Here are two more REDD-related news items from Papua New Guinea. The first is an article from Ilya Gridneff, a journalist with Australian Associated Press in Port Moresby. Carbon Planet has invested A$1.2 million in projects in PNG.
Gridneff has uncovered more about where some of the money went – apparently to James Kond, the vice-president of PNG’s ruling party, who offered to help “secure endorsement of these projects for carbon trading from the PNG government”. The second is a statement from the Eco-Forestry Forum, a PNG NGO, calling for a stop to carbon scams in the country.
By Ilya Gridneff
PORT MORESBY, Sept 24 AAP – A Papua New Guinea governing party power broker was paid 200,000 kina ($A85,000), ultimately funded by Australian environment firm Carbon Planet, for “consultation” on carbon trading deals central to a pending investigation.
James Kond, PNG’s ruling National Alliance (NA) party vice-president, received the money on May 14, 2008, as part of Carbon Planet’s $1.1 million spend with companies in PNG for carbon projects they predict are worth a billion dollars a year.
Documents obtained by AAP show Carbon Planet’s money went through Hong Kong-based company Forest Top, that then paid a number of entities including Australian businessman Kirk Roberts and his PNG company Nupan and its local facilitator Kond.
On April 16, 2008, Kond signed a memorandum of agreement with Forest Top, Roberts and Nupan assuring his work would earn him “10 per cent of the net cash flow generated from carbon credit sales”.
Kond’s Western Highlands Province-based business Koo management was: “to liaise with and advise the PNG government” on Nupan’s deals that Carbon Planet would then broker for the global voluntary carbon market.
Kond stands by the deal and says there was no conflict of interest.
“It is a confidential business arrangement and none of your business about the way we do business,” he said.
“I’ve been deputy NA leader for 10 years and doing my part to improve PNG and to help policy (and) there is no need for these investigations.
“I have not dealt with Carbon Planet, I invited Kirk (Roberts) to PNG and receive money from Nupan as their country representative.”
Adelaide-based Carbon Planet declined to respond to questions.
Kond’s other Nupan responsibilities included: “to bring together all of the parties and other persons required to achieve the commercialisation of the carbon credits from the specific present and future projects in PNG”.
In a series of letters obtained by AAP, Kond writes to Roberts on December 28, 2007, suggesting PNG’s Kamula Doso forest in Western Province and April Salome forest in East Sepik as potentially lucrative future carbon trading sites.
“I will personally be there to assist you to secure endorsement of these projects for carbon trading from the PNG government as I am part of the PM Somare government through being an executive member of the NA ruling party that has direct influence on shaping government policy,” he writes.
In February, 2008, Kond urges PNG Prime Minister Michael Somare to meet him and experts from Australia.
“I am delighted to inform you we have already secured two projects for this carbon trading program,” he said.
“I am now seeking a formal appointment … to brief you on this matter.”
Somare’s media spokesperson Betha Somare, who has seen the letters, said: “The PM has never met Kirk Roberts or his associates”.
AAP understands PM Somare’s then chief of staff Theo Yasause met Roberts and also met several members of Carbon Planet.
Yasause later became PNG’s Office of Climate Change (OCC) director but was suspended pending an investigation that includes why the office went bankrupt in less than a year of operating.
The investigation will also delve into a series of “sample” carbon trade documents Yasause signed as OCC director as well as a mandate to assure international carbon deals.
Acting OCC director Wari Iamo in a newspaper advertisement on August 31 said PNG was waiting for United Nations endorsed carbon trading rules, expected after the Copenhagen climate summit in December.
“Carbon trading agreements cannot be legally signed over these (PNG) lands until the government has put in place an appropriate policy and legal framework,” he said.
Carbon Planet in July announced a merger with Australian publicly listed company m2m Group, saying they had 25 potential carbon trading projects in PNG that could generate $1 billion a year.
But Carbon Planet has not said where their PNG projects are, what the landowners benefits are, nor do they recognise that the 800,000-hectare Kamula Doso forest is subject to a court injunction on projects.
Carbon Planet’s merger with m2m is “continuing with some delay arising from the complicated and novel circumstances of this emerging industry,” m2m said in a statement.
Here’s the statement from Eco-Forestry Forum. It is also availabe here (PDF file 50 KB).
THE PAPUA NEW GUINEA
P.O. Box 3217, Boroko, National Capital District
EFF Calls on Government of PNG, Development Partners and AusAid to Protect PNG from Carbon Scams
In April 2009 the activities of the PNG Office of Climate Change and Environmental Sustainability (OCCES) brought international condemnation and embarrassment for the Somare Government.
