in Papua New Guinea

Is PNG’s Office of Climate Change and Carbon Trading illegal?

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Is PNG's Office of Climate Change and Carbon Trading illegal?Eastern Highlands Governor, Malcolm Kela-Smith, states that Papua New Guinea’s Office of Climate Change and Carbon Trading (OCCCT) “is illegal and established without due regard for existing mandates”, according to an article in The National on 15 February 2009. Kela-Smith warned landowners and provincial governments not to enter into any deals solicited by the OCCCT.

The OCCCT was established “without without the input of resource owners, local government councils, district administrations, provincial governments and Members of Parliament” stated Kela-Smith.

The article, titled, “Office ‘illegal'”, makes the following criticisms of the OCCCT:

  • The National Executive Council decision (56/2008) to establish the OCCCT ignored PNG’s Forest Policy and the position of the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC). The decision was taken “without repealing existing legislation or promulgating a community accepted new instrument”.
  • Kela-Smith argues that the establishment of the OCCCT was internationally driven rather than domestic, “with the prospects of substantial amounts of money that could be received under the new Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) in developing countries the driving force”.
  • Kela-Smith accuses Dr Theo Yasause, OCCCT’s executive director, of issuing trading licences “to unknown entities even though he did not have the mandate to do so. . . . [OCCCT] has no statutory basis and had acted unlawfully in unilaterally declaring that licences would be issued at its sole discretion.”
  • Kela-Smith argues against Yasause’s proposal to prepare draft legislation to establish a climate change authority which would operate as a corporate entity. “This corporate entity would have a three-tier advisory board comprising a technical advisory board, national advisory board and an international advisory board; all are poorly considered,” Kela-Smith said.
  • All revenue would be managed by the international advisory board. “This is not acceptable, either domestically or internationally. This is landowner income and the landowners should receive at least 85%-90% of the carbon trading contract price – not in cash but infrastructure development in their areas,” Kela-Smith said.

Three days after the article was published, The National published a letter signed by “JM Port Moresby”, who claims to be “one of the authors of the NEC submission for the establishment of Office of Climate Change and Carbon Trade (OCCCT), as well as dealing with climate change issues since 2005.” The letter describes Kela-Smith’s comments as “absurd and ill-informed”. However, JM fails to respond to Kela-Smith’s concrete criticisms outlined above. Instead he explains somewhat feebly that “OCCCT is currently putting everything into perspective and, in time, would unveil the answers to critics.”

In fact, JM lends credence to Kela-Smith’s accusation that the OCCCT was set up to cash in on potential REDD funds. “Had the governor done his research, he could have learnt that many countries around the world, including countries which are worse off than PNG in terms of development, have well-developed climate change strategies and are queuing up for global environment development funds or carbon credits,” writes JM. “For example, Congo received £50 million from the British government to help fight climate change by tackling the destruction of its rainforest.”
 

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11 Comments

  1. Before drawing any conclusions relate to the article referenced above, two facts must be considered:

    1. The National Newspaper is owned by Rimbunan Hijau (RH), the largest Malaysian logging firm operating in PNG. It is obvious why RH would like to discredit the Government’s efforts to control the logging and provide rural communities other alternatives.

    2. The Governor, Mal ‘Kela’ Smith, previously asked Cabinet for exclusive rights to be the Governments ‘carbon trader.’ An offer Cabinet rejected. He now seeks to discredit the government for managing this process in cooperation with the World Bank, UNDP, UNEP and FAO rather than his private businesses.

    In summary, REDD Monitor needs to be more responsible and not simply become an agent for private interests seeking to discredit the difficult and ongoing process to transparently reduce rates of deforestation and forest degradation.

  2. Both of the facts that you raise are valid and relevant – thanks very much for this comment.

    Nevertheless, questions remain about the way the OCCCT was established. And the OCCCT and FCPF are not above criticism – as we have noted in the past on REDD-Monitor. REDD-Monitor believes that the criticisms raised by the article deserve a response. We look forward to further discussion about the points raised.

  3. While I am sure that the Government of PNG will respond in due course, as a thinking Papua New Guinean, let me comment as follows:

    1. One can only assume that both the Forestry Minister and Environment Minister were present when Cabinet set up the new Office to coordinate between the many departments and stakeholders affected by climate change. Therefore, to say that a coordination office cannot operate with out repealing existing legislation is factually incorrect.

    2. If a country like PNG expects the international community to provide funding to support climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts, then for reasons of transparency and accountability a trust fund with international participation is necessary. What is the Governor afraid of, that he will not be able to get his hands on the funds if managed to international standards?

    3. From reading recent statements by the OCC, no licenses were issued at all. Interested parties were only invited to register. So, this claim also appears factually incorrect.

    4. For the Governor, from a province with very limited forest resources, to be self-appointing himself chief policy guru is quite outrageous. From my understanding, the point of engaging with the World Bank, UNDP, UNEP and FAO is primarily to develop a sound and participatory policy framework that will build a partnership between forest communities, donors, governments, etc.

    So, again, it seems to me that the National and Mel “Kela” Smith have their own agendas here — and they are not fighting for the interests of the rural forest owners of Papua New Guinea.

