Kevin Conrad was born in the USA. His parents were missionaries living in Papua New Guinea. Conrad grew up in Wewak in East Sepik province on the north coast of the country. “I grew up deep in the jungles of Papua New Guinea”, he says. “I didn’t consistently wear shoes until I was 16. Forests are a very real part of who I am.”
In recent years, Papua New Guinea has handed out 5.5 million hectares of land as Special Agriculture and Business Leases. In addition, the government has issued 10 million hectares in logging concessions. The totally predictable result has been an increase in deforestation, and serious human rights abuses.
In 2014, Papua New Guinea became the world’s largest exporter of tropical timber. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Eleven years ago, PNG formed the Coalition for Rainforest Nations and presented the idea of REDD to the UN climate meeting in Montreal.
A company called London Carbon Neutral Ltd and eight linked companies have been shut down in the High Court in London. The companies were shut down after “high pressure and intimidating sales people had targeted the elderly and vulnerable” to sell them carbon credits as investments.
It’s the end of the decade. Nearly 30 years of United Nations negotiations have left us with nothing more than REDD and piecemeal carbon markets to address climate change. The UN has set up a Global Carbon Markets Organisation (GCMO) to try to make the carbon markets work.
Sovereign Green Global is, according to its website, running a REDD+ conservation project, “located primarily in the Milne bay province of Papua New Guinea”. The project covers “approximately 125,000 hectares of rainforest”. But details of the project are scant and the information that is available rings plenty alarm bells.
In June 2011, Industry RE forward purchased one million REDD carbon credits from an Irish company called Celestial Green Ventures. On 11 September 2013, the High Court in London appointed Julie Palmer and Jason Greenhalgh of Begbies Traynor as joint liquidators of Industry RE, “on the application of the Secretary of State and following intervention from the Public Interest Unit”.
A new report by Rainforest Foundation Norway “shows how a rights-based approach is both the most effective way to protect the rainforest, as well as the best way to avoid that forest protection leads to human rights violations.”
Last year, emissions of carbon dioxide increased by 3.2% to 31.6 billion tonnes, according to figures released by the International Energy Agency. Fatih Birol, IEA’s chief economist told Reuters that, “[T]he trend is perfectly in line with a temperature increase of 6 degrees Celsius (towards the end of this century), which would have devastating consequences for the planet.”
Consulting firm McKinsey has played a key role in pushing a version of REDD that underestimates the role of industrial logging and agriculture on forest destruction, while painting local communities as forest destroyers. McKinsey’s advice, if taken seriously, would have had serious implications for local livelihoods and would do little to reduce deforestation.
Earlier this week, Greenpeace activists blockaded a Chinese logging ship, the Fu Tian, that was exporting timber from Papua New Guinea. The ship was docked near the village of West Pomio, where villagers are protesting the operations of Malaysian logging company Rimbunan Hijau and its subsidiary, Gilford Limited.