Central to the scandal was the printing of fake ‘state-backed’ carbon credits, and their sale to an Australian company ‘Carbon Planet’. It was reported by the Economist that Carbon Planet acquired 39 ‘certificates’ giving them saleable rights to much of PNG’s forests (1). Since then Carbon Planet has gone on to raise funds and list on the Australian Stock exchange (2). According to Carbon Planet CEO Jim Johnson “the company has exclusive rights over 25 REDD projects in PNG alone which could generate up to $1 billion a year in carbon credits for the project owners (2)”.
The certificates issued by OCCES have no legal basis. One of them, that provided a guarantee to the million hectares of forest in the Kamula Doso region, has been injuncted by the National Court in proceedings instituted by The PNG Eco-forestry Forum (PNGEFF) (3). Further the carbon rights over Kamula Doso were issued despite the fact that PNG Forest Authority (PNGFA) had already allocated timber rights over the exact same area to Rimbunan Hijau, a Malaysian Logging Company that owns over half of the forest concessions in PNG. The acquisition and allocation of those timber rights is currently the subject of an existing national court injunction obtained by PNGEFF, and litigation over those timber rights is on-going.
The scandal caused by these certificates led to the suspension of then Director of OCCES, Dr. Theo Yasause, referral of the OCCES to the Public Accounts Committee and the appointment of the Secretary for Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) as acting Executive Director.
The PNGEFF hoped that this was the beginning of a new direction for the management of PNG’s Climate Change Strategies. It now appears that this was naive.
In May 2009, The Economist reported that an Australian National University Academic Dr Colin Filer, was working for Carbon Planet. His contract involved advising Carbon Planet on methods of paying landowners for carbon projects in PNG (4).
We now understand that the same Dr Filer has been engaged by DEC undertake stakeholder analysis under its UN-REDD National Joint Programme which has already been signed by the acting Expectative Director of the Office of Climate Change. We further understand that Dr. Filer may also, under the same arrangement, be engaged to undertake “a review and synthesis of mechanisms for securing land for REDD and for benefit sharing” as indicated by a Climate Change Update prepared by the OCCESS (5). It is believed that payments for his services to DEC and the government of PNG could potentially be, among others, supported through funds secured by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) under the Australian Governments (AusAID) International Forest Carbon Initiative (IFCI) to undertake a synthesis portfolio of case studies on both customary land agreements and benefit sharing mechanisms. It is believed that this work will form part of the interim Low Carbon Strategy for PNG with the emphasis on REDD.
Dr. Filer’s engagement with both Carbon Planet and the Department of Environment and Conservation is of major concern to the Eco-forestry Forum and its members.
Kenn Mondiai, Chairman of the EFF asks:
1. Would DEC/Government of PNG not consider that hiring Dr. Filer to advise the PNG Government on how to secure land for carbon projects when he is also advising Carbon Planet on how to access the same forests for carbon projects, is a major conflict of interest?
2. Would the DEC/Government tell the people of PNG if there was a proper tendering process that resulted in the engagement of Dr. Filer.
3. “Has it already been decided by the Government if Carbon Planet will take the lead in commercialising carbon projects in PNG? IF so why?
4. Could the Government of PNG tell the people of PNG how Carbon Planet was able to obtain carbon credits in the absence of a national climate change and carbon trade policy?
5. Do all parties in this process see this as an action best undertaken through a wider stakeholder consultation, which was started during the OCCES regional workshops in May 2009?
6. Could the Australian Government tell the people of PNG if it has any links at all to Carbon Planet? If so to what level and or extend?
“We need to promote good governance by bringing transparency into the creation of carbon-related policy” said Mr Mondiai. “The people of this country have suffered enough from bad governance in other resource sectors and we do not want to see the same happen in any climate change related incentives including through REDD” he added.
The Forum and its members demand that:
1. Dr. Filer should not be engaged on anything to do with Climate Change, Carbon Trade and REDD in PNG.
2. Dr. Filer’s contract must be terminated.
Finally we call upon all development partners and donors to work together in a true spirit of partnership and transparency to make REDD work for PNG and its people. There must be true consultation.
For further comment contact Chairman Kenn Mondiai
The Papua New Guinea Eco-Forestry Forum supports integrated rural community development and sustainable resource use through a viable and sustainable eco-forestry industry
Tel: 323 9050
Fax: 323 0397