in Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea plans to scrap REDD safeguards

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.”[1]

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.

One problem with this is that safeguards – such as Indigenous Peoples’ rights and land rights are likely to be swept aside. This is precisely what is already happening in PNG.

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.

[1] ^^ 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.

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  1. Chris; you may rightfully ask whether PNG is sincere in its REDD+ efforts, and it is particularly questionable that – as Somare states – land rights and corruption were symptoms of market failure and not drivers by themselves. Nevertheless, your article does not make justice to Somare’s words, in which he subscribes to “principles of transparency, equitability, safeguards and professionalism”. Your article’s title is certainly not justified.

  2. @Michael Dutschke – Thanks for pointing this out. The full sentence that Somare said in Oslo is as follows: “Of course, in all of our development, mitigation and adaptation actions, PNG subscribes to principles of transparency, equitability, safeguards and professionalism.” I agree that sounds wonderful, but it bears no resemblance whatsoever to the reality of REDD (or for that matter the mining or logging industry) in PNG. Somare says one thing, but does another. And what he is proposing for REDD through the Coalition for Rainforest Nations appears not to include safeguards.

  3. Mr Somare seems to forget that REDD(+) should be in the planet’s interest and therefore whatever he describes as Papua New Guinea’s “national interest” is irrelevant.

    Further, Mr Somare does not have authority to over-ride the country’s constitution. Likewise, sovereign donors have no authority to provide funds for purposes which conflict with their own constitutions.

    It would be quite wrong to classify the sort of funding which Mr Somare is demanding under the heading “REDD”. It would be very short sighted to classify it instead as suitable for carbon offsets – doing so would greatly damage the repute of established carbon markets which have nothing to do with the forestry sector.

    When are we (including the Chinese) going to stop buying products which include wood raw material or palm oil from Papua New Guinea and which are therefore, as formal reports repeatedly point out, almost certain to be illegal? Until we do, the likes of Mr Somare (and their counterparts in donor institutions) will have wind in their sails.

  4. Did you know that the son of Somare’s opened a company to develop “avoided” deforestation REDD projects? Thus, corruption is BAU type.
    Norway and other donors should carefully appoint an international recognized fund manager to provide basic funding first to clean up the corruption within the Forestry Agency in PNG, lack of forestry governance and only after concrete results should pay by results and reduced drivers of deforestation.
    Additionally, should sign a governmental decree that none of their relatives of friends should be involved in conducting avoided deforestation projects of carbon credits.

  5. Regarding REDD carbon cowboys, MCKINSEY and PNG more information as follow: “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”. Chris: your prediction is accurate. Also be aware that the “consultancy company” that is expected to work in Indonesia and PNG in collaboration with “REDD carbon cowboys” will be South Pole Carbon Asset Management limited. This carbon company was involved in the April Salome scandal in PNG.Christian Dannecker, big boss at South Pole, last year claimed to have rights to sell carbon credits from April Salome forestry project. South Pole even dare to try to sell carbon credits before the project was approved. One buyer of the credits from South Pole was CeroCO2, which in turn sold the offsets to business class frequent-flier customers feeling guilty about their carbon footprint. CeroCO2’s Web site claimed the offsets have met Climate, Community & Biodiversity Alliance (CCBA) standard but the was proven to be untrue.”We have not received any documents about this project,” said Joanna Durbin, a director at the CCBA said in an interview. So we have to look very carefully next steps, tasks and projects of South Pole with the Governments of Norway, Indonesia and PNG in REDD.

  6. I have forgotten to mention that former staff of Mckinsey is now working at South Pole Carbon Asset Management limited. The head of South Paul Indonesia, Paul Butarbutar is expected to lead efforts to work with carbon cowboys in PNG avoided deforestation projects and is expected to sign a cooperation agreement with PNG. Also, South Pole Indonesia is currently working hard to tender projects with money of the World Bank and Norway. They want to take over the REDD carbon markets in Indonesia by all means. Its largest competitor is losing its momentum: Eco securities.
    More information soon.

  7. As a Papua New Guinean, no one should feel sorry for us and start pumping money into our economy, we need to be geniunely working to rid corruption. Whatever is within our controls, we must do first before international help arrives.
    A minister for Forest in PNG has been allegedly paid US$40 M by some Asian Logging firm into a Singaporean Account. No investigation has been conducted by the State to prove otherwise.
    An ammendment to the Environmental Law has been rushed through and passed in PNG parliament (without proper deliberation) preventing Landowners right to prevent any development on their land if they know it is environmentally unsafe.
    There is so many other corrupt practices and the list is endless dating back to the dawn of time 16 Sept 1975 so until we start doing something about these, do not listen to any rubbish from PNG politicians!!

  8. Personal greed and by extension corporate greed is the main
    driver of excessive environmental depredation .This is a
    cultural problem which can best be addressed by poets,
    writers, comedians,and artists. This is a slow process but
    ultimately politicians must reflect the values of the people
    they represent.

  9. Chris, thanks for putting this article out there on the internet, and making a complex issue really quite simple.

    PNG is forgetting that someone will need to buy avoided deforestation carbon credits in order to generate a market which can practically tackle deforestation. At this stage no-one sensible should touch a REDD credit coming from PNG for the following very simple reasons.

