in Papua New Guinea

Kevin Conrad on REDD, irregularities and carbon cowboys in PNG

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PHOTO: UNEP

Kevin Conrad, Papua New Guinea’s Special Envoy and Ambassador for Environment & Climate Change, has spent much of the last three years travelling around the world promoting REDD and carbon trading.

So what does the man that Time magazine calls a “Hero of the environment” and UNEP a “Champion of the Earth” have to say about the current REDD credits crisis in Papua New Guinea? On 6 July 2009, Conrad was in London, speaking at a Chatham House event, “The Politics of Climate Change Agreement“. Natasha Loder, a journalist with The Economist, was there and has writes about Conrad’s speech on her blog.

The scandal surrounding the Office of Climate Change and the issuance of REDD carbon credits in Papua New Guinea is important for at least three reasons. First, although the country has a high rate of deforestation, Papua New Guinea remains one of the most heavily forested countries in the world. Second, Papua New Guinea was fundamental in setting up the Coalition for Rainforest Nations, the organisation that introduced REDD to the UN climate negotiations (in 2005 at the 11th Conference of Parties in Montreal). Third, the way countries establish REDD programmes during the lead up to the UN climate negotiations in Copenhagen in December 2009 will be crucial to the discussions about any REDD deal coming out of Copenhagen.

Conrad’s response to the REDD credits fiasco in Papua New Guinea is weak. Conrad acknowledges what happens when the promise of very large sums of money is made in the absence of meaningful regulation: “Carbon cowboys” descended on PNG; there were some “irregularities” at government level; the small were overrun by the strong; and “stakeholders” seeing a gravy train tried to get to the front of the queue. Conrad doesn’t have solutions, just questions. “The question is how do we invest first, before we introduce market forces? How do we first invest in the analysis, the institution building the capacity building, the strengthening of governance?” These are good questions. But Conrad has probably done more than anyone to push a version of REDD that includes carbon trading. Faced with the results of this in Papua New Guinea, Conrad cannot bring himself to point at the problem itself – carbon trading.

Here’s what Conrad said at Chatham House earlier this week:

We found that because Papua New Guinea was advocating a regime shift in forests, we had every carbon cowboy in the world descend upon Papua New Guinea and try to get a deal with some landowners to they could go back and say they were working in Papua New Guinea and that somehow gave them some credibility.

We then, at the same time, had a group of governors who understood our law very well and understood that if the government got all of the money in a consolidated budget that they under our law would then receive 100% of it because it was an export oriented activity.

We have what is called a derivation grant, so money comes in as consolidated revenues and if it is an export it goes to the state. So what they did was rattle the cages, try to destablise the regime as it were, try to bait the government into signing saying that all the REDD money goes to the government first. Surprisingly it then ends up in the governor’s pockets.

But it was a serious issue we had some irregularities, so cabinet had to suspend our executive director, we have to launch an independent review, and we want it to be transparent. But we want to learn from this.

Papua New Guinea is the first of many upcoming instances, whether it is in… Peru. Whether…whenever there is prospective of oncoming wealth there is a tendency for the small to become overrun by the strong. That is something we as a global society have to guard against and that is why we have to hold back market forces, until made the necessary infrastructural and capacity investments in each country.
[ . . . ]
That is the question of transforming a development pathway in developing countries and the understanding that that means significant capital needs to be invested. What we are already seeing globally is that when stakeholders see a gravy train on its way, many of them try and restructure the local system using information and misinformation to try and position themselves at the front of the line. Now that is normal human behaviour. But it is important.

What we have to understand we need to first invest in absorptive capability. You can’t just drop money into a third world country and expect that to solve a problem, can’t build a road and provide a car and expect that will solve a villagers challenge of getting product to market. Because it rains and guess what the road disappears the car runs out of fuel, spare parts don’t make it and after half a year they are back at square one and the money has been lost.

The question is how do we invest first, before we introduce market forces? How do we first invest in the analysis, the institution building the capacity building, the strengthening of governance? All of these things in developing countries to varying levels, there are some like Costa Rica that have a head start on that. There are some countries in Africa that have a further way to go and there are many are in between, and Papua New Guinea is one of those.

