REDD projects in Papua New Guinea “Legally untenable”

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REDD projects in Papua New Guinea 'Legally untenable'. PHOTO: Greenpeace

Papua New Guinea was one of the founders of the Coalition for Rainforest Nations that five years ago proposed “a novel economic model for reducing deforestation” at COP-11 in Montreal. But the country has seen a series of REDD related scandals and the problems, it seems, just won’t go away.

In July 2010, two REDD-type projects in PNG applied for approval under the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance standards. The projects are the Kamula Doso Improved Forest Management Carbon Project and the April Salumei Sustainable Forest Management Project.

The Kamula Doso project was set up by Nupan, a company run by Kirk Roberts, who describes himself as “one of the most important foreigners in PNG”. Roberts has visited many villages in PNG, promising communities riches from his carbon trade projects.

In November 2008, Nupan received a letter from Theo Yasause, then head of PNG’s Office of Climate Change. Attached to the letter was a certificate titled “Series Number B1 Voluntary carbon credits issued under the UNFCC Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degredation (sic) initiative for clean development mechanisms.”

In February 2009, Yasause sent a “Notice of Nullyfication (sic) of all corresspondences (sic) and certifications issued on Kumalo (sic) Doso Pilot Project on REDD” to the Managing Director of Nupan PNG Limited. In June 2009, Yasause explained to a journalist with the Economist that “We have since ceased dealing with NUPAN as all landowners are not involved nor does the provincial and local governments in that area.”

Yasause has since been suspended and is under investigation, in part because of his dealings with Roberts and for issuing a series of what appear to be REDD carbon credit certificates. Yasause denies any wrong-doing and claims that the certificates are “samples”. Which raises the questions: Why are the documents on official headed paper and why did Yasause sign and stamp the documents?

In 2009, SBS television in Australia broadcast a series of four programmes about Australian carbon traders in PNG. In one, Abilie Wape, the head of a landowner group in Kamula Doso, said he was threatened at gunpoint to sign away the carbon rights to the forests. In July 2010, the Post Courier reported that SBS had bribed him to say that he was held at gunpoint.[*]

But there have been other reports of intimidation. In September 2009 [***], journalists from the Sydney Morning Herald reported talking to a tribal representative who told them that

“he had been coerced into signing a memorandum of understanding that gave Nupan power of attorney over his land. Initially he refused. ‘I didn’t know anything about the certificates, that was my first time in hearing about the certificates,’ the tribesman said.

“The tribal representative claimed he eventually signed the memorandum in the face of Nupan’s persistence. ‘I couldn’t do anything … So I just went ahead and signed it. Then later I complained to my lawyer.'”

There has been a long-running legal battle between the PNG Forest Authority and the NGO EcoForestry Forum over the forests of Kamula Doso. In July 2010, the National Court ruled that the “Kamula Doso Forestry Management Agreement of 1997 is not a valid Forestry Management Agreement”. In other words, the forests of Kamula Doso cannot be legally logged. Nupan’s REDD project can only be claimed to be additional if it is an alternative to logging. “We will save our rain forests from logging, for generations to come,” writes Wisa Susupe, chairman of the landowner group Tumu Timbers, in the foreword to the project design document. The document explains that the landowners plan “to convert the Forest Management Agreement to a Carbon Project”. One of the project’s objectives is:

“avoiding large-scale greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation from the commercial timber harvest of Kamula Doso (approximately 37 million tCO2-e of GHG emissions avoided over the next 40 years.)”

But if the commercial timber harvest is not going to happen, on what basis can Nupan claim that the REDD project is additional?

The comments submitted to the CCBA reveal further problems. Isaiah Simaka, the chairman of Beagua Resources Conservation, a landowner group in Kamula Doso, writes that

“any statements of awareness by for Kamula Doso Block 2, is false and is illegal and as a chairman and Land Owner, with up to 80% of portions of land in Kamula Doso Block 2 declare all climate change activities there in stated area is illegal and void.”

He invites the project developers to “physically come to Lake Murray and identify yourself there.”

The April Salumei project is no less controversial. It is run by the Rainforest Management Alliance (RMA), which claims on its website that,

“The Project Design Document (PDD) is shortly to be approved to Community Climate and Biodiversity (CCBS) Gold standard, another first for Papua New Guinea.”