  4. Mr.Chris Lang good job. How do I get in contact with Mr. Malcolm kela Smith ?

  5. THE MOST BIZARRE THING ABOUT THE CARBON TRADING IS PM SOMARE’S SELECTION OF KEVIN CONRAD TO BE PNG’S OFFICIAL AMBASSADOR. CONRAD HAS A HISTORY OF FAILED DEALS AND MISSING MONIES IN PNG, PARTICULARLY WITH REGARD TO SUPERANNUATION MONEY FUNDED HOUSING DEVELOPMENT IN MORESBY. MILLIONS OF KINA DISAPPEARED. THE ISSUE REEKS OF POLITICIANS (SOMARE VERSUS KELA SMITH) FIGHTING OVER WHO GETS TO MAKE THE BIG BUCKS ON THE SIDE (UNETHICAL AND ILLEGAL) BY BEING MIDDLEMEN IN THE CARBON TRADED. AS ALWAYS, THE VILLAGE LANDOWNERS GET THE SHORT END OF THE DEAL ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. NONE OF THE INVOLVED LEADRS OR FOREIGNERS ARE LOOKING AT ANYTHING MORE IMPORTANT THAN GETTING MORE MONEY INTO THEIR POCKETS.

    THE AGE (AUSTRALIA) PUBLISHED A GOOD SUMMARY ARTICLE OF THE ODDITIES OF KEVIN CONRAD’S BUSINESS DEALS IN PNG:

    Climate hero under fire in PNGIlya Gridneff
    May 8, 2009
    One of the world’s leading voices on climate change policy, Kevin Conrad, has been linked to a string of failed business dealings in Papua New Guinea.

    Conrad, PNG’s UN Special Envoy and Ambassador for Climate Change and Environment, came to international notoriety at the Bali conference in 2007 he told the US to either lead the debate or get out of the way.

    This year the UN Environment Program named Conrad a ‘Champion of the Earth’.

    Last year, Time magazine named Conrad number one “Leader and Visionary” within its annual list of “Heroes of the Environment”.

    But in PNG, Conrad has a different legacy.

    PNG’s Public Service Minister Peter O’Neill when opposition leader in parliament in 2007 attacked the government on Conrad’s business dealings.

    He accused Conrad of involvement in a failed housing scheme in the 1990s for the Public Officers Superannuation Fund where 17 million kina ($A8million) was paid but not one single house was built.

    O’Neill also alleged Conrad in the early 2000s was involved in PNG’s banking corporation losing almost 35 million kina ($A18million) while landowners lost their coffee plantations because of the collapse of an coffee export company.

    PNG’s Eastern Highlands province Governor Mal Smith told AAP that Highlanders who lost coffee plantations due to Conrad fear they will lose their forests through his climate change dealings.

    “We don’t trust him with the money carbon trading will bring,” he said.

    Paul Barker director of PNG think-tank, the Institute of National Affairs, said Conrad’s international persona was quite different to the perception in PNG.

    “There are tens of thousands of (superannuation fund) contributors now asking where did the funds go?” he asked.

    “And now if he is going to be directly involved in a mechanism managing trust funds for carbon trading, well concerns about the past need to be resolved.

    “He really needs to do a little bit of explaining.

    “There is a wide public scepticism within PNG.”

    Conrad was notably absent from this week’s PNG Office of Climate Change and Environment Sustainability roadshow touring the country to promote and explain their push towards carbon trading.

    And Conrad did not respond to approaches in relation to O’Neill’s allegations.

    But in an interview earlier this year with AAP, when asked if he was a failed businessman Conrad said: “I’ve succeeded more than I’ve failed. If you look at PNG every businessman has failed about as often as they have succeeded and the reason is because the government has had too much control.”

  6. Have PNGeans ever thought of the climate change phenomenon being nothing but neo-colonialism.

    PNG has all these mineral and hydrocarbon resources. lets develop them so that we can become industrialised.

    Why should PNG be prevented from advancing and instead be enticed by money to just sit back and not develop our natural resources whilst these industrialized nations continue to advance their economies, all the while polluting, and even increasing the pollution emitted into the atmosphere. Lets get one thing straight, these leading economies of the world will not slow down their industried because money needs to be made.

    By developing our resources we can develop new ideas and even develop technology for alternative sources of clean energy e.g. using thermal enery to general electricity in the Lihir Gold mine operation.

    If the Office of Climate Change is really going to do something about improving the lives of the people then i suggest that its function and operation be made absolutely transparent.

  7. It’s obvious that the Governor, Mal ‘Kela’ Smith is either on the payroll of Rimbunan Hijau (RH), the largest Malaysian logging firm operating in PNG or is so pissed off that his quest of being the ‘carbon trader’ was rejected by the Cabinet. Well, as of now, it’s confirmed that this is NOT a speculation. Mal ‘Kela’ Smith should resign from the governor position.

  8. PNG is a wonderful country. People like Mal ‘Kela’ Smith is an example of bad blood and working on behalf of special interest group for personal gain, NOT for the people of PNG.

  9. The article by the Australian Associate Press is libelous and false. There is no evidence anywhere of Mr. Conrad’s responsibility for any such losses, this is total political theater.

    Politicians such as Mr. O’Neill and Mr. Smith are simply intimidated by Mr. Conrad’s intellect, innovation, ethics. He has brought more export earnings and jobs to PNG every year than those two failures have combined over their careers.

    Shame on the Australian Associated Press for promoting such shameful political mudslinging in its usual attempt to keep PNG under the thumb of Australia.

  10. As fas as I’m concerned from public sector, there has never been a sector-wide consultation and this is evident that my Office (Office foe the Development of Women – ODW) have not received any invitation if there was one sector-wide consultation on the National Policy Formulation on the issue of Climate Change and Carbon Trading or REDD for that matter.

    I personal do not agree if half of the country’s population (Women) is not represented if there was one sector-wide consultations as this Office is MANDATED to provide Policy Advice to NEC on issues affecting Women and Climate Change and Carbon Trade is no exeption as majority of women rely on surrounding enrironment by daily interacting with it.