By Chris Lang
The proposed REDD+ Project in Oro Province of Papua New Guinea covers an area of 418,000 hectares. Kanaka Management Services Private Limited (KMS), an Indian company based in Bangaluru produced a 130-page project document. The project document was posted on Verra’s website on 15 February 2022.
According to Verra the project status is “Under development”. But on 2 March 2022, PNG’s Minister for Environment and Conservation, Wera Mori, announced a moratorium on voluntary REDD+ projects in the country.
Just three months earlier, Mori posed for a selfie with Rao Mandhukar of Kanaka Management Services. They met in the Coalition for Rainforest Nations’ stall at the UN climate meeting in Glasgow in November 2021.
The Governor of Oro Province, Gary Juffa, welcomed the moratorium because PNG does not have a regulatory framework for carbon trading. Juffa told Loop PNG that,
“The moratorium needs to go further than just being a moratorium, it needs to put an end to all current carbon trade projects. Until such time, a thorough review has been conducted as to whether or not those involved are genuine entities and what the mechanics of those arrangements are.
“As far as I know, the price of atmospheric carbon is so low that we should not even be considering carbon trade as an option in PNG until such time those prices reach a level and we have a regulatory framework in place.”
Juffa says he’s concerned that Kanaka Management Services “went to Oro Province and somehow engaged in carbon trade arrangements without the knowledge of the Provincial government”.
According to Kanaka Management Services’ project document the project has already been running for almost five years – apparently without the knowledge of the Provincial government: “The project has commenced its patrolling activities as on 06-May-2017. Hence, the project would consider the same as start date.”
The project document produced by Kanaka Management Services includes a photograph of Governor Juffa (page 129 – that’s him on the right), but without a caption, or a date, or any explanation of what the document in the photograph is:
Carbon cowboys and cattle ranches
On 15 March 2022, the Australia Institute sent a comment about the project to Verra. The comment, titled “Carbon Cowboys and Cattle Ranches”, has not yet been posted on the Verra website, but it can be downloaded here. It was written by Polly Hemming and Andrea Babon.
Carbon Market Watch has also produced a response to Kanaka Management Services’ project document. Carbon Market Watch concludes that,
The proposed project raises significant red flags and concerns. This is largely due to the widespread absence of key evidence and details which makes it essentially impossible to verify the proposal’s core assumptions (baseline/additionality) or to be sure that basic requirements, such as rigorous stakeholder involvement, were fulfilled.
This post focusses on the Australia Institute’s comment on the proposed REDD project. Hemming and Babon write that,
REDD+ projects have a long and vexed history in Papua New Guinea, with the significant issues around integrity, governance, and exploitation by ‘carbon cowboys’ in the past still present today. We are concerned the proposed Oro project appears to be continuing this tradition.
Hemming and Babon note that the project is “enormous in scale”. Kanaka Management Services claims that the project could generate more than 8 million carbon offsets per year for 100 years. Hemming and Babon write that,
Kanaka Management Services (KMS), the proponent of the Oro project, has provided no evidence to support their claims that their project will result in genuine benefits for the climate or customary landholders. The project document is poorly written, largely incomprehensible and lacks the details that would enable an adequate technical assessment of the project.
Kanaka Management Services fails to demonstrate how the project area is at immediate risk of deforestation. The project document includes cattle ranching and railways as deforestation threats, despite the fact that PNG has no cattle ranching in mountainous areas and no railways.
KMS provides “no evidence to suggest that customary landholders have been consulted about the project, nor assurances that they will retain autonomy and control over project activities,” Hemming and Babon write.
Hemming and Babon identified a series of “key problems” with Kanaka Management Services’ project document:
- The proponent has indicated that the project will have a retrospective crediting date from 2017 despite not having yet established the project.
- The information on the project contained in the proposal is confusing, contradictory, generic and vague, and provides insufficient justification for the conclusions it draws.
- Despite this being an ‘avoided deforestation’ project the proposal provides no explanation of how proposed project activities will reduce forest loss.
- The information and analysis is inadequate for a project proposed on customary land in Papua New Guinea. There is no evidence of consultation with landowners.
- Evidence of forest decline and the project counterfactual assumptions are unconvincing. There is no historical evidence of deforestation in the relevant region.
- The basic calculations in relation to carbon stocks, GHG reductions and removals are
“The proposal document lacks credible information and sufficient detail to be considered a project of integrity,” Hemming and Babon write. “It is concerning that Verra did not address this issue in the first instance and request that the proponent improve the quality of its data and analysis before publishing the proposal on their website and inviting public comment.”
And they question Verra’s approval process in general:
Beyond the Oro project, we are concerned that Verra’s broader project approval process may be inadequate and that other low-quality projects of this nature could already be supplying ‘junk credits’ or ‘hot air’ to corporate and government customers.