Except, of course, that Rainforest Management Alliance does not actually know whether CCB’s auditor Scientific Certification Systems will approve the project or not.

Rainforest Management Alliance, or Rainforest Project Management as the company seems to be called in the project design document, is headed by Stephen Hooper. Recently, the company did not reply to requests for information from Ilya Gridneff, Papua New Guinea Correspondent for Australian Associated Press.

In his comments submitted about the project design document, Matt Leggett of WWF’s Western Melanesia Programme Office, lists three principal concerns about the April Salumei project:

1. Community testimony and research findings … indicate that the level of community consultation and understanding of the project in the region is insufficient to guarantee the project has ensured free, prior and informed consent of landowners.

2. The proposal does not adequately recognize or account for existing disputes over land tenure and landowner company representation in the region.

3. According to recent statements by the Office for Climate Change and Development the development of voluntary carbon projects is not currently supported by the Government of PNG.

Leggett visited four communities in the project area in June and July 2009 and reported that

“many landowners complained of being strong-armed into supporting the project during this visit despite having little to no idea of what it involved. People were told ‘We are not here to answer your questions; we just want to hear yes or no about the carbon project’. Village meetings were filmed, and cameras switched off when criticisms or concerns raised.”

On 14 July 2010, a press release was published in the Post Courier about Voluntary Carbon Projects in Papua New Guines. It is signed by the current Executive Director of the Office of Climate Change and Development, Wari Iamo, and states that,

“As the Government Agency which must approve all national Reduced Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) projects, the Office of Climate Change and Development OCCD) formally disavows any partnership, support, endorsement or any other form of connection to the proposed April Salumei forest project.”

The press release came after Rainforest Project Management stated that OCCD was a “project partner” of the April Salumei project.

Meanwhile, on 9 August 2010, the PNG Government’s Acting Chief Secretary, Manasupe Zurenuocthe, wrote to Stephen Hooper, reaffirming,

“the Government and the Departments commitment and support for this project to you and the developer.”

In a comment submitted to CCBA, Wari Iamo states that both the Kamula Doso and April Salumei projects are “incompatible with existing PNG laws and regulations”. Iamo’s comment includes a letter from O’Briens Lawyers, which concludes that,

“there is no legal or other basis for the establishment of Carbon Sequestration Schemes in Papua New Guinea such as the Kamula Doso Projects and the April Salumei Projects. Both projects are legally untenable.”

Of course, in the byzantine world of carbon trading in Papua New Guinea, none of this may be what it appears to be. [**] The government’s opposition to voluntary carbon trading may be because the PNG government wants to make sure that it gets a slice of the carbon action by holding out for what it hopes will be billions of dollars of REDD funding once the UNFCCC has agreed on an international REDD mechanism.

What we do know is that carbon trading in PNG is a mess. It’s doing nothing to stop the logging of PNG’s forests. And local people are at the back of a very long queue when it comes to benefiting from REDD.


[*] ^^ UPDATE ONE – 15 September 2010: I asked Brian Thomson, Senior Correspondent at SBS TV News, about the claims in the Post Courier article. Here’s his response:

“The landowner concerned, Abilie Wape, came to my hotel willingly, knowing that I was investigating claims that landowners were being put under pressure to hand over the rights to the carbon in their forests. Abilie made the claims without co-ercion, encouragement or payment.

“It is quite clear to me that Abilie has since been put under pressure by someone to change his story. It is disappointing, but perhaps understandable given the sorry state of affairs surrounding carbon trading in PNG, that he has sought to tarnish my reputation in order to get himself out of a difficult situation. I note that the businessman concerned has not sought to refute the claims with me directly. I do not, and never have I, offered payment to anyone. The story published in the Post Courier is utterly false.”

Back to text ^^


[**] ^^ UPDATE TWO – 15 September 2010: Two sentences have been deleted at the request of O’Briens Lawyers.

Back to text ^^


[***] ^^ UPDATE THREE – 6 October 2010: Corrected the date of the Sydney Morning Herald article from September 2010 to September 2009.

Back to text ^^

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12 Comments

  1. And this fiasco is happening in the country that currently co-chairs the so-called Interim Partnership on REDD, funded by the government of Norway, with promises of billions of dollars of REDD money to flow through it!