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38 Comments

  1. …And not only one of the big supporters of using the carbon market for REDD, but also one the main supporters of national approaches under which the benefits of carbon credits would be received exclusively and directly by Governments. Considering the state of governance in PNG – clearly reflected by the recent news – and his speech at Chatham House, one would expect some consistency through a change in PNG`s position on these two issues…

  2. REDD-Monitor is a JOKE. Chris Lang is an ignorant fraud!

    Do you understand a rhetorical question, Chris? These are exactly the issues that the WB-FCPF and the UN-REDD program are asked to work with REDD countries to resolve. My guess is this is what Conrad was trying to point out — to other know-nothing-northern NGO-types like you who offer no solutions.

    What to do you propos, Chris — we stay poor in the jungle and keep it as a museum for you, the idiots who caused climate change in the first place?

    REDD-Monitor is a JOKE!!!!!!!

  3. REDD Monitor is doing a very good job of informing everyone about what is happening all around the globe especially in relation to the REDD and carbon trade issues. And how there is inconsistent messages pushed at the international level by HE Ambassador Kevin Conrad/redd and the PNG Government. Just ignore such messages from people like Jimmy Bohia who I assumed could be an AGENT for the Somare Government or RH or ITS and is for forest destruction and unsustainable development.

    Kenn Mondiai

  4. Far from being “a JOKE”, as far as I can see, Conrad is now admitting what REDD-Monitor has been saying all along: that in the absence of proper standards of government and clear rules, the only thing that would happen as a result of trading of forest carbon offsets is that dodgy carbon traders and corrupt government officials would be enriched, and indigenous landowners ripped-off. The only difference is that it took for a bunch of Conrad’s colleagues in the PNG government to be caught REDD-handed with their fingers in the till for to him be forced to admit this.

    The ‘business case’ for the Coalition for Rainforest Nations is looking increasingly similar to Conrad’s previous businesses…

  5. Good and very important points raised by Conrad, but these should have been identified and sorted prior to raising expectations in PNG and causing the mad rush for the “gravy train”. The PNG gov and Conrad have failed the people by not doing their homework first. I just hope that there are laws in place already to protect the landowner as well as the govt from the carbon cowboys………

  6. I tend to agree with Jimmy, REDD Monitor has a bias against REDD as a concept and carbon trading in general. At the end of the day REDD is going to be far more beneficial for landowners than the alternatives. Sure some western corporations and third world governments will get their cut but this doesn’t negate the fact it will benefit landowners.

    It is early days and sure their are lots of issues to overcome but lets not throw the babay out with the bathwater just because there may be some teething issues.

  7. Thanks for these comments. @Jimmy – a rhetorical question is one which is used for its persuasive effect and to which no answer is expected. Conrad’s questions, on the other hand, are not rhetorical – they urgently require answers: “The question is how do we invest first, before we introduce market forces? How do we first invest in the analysis, the institution building the capacity building, the strengthening of governance?”

    I agree with you that one of the things that FCPF and UN-REDD are supposed to be doing is dealing with (and ideally preventing) precisely the sort of problems that have arisen in PNG. So where are they? What are they doing to address the problems? So far, Papua New Guinea has produced an R-Plan and an external review. The external review is pretty critical: “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.” World Resources Institute produced a summary of R-PINs in February this year (see post on redd-monitor, here). For PNG, WRI noted that the R-PIN provides no suggestions for how to conduct consultations on REDD. There is no discussion of the relationship between REDD and agriculture, although the R-PIN states that agriculture is responsible for nearly half of all deforestation. Particularly worrying is the fact that “There is no discussion of illegal logging or law enforcement issues anywhere in the R-PIN.”

    I don’t propose that anyone should stay poor. All I’m suggesting is that there are some serious drawbacks with carbon trading. These are exacerbated when carbon trading is unregulated – which certainly appears to be the case in Papua New Guinea. In fact, I’d argue that carbon trading is pretty much unregulatable, which is one of the reasons that I don’t think it’s a good idea.

    @DH – in the case of Papua New Guinea, I am just reporting what is happening in the country regarding carbon trading. You’re right that I am critical of carbon trading. Unfortunately, what’s happening in PNG illustrates precisely why we should be extremely wary of carbon trading mechanisms to save forests. I agree that REDD could in theory be beneficial for landowners, rural communities and indigenous peoples – the trouble is that the way REDD is being implemented means that it is biased against their interests.

