The government of Papua New Guinea has warned that NGOs and carbon traders will be prosecuted if they start developing REDD activities without its permission. In a strongly worded public notice, the Office of Climate Change and Carbon Trading in Port Moresby has said that,
“It has come to this office’s knowledge that certain NGO’s are organizing seminars, workshops in discussing Draft Payment System for environmental services including payments for Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD). . . . It appears that there are endless groups of NGO’s and Carbon Traders coming to PNG with ideas on REDD and proposal for benefit sharing. This dynamic is not constructive for either the government or the rural communities. Any matter regarding Climate Change and Carbon Trading is ONLY to be dealt with by the Head Office in Port Moresby with the authority of the Executive Director.”
The notice, which appeared in the PNG daily newspaper Post-Courier in October, also warns the country’s indigenous landowner groups, which control most of the country’s forests, to “be aware of imposters posing to be officers or employee representatives of the Office of Climate Chanage and Carbon Trade in order to acquire monies from landowners”. Is is not known whether specific NGOs or carbon traders have sparked the government’s concern.
Notice from the PNG government threatens to prosecute NGOs or carbon traders that work on REDD initiatives (click to enlarge)
The warning to landowners about uncrupulous REDD project developers is no doubt a sensible move – especially in a country where trickery has widely been used by logging and plantations companies to gain access to forest resources. However, it also illustrates the dangers in the current REDD free-for-all, and the likelihood that tropical governments will seek to capture all finances as they start flowing from REDD projects. Prominent PNG lawyer Peter Donigi recently warned that the state was trying to ‘grab land’ in order to benefit from REDD.
This will also come as yet another embarrassment to the staff of the World Bank Forest Carbon Partnership facility. The government notice states that “there has not been any consultation process between NGO groups and the Office of Climate Change and Carbon Trade in the development of this proposal.” This confirms what was noted by an external review of PNG’s FCPF ‘Readines Plan Indicative Note’, or ‘R-PIN’, which stated that “There was no consultation process organized in the preparation of the R-PIN, neither forest owners, NGOs nor private sector representatives have been involved in the preparation of the R-PIN.”
Despite this, PNG’s R-PIN has already been approved by the Bank, thus undermining its claim that all plans for the PCPF would have to be subject to wide consultation.
PNG currently ranks 151 out of 180 on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, and has been moving steadily downwards since the index was first launched.