    Talk about letting the bandits look after the bullion!

  2. I do not believe these projects have any legitimacy and have too much doubt and bad history to be afforded any credibility now. I would be surprised if SCS validated such a project for the CCBA.

    It is important to note that the CCBA does not issue carbon credits. It is a project validation standard (and a very good one.

    The whole PNG REDD story is very sad and does make life difficult for those of us seeking to make REDD work. Thankfully, the likes of Nupan and others face a doomed future and investors will (have already?) lose their money.

    That does not mean there are no good REDD projects worthy of support. There are, and will continue to be worthy projects with solid credentials.

  3. Mr Dickey ,
    It is very important to note that the CCBA does not issue carbon credits, it should also be noted that Australia belongs to the Kyoto protocol.
    In saying that to convert Pending Issuance Units into any carbon credit or VCU in Australia is impossible.
    FYI Nupan represents over 75 forestry projects in PNG and projects in othe countries.
    FYI again there is no such thing as a REDD or REDD+ project in world that is supported by the UNFCCC.
    VCS is ineligable in Australia due to additionality and Climate legislation.
    It is quite amusing how you have named your friendless project REDD Forest, as that makes it obvious to all you are another on the bandwagon.

  4. Chris it looks like you’ve been a naughty boy and re-posted the same story as last year!

    You state:
    “In September 2010, journalists from the Sydney Morning Herald reported talking to a tribal representative who told them that…”

    But the link goes to:
    http://www.smh.com.au/environment/i-am-a-top-foreigner-in-papua-new-guinea-says-carbon-kingpin-20090903-fa0m.html

    Which was published in 2009.

    Not like you to twist the truth a bit is it Chris?

  5. @Steven Price – thanks for pointing this out. Well spotted. I’ve corrected it in the post to read:

    “In September 2009, journalists from the Sydney Morning Herald reported…”

    It was a typo and not an attempt to twist the truth.

  6. Hello,
    Am kept in suspense. There were couple of awareness visits into Lake Murray, Western Province,PNG; visits by the Rain Forest Management and promised to be there again in September and finalize legallities of the Carbon Credits project by December, 2010.

    Can we have those 2 concern people who were around in the North Fly District and Lake Murray come out clear and explain the current situation for Lake Murray before the Association can take up other actions.

    Regards,

    Isaiah Simaka
    (Chairman – Beagua Resources Conservation)

  7. Isaiah Simaka , I suggest you contact Kirk Roberts of Nupan.

    nupanpng@gmail.com

  8. REDD fails acid test: Landowner

    With the recent announcement by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) over the weekend that it will be 2020 before a REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) or REDD+ project can be paid for by the donation nations, any hope that all the talk about REDD in PNG would amount to anything is effectively killed.
    “This is a betrayal of our people,” said Timothy Tepi, who has a voluntary carbon trading project in East Pangia, “the people who have been pushing this REDD in the Government have been lying to us for years, trying to take away our land rights, and keep all the money for themselves.
    “They fly around the world, go to all these conferences, eat at the best restaurants, all at the expense of the PNG people, while we all starve.”
    Mr Tepi is the chairman of Tiyebo and Associates Tribes of East Pangia Ltd, a registered company that is starting the East Pangia carbon trading project.
    Kirk William Roberts, who is known as the person responsible for getting ready the first voluntary carbon trading project in Kamula Doso, also pointed out that certain people who were fraudulently claiming to be landowners were trying to discredit the voluntary carbon standard (VCS), the worldwide standards organisation, while claiming that the process was “risky”.
    “The VCS is the most established standards organisation available, and the only one with a worldwide track record of having verified carbon trading projects with registered credits being sold on the world markets,” Mr Roberts said.

    todays Post Courier PNG

  9. @greenie cap – any chance of you asking your friend Kirk Roberts to reply to the questions that REDD-Monitor sent him (dated 17 June 2010 and 24 July 2009)? Thanks.