    I think @Tanya sums it up well. The questions that Conrad raises need to be addressed first. Ideally, the process would include an open and inclusive discussion in Papua New Guinea about whether carbon trading really is the best way of financing forest protection in the country and what the implications are for landowners, government, climate change, local livelihoods and forests. So far, this has not taken place – certainly not under the FCPF or UN-REDD.

  8. Forests disappear daily and no one on this site offer any solutions, only complaints and personal attacks.

    There seems to be a lot of jealousy on this site. Look at that photo you posted of Amb. Conrad. There are many others available on the web, but you select one to make him look odd. You are a very small man, Mr. Lang.

    Never has Chris Lang offered any solutions. Only rubbishes others. Never any plan beyond the advocating failed strategies of leftist-NGO’s over the past 30 years.

    REDD-Monitor is a JOKE!

  9. B Witness, you are nothing but an ignorant rumor monger.

    FYI, Andrew Bain was kicked out of parliament for misappropriating money. So, he is now your reputable ‘source’? All these rumors are baseless and just jealous banter by losers such as yourself.

    Do something constructive for PNG, rather than spreading libel against others!

  10. Here’s the article that B Witness linked to in full – from Radio New Zealand.

    The Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare has ordered an investigation “into multi million kina payments made by former Cabinet minister, Andrew Baing.” Baing and another MP, Isaac Taitibe, accused Somare of paying millions to Kevin Conrad, “who they have accused of stealing millions from a PNG coffee company”.

    Somare denies paying anything to Conrad. “Sir Michael challenged the two MPs to repeat the claims outside Parliament.”

    How Radio New Zealand avoided the temptation to use the word “fishy” towards the end of the article is beyond me. It will be interesting to see what comes out from the investigation.

    PNG Prime Minister calls for investigation into former Minister’s spending

    Posted at 07:55 on 21 June, 2005 UTC

    The Papua New Guinea Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare, has ordered an investigation into multi million kina payments made by former Cabinet minister, Andrew Baing.

    Mr Baing left the Somare Government last year to join the Opposition.

    Mr Baing and another MP, Isaac Taitibe, had earlier accused Sir Michael of paying millions to an American consultant, Kevin Conrad, who they have accused of stealing millions from a PNG coffee company.

    Sir Michael challenged the two MPs to repeat the claims outside Parliament.

    The National reports that Sir Michael later told reporters his government never paid Mr Conrad any money.

    He said Mr Conrad was a reputable man who had helped the East Sepik provincial government broker a tuna deal.

    Meanwhile Sir Michael has called for an investigation into 18 million kina believed to have been paid to a company called Coecon while Mr Baing was Fisheries Minister.

    The Post Courier reports that it is believed the money was to cover marine navigation equipment in all PNG provinces.

  11. Sorry to disagree with you Jimmy, but in my view, for our country to actually move ahead we need to be sure of who we support and praise

  12. Chris, your unprofessional behavior is now bordering on libel.

    FYI, statements on the floor of Parliament are protected from legal action, so Parliamentarian’s can lie and defame all they wish without legal liability.

    The investigation turned up nothing. Andrew Bain was later evicted from Parliament for financial malfeasance. These are your sources?????

    Your credibility sinks lower and lower by the day!

  13. In PNG there is a radically different opinion of Mr Kevin Conrad’s ability to succeed. PNG has had a history of foreign carpetbaggers (including many who were raised in PNG) coming to the country to “do good” and doing very well indeed (financially) from the relationship. We must be careful that we’re not suckered again and the best way to avoid the problem is for Mr Conrad to come clean on all the details with regard to all these curious business dealings, including that of South Seas Tuna in Wewak (see report by an anthropologist Miss Nancy Sullivan on the internet)

    —————————————–

    Different views of climate hero
    Written by AAP
    Saturday, 09 May 2009 10:26

    Port Moresby – 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 Supera

    nnuation Fund where 17 million kina ($F13million) 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 ($F27m) 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.

  14. @Jimmy Bohia – could you provide a link to a source for your statement “The investigation turned up nothing”, please?

