Liaison Officer in the Student Energy Summit 2015 in Bali. I was responsible for facilitating communication between the committee and the speakers. That was my first volunteering experience as an undergraduate student, and I had a remarkable one! A few years later, I also attended the Clean Energy Ministerial-10/Mission Innovation-4 Youth Leaders Forum in Vancouver and Student Energy Summit 2019 in London. And here I am now, looking forward to delivering more contributions with Student Energy for a sustainable energy future!