  10. Sorry Chris trying to track those questions down, but if one is regarding Kamula Doso ILG Abilie Wapa who was originally cohorted by a New Zealander logging angent for RH on Al Jazeera documentry this time last in PNG Carbon Cowboy or Carbon Crusader , then that story was then rehashed and sensationalise to a complete fabrication by SBS Bryan Thompson then I refer you to http://www.carbonowontok.org .
    If the other question is in regards to RH lawyer O’Brien and RH Wari Iamo seceret employee then you will have to wait for the project to finish the verifying process, if by then there is any need to say more.
    Kirk ignores all these Logging companines and jealousy harrassments and now does not answer to the media because of their checked corrupted history.
    Of course I am not referring that comment at you.

  11. Isaiah is not an ILG member of Kamula Doso …. anything to do with him regarding is totally baseless…….

    Additionality is left with your own opinion..this Ombudsman report may help clarify.
    REDD is similar….as is it called REDD or REDD+ when does not do anything as the name suggests.

    PAPUA NEW GUINEA: The Kamula Dosa Affair: A summary of the Ombudsman Commission report

    After a three-year investigation, the Ombudsman Commission has published its final report on the National Forest Board decision in February 1999 to award the Kamula Dosa logging concession in Western Province to the logging company Rimbunan Hijau.

    The Ombudsman report concludes that the decision of the National Forest Board to grant the extension was based on improper considerations and should be revoked.

    The report finds that the Chair of the National Forest Board, the Managing Director of the National Forest Service and two Forest Ministers (including current Fisheries Minister, Andrew Baing) all acted “wrongly” and that the Board and the Minister acted in breach of the Forestry Act.

    The Ombudsman Commission has made a total of ten recommendations. These include the termination of Wari Iamo as the Chair of the National Forest Board.

    The report describes the conduct of Wari Iamo as “wrong” and finds that “he failed to give any proper advice and consideration to environmental concerns” and “he failed to live up to the standard demanded of him”. The report concludes therefore that he “should not continue to hold an office he has shown himself unable to adequately perform”.

    The Ombudsman has also highlighted the behaviour of the logging company Rimbunan Hijau.

    The Ombudsman has recommended that the “present projects and future proposals by the Rimbunan Hijau group of companies be carefully audited and monitored” and that the National Forest Board should “have a particularly close look at how the Rimbunan Hijau Group conducts its business in Papua New Guinea”.

    Other recommendations from the Ombudsman include that all logging operations be subject to an annual review to ensure compliance with contractual obligations; changes to the Forestry Act to reduce political interference; the better implementation of legislation; and improved diligence in the performance of their duties by Provincial Forest Management Committees.

    Background

    Rimbunan Hijau has been operating the Wawoi Guavi logging concession in Western Province since 1992 through its subsidiary company, Wawoi Guavi Timber Company. This concession covers an area of 432,000 hectares.

    In February 1999 the National Forest Board decided to award the much larger Kamula Dosa logging concession to the Wawoi Guavi Timber Company as an ‘extension’ to the Wawoi Guavi timber permit. The Kamula Dosa concession covers an area of 791,000 hectares

    The decision to award the concession as an extension meant that the Board could avoid the usual requirement for a public tendering process. This meant that the Board was denying any other logging company the chance to make a bid for the concession.

    The Board decision was made contrary to the advice of the Provincial Forest Management Committee and the views of the National Forest Service technical staff, which had been presented to the Board in several written papers. The Board was also ignoring the wishes of many of the local landowners.

    The Board also chose to ignore the very poor performance of Rimbunan Hijau in the Wawoi Guavi logging concession. The National Forest Service had described that performance in these terms:
    • “about one percent of the total log value is being paid to landowners”,
    • “Rimbunan Hijau have constructed nil roads, bridges or culverts”,
    • “the infrastructure constructed is of very poor quality” and
    • “the level of benefits provided per unit of production are the lowest in the country”.

    The Ombudsman Investigation

    The Ombudsman Commission investigation was initiated in June 1999.

    The purpose of the investigation was to establish if there was any wrong conduct surrounding the decision of the National Forest Board to allocate the Kamula Dosa logging concession to Wawoi Guavi Timber Company as an extension to their Wawoi Guavi logging operation.

    As part of its investigation the Ombudsman Commission advised both the National Forest Board and the Forest Authority of its investigation and conducted a total of 26 interviews with people concerned in the affair.