    The statements in Parliament are not “my sources”. I posted an article from Radio New Zealand which reported on the discussions (and accusations) that had taken place in the PNG Parliament. I did so because “B Witness” had referred to the article and you accused him/her of being an “ignorant rumor monger”.

    The article includes the line: “Sir Michael challenged the two MPs to repeat the claims outside Parliament.” Presumably they declined to do so.

    Could you please tell us exactly what your interest is in REDD and PNG? Who do you work for?

  15. Calmly may I point out that in PNG forest owners have incorporated their land groups with in incorporations under the PNG act.
    Speculation regarding PNG Government policies for Carbon Trading is a myth just another tool to promote politics in PNG which is a proven failure.
    Forest people Corporations in PNG only need a policy within the UNFCCC if REDD becomes complied.
    Until then the standards as such provide the direction to the voluntary market for the PNG forest people.
    Importantly the ‘buyer’ should set and demand the standard as the standards could be found wanting.
    At the end of the day the ‘real policy is dont chop the trees down and preserve and respect the water ways.
    observer

  16. There is a widespread dissatisfaction at higher government and academic levels that a) we have an American representing our country when there are capable Papua New Guinean alternatives, b) that this American has a business history in PNG that makes him of questionable credibility, particularly since he refuses to be transparent and open with what happened with ANGCO coffee and the NPF disappeared millions for the housing scheme, both enterprises in which he played a key role. Rather than try to push away these allegations as coming from jealous or corrupt people, as our commentor “Jimmy Bohia” wants us to do, let’s judge the merit of the allegations alone. The fact is that ANGCO coffee collapsed while Kevin Conrad was guiding its USA operations, which was critical to marketing success. The fact is that millions and millions of kina disappeared from the NPF housing scheme and Kevin Conrad has never satisfactorally explained his role.

    There has also been no attempt by either Conrad or Somare to open their financial books and business relationships so that Papua New Guineans will be convinced that they aren’t profitting personally on the side from this intended PNG carbon trade program that they’re proposing. They seem to believe that silence or superficial denials work in their favour. I can assure them, it is only providing ammunition for those who are suspicious of the intents of the Conrad-Somare gang. The suspicion is that the Conrad-Somare gang is going to make literally millions of kina off of the commissions that come from these carbon trades. Until that suspicion is completely judged wrong by open financial books and business partnerships, it is a valid allegation to make. For those who do not live in our country, let me assure you that most “good news projects” that come from our government are only promoted by government officials because they’re getting a kickback of some sort behind closed doors. Papua New Guinea is one of the world’s most corrupt countries, according to Transparency International, and Kevin Conrad is doing nothing to show that he is not part of the gang.

    Finally I note with amusement that the commentor “Jimmy Bohia” has an intriguing, unusual interest in things such as what photo of Kevin Conrad is used to decorate this web site. That’s something that no Papua New Guinean (except perhaps a lover of Kevin Conrad, if they existed) would ever notice, much less comment on. Mr “Bohia’s” veiled threat to Mr Chris regarding slander is also odd, because it indicates that Mr “Bohia” is unusually sensitive to any comments that criticise Kevin Conrad or his initiatives. Such threats have also come down in people in government who have questioned the Somare-Conrad connection and its underlying motivating forces.

    Em nau. You draw your own conclusions about who the “Jimmy Bohia” commentor on this blog truly is.

  17. 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.”

    © 2009 AAP

  18. Well, Chris, I work for an NGO in PNG working on coastal issues, not forests specifically.

    Several things to consider:

    1. all the allegations against Mr. Conrad have been made by political types, always when opposing the government — Andrew Bain, Peter O’Niel. Each well-known spivs. Now, consider all these blog posts. No one of them with any factual evidence, just recycling on quotes for failed political types. News papers that also have no facts, just recycled quotes. And this is not true.

    2. Without Mr. Conrad, there would be no REDD. No chance to save tropical forests. This is a once in an generation opportunity to turn the tide.

    Yes, there are may Conrad lovers out there. This blog is for those with political agendas, including you, Chris. You offer no ideas, no solutions, no proposals. Only join in bashing those trying to make a difference.

