PNG’s Office of Climate Change (OCC) seems
to be in strife after a proposal to make $625 million from non-existent carbon
trading was revealed.
Last month a PNG governors’ conference sought
a probe into OCC affairs. Eastern Highlands
The governors say they don’t want OCC to be a regulator, participant or beneficiary of carbon trading. Instead they want it to operate as a normal government agency. They want it to consult with provincial governments in drawing up legislation to control the proposed trade. The governors clearly don’t trust OCC.
Furthermore, they are writing to the Norwegian government, the UN and AusAID to record their disquiet with OCC. Norway has expressed interest in buying carbon credits for the preservation of a huge forest area in the Sepik.
Let me backtrack a bit. At the centre of PNG’s climate change
controversy is climate change ambassador, Kevin Conrad, who in Bali two years
ago challenged the US
Mr Conrad is also a director of the Coalition for Rainforest Nations, an alliance of 33 countries promoting avoided deforestation – that is, stopping trees being chopped down.
The main thrust of the Coalition is that, if rich countries want poor countries to preserve their forests as a way of reducing carbon emissions to keep the planet cool, they should pay the poor countries to stop deforesting.
At present the UN does not endorse offsets based on avoided deforestation. But the proposed process for formalising carbon trading is now the subject of international talks in Bonn and the UN and donor countries such as Norway are enthusiastic about the approach — which PNG has been promoting.
Even before agreement has been reached, a market has emerged in avoided deforestation on the assumption that, one day soon, real credits will be delivered. And the PNG Government seems to have got in early - apparently pre-emptively issuing them. At a price.
“The OCC has no legal mandate to issue
any forest carbon credits,” said Prime Minister Somare’s press secretary, Betha
Somare, who claimed officials are investigating how credits came to be issued.
According to a report in the respected UK
One of these caused particular outrage in PNG: 800,000 hectares of virgin rainforest in Kamula Duso, one of the reasons for the crisis meeting of the governors last month.
After being confronted with a copy of the Kamula Duso credit by The Economist last week, Ms Somare said “very recently apparent irregularities within OCC have come to our attention.
“As a result the prime minister has asked for a review to be carried out and a report to be made to his office,” she said.
Kevin Conrad has commented that it’s too
early to state what went wrong but says an “independent review” is underway, mounting
a defence that “carbon speculators” are putting pressures on landowners in many
countries to sell large tracts of forest ahead of a possible deal on avoided
deforestation in Copenhagen
Some might say it’s a case of ‘give me the money or the tree gets it’.