Eastern Highlands Governor, Malcolm Kela-Smith, states that Papua New Guinea’s Office of Climate Change and Carbon Trading (OCCCT) “is illegal and established without due regard for existing mandates”, according to an article in The National on 15 February 2009. Kela-Smith warned landowners and provincial governments not to enter into any deals solicited by the OCCCT.
The OCCCT was established “without without the input of resource owners, local government councils, district administrations, provincial governments and Members of Parliament” stated Kela-Smith.
The article, titled, “Office ‘illegal'”, makes the following criticisms of the OCCCT:
- The National Executive Council decision (56/2008) to establish the OCCCT ignored PNG’s Forest Policy and the position of the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC). The decision was taken “without repealing existing legislation or promulgating a community accepted new instrument”.
- Kela-Smith argues that the establishment of the OCCCT was internationally driven rather than domestic, “with the prospects of substantial amounts of money that could be received under the new Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) in developing countries the driving force”.
- Kela-Smith accuses Dr Theo Yasause, OCCCT’s executive director, of issuing trading licences “to unknown entities even though he did not have the mandate to do so. . . . [OCCCT] has no statutory basis and had acted unlawfully in unilaterally declaring that licences would be issued at its sole discretion.”
- Kela-Smith argues against Yasause’s proposal to prepare draft legislation to establish a climate change authority which would operate as a corporate entity. “This corporate entity would have a three-tier advisory board comprising a technical advisory board, national advisory board and an international advisory board; all are poorly considered,” Kela-Smith said.
- All revenue would be managed by the international advisory board. “This is not acceptable, either domestically or internationally. This is landowner income and the landowners should receive at least 85%-90% of the carbon trading contract price – not in cash but infrastructure development in their areas,” Kela-Smith said.
Three days after the article was published, The National published a letter signed by “JM Port Moresby”, who claims to be “one of the authors of the NEC submission for the establishment of Office of Climate Change and Carbon Trade (OCCCT), as well as dealing with climate change issues since 2005.” The letter describes Kela-Smith’s comments as “absurd and ill-informed”. However, JM fails to respond to Kela-Smith’s concrete criticisms outlined above. Instead he explains somewhat feebly that “OCCCT is currently putting everything into perspective and, in time, would unveil the answers to critics.”
In fact, JM lends credence to Kela-Smith’s accusation that the OCCCT was set up to cash in on potential REDD funds. “Had the governor done his research, he could have learnt that many countries around the world, including countries which are worse off than PNG in terms of development, have well-developed climate change strategies and are queuing up for global environment development funds or carbon credits,” writes JM. “For example, Congo received £50 million from the British government to help fight climate change by tackling the destruction of its rainforest.”