  19. Jimmy, the problem with your argument is that this is not a Papua New Guinean versus foreigner debate. There is widespread feelings of Papua New Guineans in government that the Kevin conrad solution is NO SOLUTION. The danger is that he is participating in the creation of yet another infrastructure that allows the spivs to steal millions (let’s not forget that Michael Somare was first indicted as doing corrupt deals way back in 1988 in the Barnett Report) is no solution, Jimmy.

    Jimmy, political types are the only ones who might have heard enough to make allegations regarding other pollies. While it is true that they oftentimes they make the allegations

    Jimmy, Michael Somare has become one of the biggest spivs of all, and Kevin Conrad is tightly associated with him. I think the solution comes when Kevin Conrad and Michael Somare come clean on their business partnerships and we see that they are not making money (unethically) on the side, nor have any ability to privately profit from projects that are supposedly in the public interest.

    Jimmy, why is it that you see no reason for the PM and Kevin Conrad to be transparent in their finances and businesses so that we can trust them? Why do you see trust as being so unnecessary to this process?

  20. The telling quote from the New Age article:

    “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.”

    IN OTHER WORDS, KEVIN CONRAD IS AVOIDING REPLYING IN DETAIL TO THE ALLEGATIONS. NORMALLY, THAT’S WHAT GUILTY PEOPLE DO – THE STRATEGY OF AVOIDING!

  21. Please add to the discussion, the following article which shows again the sad corrupt muddle that the Conrad-Somare partnership is creating:

    http://business.smh.com.au/business/carbon-scandal-linked-to-nephew-of-pngs-pm-20090704-d852.html

    Carbon scandal linked to nephew of PNG’s PM

    July 4, 2009

    A nephew of Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister Michael Somare has been accused of pressuring remote villagers to sign away their land for carbon deals despite there being no carbon trade laws in place.

    Documents obtained by AAP show Pacific Carbon Trade has been offering villagers carbon deals throughout Somare’s home province of East Sepik, in PNG’s northwest.

    Pacific Carbon’s Eric Komang, the prime minister’s nephew, has been promoting a five-page Memorandum of Agreement that includes a breakdown of revenue where landowners receive 48 per cent royalties.

    A councillor from the area said Pacific Carbon operators last week were urging landowners to sign the contracts.

    “They approach the councillors and tell them to tell their people to sign,” he told AAP.

    “Basically the forms are to sign land rights away to do carbon trading,” he said.

    “But the thing is you speak to landowners and they think they’re setting up a deal to suck oxygen from the trees to create a big tank in the west,” he said.

    Pacific Carbon partner Ted Taru told AAP in Port Moresby that he had not spoken to Komang for over a month.

    “We have been making no promises to landowners as we, like everyone, are waiting to see what happens at the Copenhagen climate change meeting in December,” he said.

    “Any agreement would be more like a list of potential clients when everything is in place for projects,” he said.
    Taru said some landowners signing deals were not necessarily being duped.

    “These guys may live in the bush but they’ve wised up after years of being ripped off.

    “In some cases they make numerous similar deals, so, as those in PNG know, landowners aren’t always that naive or innocent,” he said.

    A spokeswoman from Somare’s office said the company had no connection to the prime minister.

    “He can claim all he likes but he is wasting his time as there is no regulatory policy or legislation for carbon trading in PNG,” she said.

    Earlier this week, PNG’s Office of Climate Change director Dr Theo Yasause was suspended for a raft of carbon deals his signature appeared on despite no policy or legislation being in place.

    Last month AAP reported that conmen travelling near Popondetta, in Oro province on the northwest coast, had sold 500 villagers fake carbon trading deals by promising big returns from “sky money”.

  22. thanks Chris and your website!!. The problem with places like PNG is that governance is very weak, very poor institutional mechanisms and check and balance sustems in place. The place suffers from endemic and institutionalised corruption. REDD pilot projects in places like PNG without robust internal and external verifers leave the system open to abuse, as is becoming clear!.

  23. Thanks for the comments.

    @Jimmy Bohia – Could you provide a link to a source for your statement “The investigation turned up nothing”, please?

    I pointed out in the post the three main reasons why I think this REDD “credits” scandal in PNG is important. You could see this as constructive criticism.

    I’m not interested in “bashing” Kevin Conrad – I’m just surprised that his response to what’s happening in PNG is so weak.

