“Airlines are taking action on climate change, but we need to do a better job of telling people that.” That’s Alan Joyce, the Chief Executive Officer of Qantas Airways, in a statement he put out last week. “I’m proud of what Qantas, and our customers, are doing,” he adds.
Joyce doesn’t like the idea of flygskam, or flight shame – the idea of people feeling ashamed to fly because of the impact flying has on the climate. He describes this and plans to put a carbon tax on airfares as “retrograde steps”.
Joyce explains that 1 in 10 people flying with Qantas offset the greenhouse gas emissions from their flights. Every 59 seconds a Qantas customer offsets their flight.
On its website, Qantas tells people thinking about buying carbon offsets under the company’s “Future Planet” scheme that,
100% of your contribution goes towards verified carbon offset projects that meet strict international standards, including the Verified Carbon Standard and the Gold Standard. These projects collectively help mitigate environmental impact and nourish communities.
One of the projects that Qantas customers can choose to offset their emissions is the April Salumei REDD project in Papua New Guinea:
Landowner disputes stopped the project
It must have come as something of a surprise to Qantas to read the press release released on 1 August 2019 by Geoffrey Kama, PNG’s Minister for Environment and Conservation:
AGREEMENT SIGNED TO RECOMMENCE CARBON TRADING PROJECT IN EAST SEPIK
MEDIA RELEASE, AUGUST 01, 2019: The National Government through the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Climate Change, today inked an agreement with the landowner representatives from the April Salumei project area in East Sepik’s Wasara-Gawi and Ambunti – Dreikikir Districts, PNG REDD+ Asset and Project Management Limited and Climate Change & Development Authority (CCDA).
The agreement was also witnessed by the local MP for Wasara Gawi and Minister for Education Joseph Yopiyopi and Minister Geoffrey Kama with the heads of his agencies.
The aim of the agreement is to recommence implementation of the project through resolution of landowner disputes which has stalled the progress of the project for some time.
Minister Kama stated during signing of the Agreement that this project is a pilot and the experience learnt from this project will need to be replicated in other areas.
“Therefore, the onus is on the current Chairman Mr Yagi to make changes at the Board level to involve all other relevant ILG [incorporated land group] Chairmans to progress the project forward and remove all other individuals not from the resource area” Kama said.
The Agreement signed will now be submitted to Office of State Solicitor for legal clearance and is a precursor before development of a Project Development Agreement which will then be presented to National Executive Council (NEC) for deliberation.
Minister Yopiyopi also on behalf of the landowners acknowledged leadership of Minister Kama and former Minister Sir John Pundari in pushing this project forward over the past years and pledged commitment to work closely with landowners and Provincial Administration.
APPROVED FOR RELEASE
Hon. Geoffrey Kama, MP
Minister for Environment and Conservation
The news was also reported on the website of PNG’s commercial TV station, EMTV, under the headline: “Carbon Trading Project to resume”.
EMTV gives a brief history of the project:
In 1996, the project area was declared a Forest Management Area, then again declared a Wildlife Management Area in 1997 and in 2009, the project area of over 570,000 hectares was recognized as a zone for carbon development.
However, continuous landowner disputes, over the correct operating umbrella landowner company, the project halted and never progressed.
An article in The National reports Environment Minister Kama as saying,
“Let’s do this quickly and get the project going again because it’s going on for close to 20 years and you as landowners, have yet to receive the benefits.”
So, while Qantas claims to be “empowering rainforest communities” by selling carbon credits from the April Salumei project, the PNG Environment Minister says communities have not yet received any benefits.
New landowner company. New project developer?
According to The National the recognised umbrella company is now Hunstein Range Holdings Ltd, and not REDD Holdings Ltd. Kama directed Hunstein Range Holdings’ chairman Yagi to remove the current directors and shareholders from his incorporated land group and replace them with chairmen from the other five incorporated land groups in the April Salumei project area.
Yagi thanked Kama and agreed to hold a meeting and carry out the requested changes. Yagi also asked the government to release K5 million (about US$1.4 million) “that was allocated to the project”.
EMTV reports that a company called PNG REDD+ Asset and Project Management Limited will work with the landowner company “to market the carbon in the international market”.
Garrett Tory, the CEO of PNG REDD+ Asset and Project Management told EMTV that,
“There’s a process first of all, auditing the resource and measuring it. The life of the project, at the moment, it’s been already measured at about 96 million metric tons. One metric ton being of storage in the trees, one metric ton is what is known as a carbon credit. And then, it is registered, and placed on the market.”
Neither the press release, nor the news reports make any mention of the April Salumei project developer in the project documents: Stephen Hooper of Rainforest Project Management Limited.
In January 2018, I sent some questions to the carbon certification company VCS (now called Verra) about April Salumei. Kate Heller, Communications Manager at VCS, assured me that the project still existed, and that VCS had been in touch with Hooper in January 2018.
I asked how recently a third party assessor had visited the project.
Heller referred me to the project record on the VCS Database. The project’s validation report is dated 8 October 2013, and followed a visit to the project area in March 2013 by a US-based company called Environmental Services, Inc.
No reports of visits to the project area are available on the VCS Database since that date.