Monday, October 25, 2010

The truth about Papua New Guinea's carbon trade scheme

Port Moresby

The Prime Minister (PM) of Papua New Guinea (PNG) stated in The National (11th October 2010) that the REDD+ approach that is being championed by his government is being undermined by the trading of forest carbon through the voluntary carbon schemes (VCS) in PNG.
He describes VCS as being risky and premature.
But how much truth is in what the PM said is anybody’s guess. 
The PM does not elaborate on the risks involved in the VCS, but the only cheap excuse given is that the VCS are thinly capitalised.
The advantages of the VCS over a compliance forest carbon market are not discussed by the PM.
Moreover, the PM failed to admit that REDD markets for forest carbon exists under some VCS, but a compliance market for forest carbon does not exist at the moment and the likelihood of a world market for forest carbon through the REDD+ scheme is far from reality.
The sad fact is that countries in South America, Asia and Africa have gone into VCS, while we are the only ones that are still fighting to engage in a compliance market for forest carbon, which does not exist or is yet to materialise.
Therefore, one wonders why the PM, PNG’s climate change ambassador and the acting director of Office of Climate Change and Development (OCCD) are all hell-bent on a REDD+ carbon scheme under the compliance market.
The reason why the OCCD, the PM and our climate change ambassador are globe trotting on climate change and carbon trade issues is that they want some of that $4.5 billion (US) that has been earmarked for REDD+ projects in developing countries.
So far our negotiations have failed two times to access any international funding because PNG does not want any strings attached to these REDD+ funds.
However, the international community is aware of what is going on in developing countries and will not release any funds until stringent measures are put place by respective governments to protect the rights of indigenous peoples and their forest resources from carbon cowboys.
Earlier this year, the PNGexposed Blog published an article that accused the PNG government of trying to be the “ultimate carbon cowboy”.
Nupan Trading was in the spotlight and was seen as being the culprit in carbon trade deals in PNG, but the PNGexposed Blog article also put the PNG government in the spotlight.
This article has been widely read and circulated over the internet and there are now more suspicions about the PNG government’s moves to have customary landowners snub the VCS.
It makes one wonder whether the moves taken by the PNG government are genuine in reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation of forests and ultimately combating climate change, or, is the PNG government trying to blackmail the international community into giving us funds so that we can put them in our pockets; let alone pay for political stability to protect the so-called “national interest”.
At the moment VCS are legal in a sense that it is a business deal that can be struck between a customary land owing group and a carbon broker.
The government has no control over customary lands therefore it cannot decide which carbon market the customary landowners chose to trade their forest carbon.
However, the OCCD, as the mandated authority on climate change and carbon trade issues in PNG, can facilitate carbon trade business deals between customary landowners and carbon dealers under the VCS.
The only problem with carbon dealers in the VCS is the issue of “carbon cowboys”, but this problem should be addressed by the OCCD.
The OCCD should check on any carbon dealer’s records and give appropriate advice to customary landowners on the authenticity of the carbon dealer and whether his business interest is genuine and has integrity.
However, to date the OCCD has refused to have anything to do with VCS or issue carbon certificates.
The reasons given by OCCD for not recognising VCS in PNG and not issuing carbon certificates to Nupan Trading and other carbon dealers is the same as that given above by the PM.
Regardless of the reasons given by the PM and OCCD about VCS in PNG, these are business deals like any forestry and mining business deals and OCCD will have to cater for that.
But the position taken so far by OCCD and the PNG Government to snub VCS indicates that there is something fishy going on in terms of carbon trade in PNG, and it goes to cement the suspicion that the PNG Government wants to be the “ultimate carbon cowboy”. 
One reason why the government wants customary landowners to snub the VCS is that it wants to keep all carbon credits from REDD+ for its own interest so that it becomes the one and only carbon broker in PNG.
Therefore, if the OCCD facilitates business deals between customary landowners and the VCS and much of the forest areas in PNG are registered under the VCS, there will be few or no forest areas left for the PNG government when an international agreement is reached after 2012.
The PNG Government wants to be the “ultimate carbon cowboy” in PNG so it is playing delay tactics to stall VCS in PNG and to maintain all forest areas for itself to have access to when a compliance market comes on after 2012.
The PM also stated that a climate framework was not yet finalised to protect and safeguard the interests of customary landowners dealing with carbon dealers under the VCS.
 However, this is the cheapest excuse that can be given, and it insults the intelligence of people who are familiar with development of policies and legislations.
The issue of climate change has been around since the 1980s, and literature has built up immensely within science and policy domains in the last few years which are available and can be used to develop a climate change framework for PNG.
Thus there is no excuse for the OCCD to say that it has not produced a climate change framework for PNG as yet.
Two offices have preceded the OCCD, in which time a climate change framework should have been produced by now, and the civil societies in PNG have been constantly calling on the government to put in place legislation and policy for climate change.
Moreover, there is sufficient human resource within country that can be utilise by OCCD to draft a climate change framework, but it seems a few handpicked people are being used by the government to run the show so that some peoples’ vested interests are protected.
But since no policy or legislation has been developed for climate change in PNG as yet, it goes to show that the PNG government is deliberately avoiding the issue so that it does not put itself under any obligation to protect its indigenous people and their forest resources from carbon cowboys, of which the PNG government is one of them and the “ultimate carbon cowboy”.
Finally, a few years ago the PM was questioned on his family’s vested interest in carbon trade in PNG and the establishment of a pyramid structure that was establish within the Office of Climate Change and Carbon Trade (OCCCT) to  deliberate on carbon financing.
Although time has passed and memories have faded, I am of the opinion that the pyramid structure that existed within OCCCT is still alive and exists within the OCCD and is just waiting to deliberate on any international funding on REDD+ that may come out from the $4.5 billion (US) earmarked for developing countries.

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