    @PNG citizen – I mentioned the article about Somare’s nephew in another post. Conrad and Somare are not directly implicated, although Somare’s government does have to attempt to regulate this mess.

    @TO JIMMY – Conrad doesn’t have to answer questions from journalists. And not answering doesn’t make him guilty of anything. Even in a legal process he has the right to remain silent.

  24. Ahh Chris, but even in your own country, whether or not an accused person replies to the media is still used by enough people to establish guilt that the media serves as a court system AND ultimately can run off (through resignation) those guilty of the allegations, or unable to prove their innocent in the court of the media.

    That’s the REAL world, instead of your constitutional rights mini-sermon to Jimmy.

  25. @hmmmm – Actually I was replying to this comment, sorry this wasn’t very clear. But I don’t think that trial by media is a particularly good idea. On the other hand, the media does play an important role in uncovering irregularities – like the carbon trading fiasco in PNG, for example.

  26. The problem with all our arguments is that we are all not helping each other by picking on petty little issues which have no outcome or benefit towards PNG preparing itself for its own National REDD Strategy.

    It may be useful to air our views but we must remember that at the end of the day, we have to go through the government process of getting things done, thus lets stream all our energy into assisting the OCCES to deliver on the REDD mechanism if you are with it or have some alternative solution to the REDD mechanism. I believe it is time for all of us to work together either for or against REDD and do something that will be sustainable for Papua New Guineans to benefit as a whole.

    With the recent sidelining of the head of OCCES, lets us not forget the contributions the OCCES has made in the last 6-7 months of its existence, we should commend the officers for the energy that has been given towards PNG’s push for REDD. Lets remember REDD is only one component of largers issues to be considered for Copenhagen, what about Adaptation strategies, can we also prioritise Adaptation as well.

    Cheers

    Undiabu

  27. What has happened in PNG is a every day story in a developing country, the people who has made such a big deal out of this doesnt understand the reality..I can asure u this will happen in minor or bigger proportions everywhere, but our job is to diminish it by build up government capacity. I dont think that this an argument to not consider carbon trading, I do think is a reminder of the big job ahead, still believe that REDD will change the worlds forest and the people that live if it is design according to the reality of the developing world. Lets focus to make this happen instead of focusing in Kevin Conrads life. I personally thank all the work that Kevin and the Coalition team has put into making REDD a real possibility for the world. Lets be constructive, think of the well being of our people build the best REDD mechanism possible and improve it on the ground…
    G

  28. I agree with Mr. Ulloa, however, what makes relevant the past behavior of Mr. Conrad is the fact that he has been the main defender of a REDD scheme directed by governments, instead of by individual forest communities or holders. Being so aware of corruption problems in our country, he should be the first to seek a solution to deforestation non dependent on our government to succeed. I can´t avoid noticing that he blames most of business failures to the excess of government control(a particularly interesting statement taking into account the level of corruption and lack of govt control in the country) – while at the same time he thinks that the best option for REDD is a government-driven mechanism. I guess a good business mind is all about finding the way of making the money go wherever you are at…

  29. Until we rid PNG of its corrupt leadership, let’s not even talk about carbon trading or anything else. These are just asides that give us every excuse to sit back and do nothing more than complain about our most major PNG problem, which is a dysfunctional, corrupt leadership.

    So fellow Papua New Guineans, you’re just using carbon trades as an excuse to ignore the FIRST problem we have to correct in PNG. As long as you ignore it, don’t expect any good idea for PNG to bear fruit for the people before it is utterly corrupted and stolen by the leadership.

    For Kevin Conrad to even allow himself to be associated with this corrupt, dysfunctional regime is to give it his blessing. That alone is despicable.

    I agree with B Witness that our problem is not enough enforced rules over business, rather than too much government interference as Conrad says (to divert attention away from his own failures, no doubt!).

  30. We can argue all we want about the people involved, the governance etc but that will not solve the climate change issue. With or without Mr Conrad, icecaps are still melting, sea-level is rising, Manus, Milne Bay, and the Caterets are sinking. With or without a OCCES policy, malaria is advancing up the altitude, killing masses of highlanders. This is a real problem for PNG. PNG did not have a coordinated plan for mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change, and now we are yet to see the government’s plans on how it will use the Million$$$ from REDD/Carbon trade to address the issue of environmental refugees, poverty, loss of livelihoods etc stemming from the effects of climate change.