    – PNG will not make a commitment to reduce or stop deforestation in any form, and they are still trying to increase log exports. This really highlights that they are not seriously bothered about the problem, they are just chasing the funding.
    – PNG have demonstrated their recent ambivalence about the environment by passing an amendment to the environment act, which effectively prevents landowners from taking any legal action against resource development companies (logging, mining etc), even if those projects are disastrous for the environment and cause damage. Once they have been given permission by the government to extract, they can do what they like. This demonstrates the PNG government’s attitude to their people and their environment quite nicely.
    – There a few safeguards to protect indigenous landowners from market exploitation at any level.
    – Corruption is rife. The current benefits sharing models will not allow landowners to benefit from REDD+ if the government are involved.
    – People like Nupan and Kirk Roberts are allowed to act with impunity in PNG, which is giving local people hugely raised expectations and further ruining the reputation of PNG in REDD around the world.
    – Very few people, including those within government departments at the highest level, understand what REDD+ actually means, or understand the laws that will need to be created around it. There is a huge knowledge gap.

    REDD+ at the moment in PNG is being corrupted into a way of sustaining consumption and sustaining deforestation and BAU, and Somare is not interested in stopping deforestation, only in making more money from it.

    They are years away from a functioning REDD+ system, unless they allow voluntary projects to proceed, and the government step aside until they have the necessary will and legal framework in place to draw these projects together under a national system.

  10. @ Chris: thanks for flagging these issues

    @ Rupert: we would be interested in seeing where you have your information from since you seem to know more than we do ;). Let me clarify the nature of forward contracts: The primary carbon market consists to the far biggest extent of forward contracts on future emission credits. Project owners in developing countries want to hedge their price risk and sell credits forward. They don’t know if their projects will ever be completed or generate carbon credits. Therefore they sell without guaranteed delivery forward and lock in a certain price for the case their projects generate carbon credits. If the projects do generate carbon credits, the buyers will get the according carbon credits and will pay them. If not then not. Payment is on delivery of the carbon credits only. Therefore forward selling of potential future carbon credits is nothing bad or strange but just the fundamental principal of the carbon market to support development of projects in developing countries. We have never forward sold carbon credits from the project in PNG with a guaranteed delivery and of course we never received any money from it, as the project you mention has never generated carbon credits. Furthermore we have stopped working on ANY project in PNG several months ago and will not consider working there again until we feel more confident about that there is a solution to the issues highlighted by Chris. Any unappropriate use of our name in connection with any such project is neither helping PNG nor the forests.

    We are looking forward to a more constructive dialogue. I can be reached at c.dannecker [at] for any inquiry or clarification.

    Christian Dannecker, Principal Forestry within South Pole

  11. The world will be well advised to NOT deal with PNG on REDD or any other carbon trading schemes for as long as the corrupt clown that is somare remains in power. While on the one hand he is going full steam with unscrupolous asian loggers in reaping the forests off the face of mother earth in PNG, he is preaching REDD on the other. How absurd!

    Please do not entertain somare and PNG until we prove our sincerity by ridding the asian logging scammers from our country first.

  12. Absolutely agree with James.

    Sir Michael forgot to mention that, ecosystem change from the 75-80% of the people engaged in subsistence agriculture to sustain their livelihood is comparable in percentage to deforestation caused by logging (45.6% and 48.2% respectively respectively according to peer-reviewed document).

    A market for tropical timber is just one driver of ecosystem change. Sir Michael has to address other in-country issues such as population increase and the high local in-country migrations. These two issues cause the 80% of rural people to intensify gardening and harvesting efforts. Furthermore, the ever rising inflation on the PNG money – which is caused by the numerous prospects of mining and logging, further intensifies harvesting and gardening pressure when it creates the gap between those who can afford the inflated price of goods and services versus those who just cannot afford it.

    Sir Michael seriously needs to address these in-country drivers of ecosystem change first.

  13. Somare seems to have forgotten the Bougainville Crisis. PNG’s landmass is virtualy “owned” by the traditional land owners. The PNG government and Somare just dont get it. Their continuous pressure to secure funding for the REDD projects is clearly for selfish interest, and definitely not in the interest of the people of PNG who own the land and resource and infact the whole of PNG landmass. As a landowner myself, I would definitely not let Somare and his co-hoerts to even set foot on my land. I would rather work with a genuine organisation or group that is willing to listen to the mass population in our villages to see real tangible benefits through the REDD projects, that has multiple benefits to the resource owners, our communities, my beautiful country PNG, and also contribute to the worldwide community. Should remind Somare, of what happened in Bouganville, PNG is sitting on a ‘time-bomb’ where the real population of PNG has had enough people with ‘sticky’ fingers and selfish intentions.

  14. Again, Chris, total fraudulent reporting. PNG has never stated it plans to scrap safeguards. Nowhere in your ‘story’ to you support your title. Please document where the PNG government as scrapped safeguards. Chris, be very careful or your fraudulent and deceitful may reporting will land you in court soon!

  15. @Redd Observer – please read the following:

    On 28 May 2010 … PNG’s Parliament amended its environmental law, in effect banning legal challenges against environmentally destructive projects.

    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.

    I think that “no further recourse to the law” amounts to a scrapping of safeguards. I think that is pretty clearly explained in the post.

  16. Chris what you have written about PNGs REDD Plans is the truth. Those criticising you are friends of crooks in PNG who want to make a quick buck out of indigenous peoples land and forests. Keep up the good work. With you all the way.