On 27 May 2010, Sir Michael Somare, the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, gave a speech at the Oslo Climate and Forest Conference. Much of his speech amounted to little more than a request for Norway’s money. But the speech included the outlines of Papua New Guinea’s new plans for REDD – a plan that involves doing away with any safeguards.
Somare’s speech in Oslo can be downloaded here (pdf file, 134.5 KB). “Looking back,” Somare said in his speech,
“attempts to resolve deforestation have been suffocated by misunderstandings. The North told us the causes were issues like corruption and land rights. But, these are largely symptoms, not drivers. Developing countries understand that economics drive deforestation – pure and simple! The real problem is an international market failure. Today, markets value forests more destroyed than standing.”
Having dismissed two of the underlying causes of deforestation: failure to recognise land rights and widespread corruption in the forestry sector, Somare got down to business. PNG needs between US$715 million to US$1 billion for the period 2011‐2015. This “fast start funding” is to be in three phases, he explained:
- US $71 million for readiness payments
- US $118 million for pilot program costs
- US $526 – 811 million for performance‐based payments
Somare is critical of the various international REDD schemes that have so far been established – mainly on the grounds that they are not simply handing over the money regardless of safeguards or the fact that the aim of REDD is to reduce deforestation:
“the international mechanisms to deal with REDD+ have largely failed: meeting after meeting, promise after promise, but nothing tangible delivered in our countries. The World Bank and the United Nations tangle us in endless process and conditionality’s [sic].”
Somare might be referring to the fact that the UN-REDD programme in PNG has still not started. But this is hardly because of “endless process” or conditionalities. At the most recent UN-REDD Policy Board meeting (18-19 March, Nairobi), the Asia/Pacific civil society representative, Kenn Mondiai of the PNG Eco-forestry Forum, asked for a clarification of the status of the UN-REDD programme in PNG.
“The response by the PNG representative was unclear and attempted to shift the blame to the FAO, which has not signed the grant agreement. The FAO made it clear that they were ready to sign but had been asked by the government of PNG to hold off on signing. Norway made a strong intervention as a result, asking the MDTF [Multi-donor Trust Fund] representative what the process for reallocation of funds was in the event that a country did not use them. A six month time limit for signing grant agreements, which applies going forward from PB4, was decided later in the meeting. This apparently gives PNG another six months to have its grant signed.”
Despite the fact that the record of REDD-type projects in the country so far is an unmitigated disaster, Papua New Guinea is (together with Japan) a co-chair of the “REDD+ Partnership” that came out of the Oslo Climate and Forest Conference. The REDD+ Partnership got off to a bad start when the meeting in Paris excluded Indigenous Peoples. The day before the conference in Oslo started, Norway and Indonesia signed a billion dollar forest deal. The letter of intent makes no mention of Indigenous Peoples’ rights.
In its presentation at the closed-door International Conference on the Major Forest Basins in Paris in March 2010, the Papua New Guinea representative spoke on behalf of the Coalition for Rainforest Nations. The presentation is available here (pdf file, 361.1 KB).
Two slides are particularly interesting. The first lists the various REDD initiatives (click on the images for a larger version):
The second outlines PNG’s and the Coalition for Rainforest Nations’ plans for REDD:
PNG seems to be suggesting that all existing REDD schemes be scrapped, to be replaced by a “Top down assessment of funding by a mandated institution”. Responsibility for coordinating this rests with the “Interim REDD+ Committee”. Stage 2 involves “Generation of bottom-up analysis (climate plans) by developing countries”. In other words, countries will hire McKinsey (or another consulting firm) to produce REDD funding proposals – presumably along the lines of President Jagdeo’s “avoided threatened deforestation” scheme in Guyana.
On 28 May 2010, the day after Somare’s speech in Oslo, PNG’s Parliament amended its environmental law, in effect banning legal challenges against environmentally destructive projects. Under the new legislation, landowners cannot take destructive developers to court or claim compensation for environmental damages if the project is ruled to be of “national interest”. The amened law is available here (pdf file, 421.5 KB)
If an environmental catastrophe like BP’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico were to happen in PNG, there would little landowners could do to hold the company liable for the damage caused.
On the Financial Times blog “beyondbrics“, Peter Smith writes that
Powes Parkop, a PNG parliamentarian, lawyer and conservation advocate said the government had granted itself “almost absolute power” to grant environment permits and assess the standards required of those permit holders.
This has serious implications for REDD. If the PNG government declares a REDD project to be in the “national interest”, there may be no further recourse to the law for landowners affected by the project. This, it would appear from PNG’s presentation in Paris and Somare’s speech in Oslo, is precisely the model that PNG hopes to export to the world.
 ^^ The response is noted in the notes of the meeting taken by Global Witness. There is no record of this exchange in the UN-REDD official notes of the meeting.