    We must at least give credit to Mr Conrad for identifying some important issues that needed to be sorted, but that should have been done before all these hype. PNG, we need to go back to the drawing board.

    We need to ask, if trading carbon will work for PNG? In this society when 80% of people depend on the forest to sustain their livelihood – I worry about “leakage”. Where land is owned by clans – I wonder about the size of the forest that can meet the minimum size for trading. If clans bundle their lands together -I wonder how the benefits will be shared. If the benefits do come, I wonder what the recipients will do with the money; If the trading scheme will go on for 50-60 years, I wonder where the next generation will live when bulk of the land is set aside for trading carbon. So many questions…….

  31. Tanya,

    Trading carbon will NOT WORK for PNG until we get our corruption problem under control. For you to distract us by telling us we should focus on REDD is to prevent us from building the foundation that would ever allow REDD to work.

    Where did you get this info that 80% of our people depend on forests for livelihoods? It’s hardly acurate. Arguably, the majority of our population either lives in town or in areas that were long ago deforested, and they grow their gardens in that deforested land (Wahgi Valley, etc etc).

    You outsiders already tried your style of big NGO conservation in our country and all indications are that it was an abysmal failure! Why? Because you people may hear our words but you aren’t listening.

    Deal with corruption first in PNG.

  32. I am very grateful for the debate following this article, not so much the style with which it has been waged but the important points raised.
    I am myself no fan of ANY unregulated market, and certainly not an unregulated carbon market. Therefore, discussions and also websites such as these are important.

    What worries me deeply, however, is the potential effect of pointing out valid weaknesses and open questions (and conjuring up some others) about REDD and carbon forestry WITHOUT providing anything constructuve and without suggesting solutions or better alternatives. This site has probably done more than any other to discredit a fledgling and still largely to be defined mechanism that – if designed properly (constructive suggestions are welcome!) – does at least have a real potential to alter the development pathway we are on, save some of humankinds heritage, and help mitigate climate change. I cannot help the feeling that by creating so much negativity (and fear!) about one proposed way forward, one will allow it to fail even before having started and will help the forces of the status quo remain in place.

    What is happening right now in the world’s tropical forests, to indigenous people in these forests, to small farmers around them? Are we content with letting these processes continue unabated by focussing on criticising a proposed alternative? How transparent, accountable, and equitable are “baseline” drivers and agents such as palm oil, soy and timber companies?

    I think we urgently need a constructive debate about how to address these issues. Poorly regulated market forces are causing much of the mess we are in, and throwing in yet another unregulated force will certainly not solve things. But noone is suggesting that, carbon markets only exist because of regulation, and it is quite possible that carbon markets are indeed one of the market domains where actors can be held accountable and have to follow transparent rules if we make a coordinated efforts. Although there is much to do, compare the possibility of viewing PDDs and validation reports on the UNFCCC website (and of gaining media attention with pointing out any shortcomings) with the possiblity of viewing operational permits or management audits of a palm oil company in Sumatra, let alone scrutinising the “standards” they have to follow. The fact that one can obviously access and dissect so many the FCPF documents, R-PPs etc relatively easily is maybe also worth at least some recognition and respect.
    There are definite shortcomings of current carbon markets, standards, participants, which is hardly any wonder considering how young they are. Much needs to be improved – and luckily it can be improved which is evidenced through the rapid evolution of standards and quality-control mechanisms, e.g. in the voluntary markets.

    It is also worth asking whether the default alternative to carbon markets – massive government and donor-led funding – is likely to lead to more transparent and equitable results, or, importantly, to actually do anything about the problem of deforestation and what comes along with it, especially poor governance and corruption. I am NOT suggesting that problems with one option validate the alternative, but I do think we need to be honest and results-oriented in the debate. Just to pre-empt a potential reply: Clearly much government capacity and public investment is needed to make any REDD market scheme – and any other imaginable REDD scheme – work. There is no point in trying to find black and white distinctions.