    The Ombudsman produced a preliminary report in November 2000. This was distributed to the 22 people and organisations named in the report and they were invited to give their responses to the preliminary findings and recommendations.

    The Ombudsman Commission received and considered a total of nine written responses to its preliminary report. These included a written response from Wari Iamo and both a written and oral submission from Rimbunan Hijau who also sent 8 letters to the Ombudsman through their lawyers.

    The Findings

    One: The decision of the National Forest Board to grant the extension was in breach of the Forestry Act and was therefore wrong.

    Two: The National Forest Board also acted wrongly in failing to give paramount consideration to the Constitution and the Forestry Act rather than the needs of a logging company.

    Three: The National Forest Board was wrong not to have a clear policy on extensions.

    Four: The Managing Director of the National Forest Service was wrong in rejecting the advice of his technical officers and in maintaining that the resource owners supported the extension when this was clearly not true.

    “Mr Nen’s conduct was confusing and contradictory and gave the impression that he either did not know or did not care what official documents he signed”.

    Five: Mr Nen was wrong not to ensure that Rimbunan Hijau follow the law in setting up their processing unit at Panakawa. The managing Director was wrong as he “condoned the company’s illegal action and demeaned his position and diminished respect for his position”.

    Six: Wari Iamo was wrong to state that the landowners supported the extension; it was “irresponsible and highly questionable and made without any supporting evidence”.

    “Dr Iamo was prepared to disregard the advice of the technical staff of the NFS and the recommendation of the Western Provincial Forest Management Committee in favour of the views of one private landowner company”.

    Seven: Dr Iamo was also wrong in not satisfying himself that environmental concerns had been addressed. He did not “give proper consideration to environmental matters” and his “conduct was baffling and negligent”.

    Eight: National Forest Board member Gabriel Samol was wrong to vote in favour of the extension when he knew that the necessary procedural steps had not been completed.

    Nine: The conduct of Andrew Baing, then Minister for Forests and now Minister for Fisheries, in giving directions to the National Forest Board was contrary to law and wrong.

    “Mr Baing meddled in the affairs of the Forest Authority. His directions were arbitrary and irresponsible”.

    Ten: The conduct of Mr Fabian Pok as Minister for Forests in also trying to give directions to the Board was contrary to law and wrong.

    Eleven: The conduct of Norbert Makmop, then Governor of Western Province, in encouraging Ministers to apply undue pressure on the National Forest Board was wrong.

    “Mr Makmop’s motivation was not a desire to see a fair, transparent and well-considered decision made”.

    Twelve: The conduct of the Department of Trade and Industry in not consulting with other government bodies when preparing a National Council Submission was wrong

    The Recommendations

    The Ombudsman Commission has made a total of 11 recommendations. According to the Ombudsman, these recommendations must be implemented within 30 days unless he is given cogent and convincing reasons why they cannot or should not be carried out.

    One: The National Forest Board formally revoke its decision to award the Kamula Dosa logging concession as an extension to the Wawoi Guavi timber permit.

    Two: The National Forest Board and the Department of Environment and Conservation ensure that the Environmental Planning Act be complied with in the allocation and implementation of all forestry development projects

    Three: All Provincial Forest Management Committees strictly and diligently carry out their duties

    Four: The Forestry Act be amended to expressly exclude Ministerial interference with the National Forest Board.

    Five: The National Forest Board make clear guidelines on the size of allowable extensions

    Six: The National Forest Board undertake annual reviews of all logging operations to ensure full compliance with contractual obligations and to carefully screen future applications from defaulting companies

    Seven: The future public re-employment of Thomas Nen be carefully and critically reviewed

    Eight: The National Executive Council (NEC) terminate the appointment of Wari Iamo to the National Forest Board

    Nine: The NEC terminate the appointment of Gabriel Samol to the National Forest Board

    Ten: Coordination between departments be observed to ensure compliance with all requirements relating to forestry projects

    Eleven: Present projects and future proposals by the Rimbunan Hijau group be carefully audited and monitored to ensure strict compliance with the law and future proposals be critically screened before approval.

  12. Regards to the April Salumei Forest project run by Mr Stephen Hooper, my understanding is that in early 2013 it will be given VCS approval and it is now fully supported by the PNG Government…?

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