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Papua New Guinea not ready for REDD – Greenpeace

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Papua New Guinea not ready for REDD - Greenpeace

Yesterday, Greenpeace presented the Papua New Guinea government with a Golden Chainsaw award “for asking for REDD money whilst continuing with rampant logging, failing to respect indigenous rights and denying NGO input into REDD discussions”. The award was accepted by Federica Bietta, who is representing the PNG government at the UN Convention on Biodiversity meeting in Nagoya, Japan.

Federica Bietta is the Director of Finance and Administration at the Columbia Business School, Deputy Director of the Coalition for Rainforest Nations and co-chair of the REDD+ Partnership as a representative of PNG. She looked happy enough to receive the award, but, as Greenpeace forest campaigner Sam Moko notes, “really it’s sad and unfortunate for the Government of PNG to receive Greenpeace’s Golden Chainsaw award – normally reserved for illegal and destructive logging companies.”

Moko added that this was the first time he had met Bietta:

I’ve been working on forestry in PNG for 9 years and I’ve never come across her before. Today was a good opportunity to meet her face to face – after all she is the face of PNG for important talks on climate and forests.

Greenpeace also released a report on the sidelines of the CBD meeting in Nagoya, titled “Papua New Guinea: Not ready for REDD” (pdf file, 2.4 MB).

The report slams the PNG government’s preparation for REDD so far:

The poor governance and entrenched corruption that has long characterised the PNG logging industry, together with a refusal to accept conditions for REDD funding and a growing dismissal of indigenous peoples’ rights, means PNG is not currently ready for REDD funding.

The report stresses the urgency of protecting PNG’s forests. Industrial logging has destroyed huge areas of forest without bringing benefits such as employment or improved education and health-care. A 2008 report by scientists at the University of Papua New Guinea Remote Sensing Centre and the Australian National University estimates that by 2021, “most of the areas accessible to loggers will have been cleared or degraded.”

The Greenpeace report states that instead of attempting to address deforestation, PNG’s national policy on REDD, “aims to maximise potential international REDD funding rather than improve institutional and political capacity in PNG.”

Corruption within PNG’s forest industry, disregard for land owner rights, inflated estimations of likely benefits from REDD and a lack of effective institutional systems in place do not engender confidence in the country’s ability to manage a funded institutional transition to a low carbon economy.

Greenpeace is not opposed to REDD and the report notes the need for international REDD finance. Neither is Greenpeace anti-development: “The people of PNG, most of whom live a subsistence life relying on the forest, also have the right to development and improving their livelihoods.” The challenge is for PNG to “transform its policies, laws and institutions, if it is to ready itself for increased international assistance via REDD.”

Sam Moko sums up the problem concisely:

“The Government of PNG is attempting to get its hands on billions of dollars of international REDD funding. But instead of protecting rainforests at home, they are corruptly approving widespread logging and denying the rights of indigenous peoplewho own the land.”

Unfortunately, the PNG government does not appear to be listening. In email comments to Reuters, a government spokeswoman wrote that PNG “was building a consensus and bolstering institutions.”

The reality, however, is that PNG has hired consulting firm McKinsey to write its REDD reports. McKinsey’s consultants also deal with questions during meetings about PNG’s REDD implementation. PNG NGO Eco-Forestry Forum to commented, “This leaves us with the conclusion that OCCD and DEC does have a capacity issue that has not been admitted.”

Meanwhile, an Italian woman, Federica Bietta, who has apparently never even been to PNG is representing PNG at international meetings and as the co-chair of the REDD+ Partnership.

The PNG government spokeswoman told Reuters that

“We regret that Greenpeace directs all its effort into a glossy but superficial report instead of trying to solve the problems together with the relevant Government departments, NGOs and development partners.”

Had the spokeswoman bothered to read the report, she would have discovered that Greenpeace is trying to do precisely that. Greenpeace makes a series of constructive recommendations in the report.

There is, however, a catch. “Money by itself wont fix corruption – it could just make things worse,” as Sam Moko points out. Greenpeace’s report expands on the theme:

[A] major challenge is for PNG to transform its policies, laws and institutions, if it is to ready itself for increased international assistance via REDD. It will need to bring down the high levels of corruption and improve governance if donors are to be reassured that REDD financing can achieve the goals of emissions reductions, forest conservation and climate-compatible development.

Unfortunately, the government appears completely incapable of bringing down the high levels of corruption associated with the destruction of PNG’s forests. Until it does, PNG will remain not ready for REDD.

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  1. ooh dear, with your opposition to REDD, how does Greenpeace look to you regarding their support?