    So – let’s try to leave ideology aside, even if it makes for such easy debates. We really owe more to the world’s forests, people and climate.

  33. I have to say that I am somewhat baffled by Mr Ebeling’s comments above. He complains that this site is not providing any constructive solutions or alternatives to carbon markets. I can recall plenty such suggestions, including government-government funds, recognising forest peoples’ rights, mechanisms to pay for REDD through auctioning of carbon trade permits, carbon taxes etc etc. Perhaps the problem for Mr Ebeling is that none of these proposals have been couched in terms of activities which his carbon trading company, Ecosecurities, would profit from, therefore they are not serious proposals. Mr Ebeling then goes on to set up a false dichotomy, by asking “Are we content with letting these [destructive] processes continue unabated by focussing on criticising a proposed alternative?” – as if forest carbon trading is the ONLY alternative to the destructiive processes, and therefore somehow beyond criticism.

    He claims that forest carbon trading has the potential to “alter the development pathway we are on, save some of humankinds heritage, and help mitigate climate change”, but I challenge him to show how his company’s business in other sectors has served to achieve any of these worthy obectives so far.

    Mr Ebeling then goes on to try and reassure us that things are much better under the emerging REDD regime, because we can “access and dissect” information about the various proposals. There is some truth to this, but then one has to question whether this ‘transparency’ is actually making anything better. As I understand it, one can, for example, transparently view many of the documents for the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, including the reports of the expert Technical Advisory Panel on the various country proposals – but we cannot see the internal World Bank papers that show how the decisions were taken by World Bank management to proceed with the R-PLANS, *regardless* of what is said by the experts in those TAP papers. There is a danger of the *illusion* of transparency being created, whereas the real decision-making and rationale remain as opaque as the business plans of Sumatran palm oil companies.

    Mr Ebeling somewhat fails against his own criticism, because whilst he acknowledges the shortcomings of unregulated markets, and notes that these have “definite shortcomings” – he does not offer us any suggestions as to how these shortcomings and lack of regulation can and should be addressed. It strikes me that the main proponents of a market-based approach to avoiding deforestation have been in the most profound state of denial, as they have continued to proclaim what the market can to do improve the world even as unregulated markets have collapsed around them and brought the world economy to its knees. I do not recall one single UNFCCC discussion, one conference, or one serious policy paper on what exactly would be needed to regulate a REDD scheme based on market mechanisms.

    I agree very much with Mr Ebeling on one point: we really have to “leave ideology aside”. In the absence of any working example of market-based success, with the abundant evidence of the risk of unregulated market mechanisms, and in the absence of any empirical or even proposed measures to regulate and mitigate the risks, I think it is high time that we set-aside what seems to me to be not just the ‘idelogical’, but actually the fanatically doctrinal article of faith that the markets are going to solve the problem.

    RW

  34. A Witness is spot on:

    …dodgy carbon traders ( think A Gore) and corrupt government officials (think A Gore) would be enriched

    …caught REDD-handed with their fingers in the till

    Perfect analysis

  35. @ Robin:

    Although it may disappoint you, I was actually no longer working for EcoSecurities at the time of writing the above entry. I am certainly no blind disciple neither of carbon markets as such nor of any particular company or organisation. However, I wrote what I did as a citizen concerned about a truly existential problem and an unconstructive debate about how to find a solution.

    There may be some potential improvements to how clearly I expressed my views, but I think you should carefully and open-mindedly re-read what I wrote without condemning viewpoints in advance. If you read what I wrote as a “fanatically doctrinal article of faith” in “unregulated markets”, then I have little hope in arriving at a fruitful exchange of ideas.

    I am more than willing to engage in a constructive discussion about the risks of markets, how they can be addressed through better regulation, and what alternatives exist. I am aware of other approaches proposed and believe that a combination of many elements of all of these is needed. A solution-oriented discussion should also include a frank analysis of the risks of corruption, intransparency, and marginalisation of people in government-to-government schemes and other approaches suggested (although I do see a need for them as well). Even using revenues from auctioning of carbon credits (and please note that this would be using a distinct carbon market element!) would face many of the potential problems seen by large-scale public and multilateral funding campaigns in developing countries. But all of this should be discussed non-ideologically (and I do mean it) in order to improve what was tried in the past.