  2. @ Jenny

    I can’t speak for the people that run this website, but I think it’s perfectly possible to be in support of REDD, but deeply concerned about almost everything that appears to be happening on the REDD front at the moment.

    This assumes, of course, that one is in favour of REDD because one wants to see forests protected; what we see happening now is that this possibly once-only shot is being thrown away through a combination of carelessness, incompetence and political expediency on the part of international donors; sheer greed, impatience and bad faith on the part of tropical countries; and a lack of innovation, creativity, and genuine willingness to tackle tough political challenges all round. As a result, we are already starting to see in countries like Guyana how, counter-intuitively, REDD is becoming an added threat to forests, not the saviour of them. Guyana is setting a precedent, but there is much worse to come.

    Of course, if one is a supporter of REDD only because it promises to open vast new markets for carbon trading, then none of these things matter: the forest carbon will get traded, the commissions taken, the profits made, regardless of whether any of this actually helps to protect forests or helps to destroy them. Or indeed helps to prevent climate change, or allows the planet, including forests, to fry.

  3. China is the (initial) destination for the great majority of the timber which is exported from Papua New Guinea “PNG”. As such China has great leverage over logging in PNG.

    China chooses not to use that leverage.

    This damages China’s credibility at the global negotiating table.

    China is also the (initial) destination for the great majority of the timber which is exported from the Solomon Islands. China will presumably profit handsomely from the clearly unsustainable nature of that trade.

    However, will China offer to provide reparations to the Solomon Islands when, as the Solomon Islands’ government knows is imminent, its peoples’ forests are exhausted and the very large proportion of the country’s foreign exchange earnings which – on paper – derives from the export of logs to China ceases to be available?

    Likewise, who will plug the foreign exchange gap when the forests of PNG’s peoples are exhausted by trade / “economic growth” (- in about ten years time)?

  4. @James.

    The only way for PNG to stop the bleeding is to stop the corruption that is rampant throughout the country, particularly within the government. To the best of my knowledge there is one single Chinese holding company that has its hand in logging (deforestration, not sustainable harvesting), fisheries, mining and many other PNG resources. This holding company has been around for over 2 decades and continues to corrupt and clear out PNG forests, exporting its logs to China.

    The sad case is that when PNG runs out of timber, so will the holding company who will gladly pack up and leave the country. Until then, they will squeeze PNG for all its worth.

    PNG land owners are slowly standing up to this mess and are relying on sustainable harvesting of timber to bring out positive change, education and employment for their people.

    No one will plug the foreign exchange gap when the forests of PNG or Solomon Islands are cleared. As mentioned before, companies will simply pack up and leave. It is up to the government and people to realize the destruction that is occurring in front of them and make serious decisions on where they want to see the country in the next 10-20 years.

  5. REDD or REDD+does not protect PNG rain forests .

    This supposed trustee’ for the supposed funding, will accept any prize for anything , as long as any proposed PNG UNFCCC funding is distrubuted through her ‘ Columbian Business School’ by her and kevin Conrad as Directors.

  6. This gives an indication that even in the pilot stage many corruption issues are arising. Governments should be forced to actively involve more NGOs who are reputed for independent monitoring in forest activities…..

  7. the png government does not feel competent nor can it find a national amongst its 6.0 million people to represent it at the un climate change forums and therefore had to resort to a foreigner who does not even know where PNG is on the globe. That PNG government officer who appointed FBietta and KConrad to represent PNG is unfit and incompetent to hold office. He/She should resign immediately in shame as you have made PNG already a laughing stock of the world. How long can you continue to embarras us ordinary citizens/nationals?

  8. Sam Mako, you have nailed the truth on the wall, and I fully agree with you 100%. Our PNG government is attempting to get attention and get its hands on the billions of dollars of international REDD funding. It is very obvious that the Governments greed and desparations have got the better of then, and I am glad that the international funding organisations do have in place strick check and balances to protect us (the landowners) from being overlooked and deprived of any benefits that may be derived from protecting our forest from deforestation (by the likes of RH working with Government – very obvious). As a true PNGean, a landowner, from a forest dependent community, I would like to ask if the Government’s (so called) consultants know much about what the forest really means to us. How much does these so called consultants know about the true values of our PNG people who are owners of these great lands forests, they know nothing…., therefore, it is better for the government to stop entertaining this Mckinsey or whoever they are, and start utilising our own local brains, who not only know the values of our people but also are capable of providing sound advice to the government (of course conforming to the international requirements, but uniquely designing policies and whatever that is needed to get REDD+ up and running, for the good of the whole world). BY the way who is this non-PNG people (K Kondrad and the Italian woman) representing PNG?

    Conerned PNGean
    Richard