Greenpeace critical of Papua New Guinea graft, "carbon cowboys"

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Rainforest-clad Papua New Guinea is not ready for international funding for U.N.-backed forest carbon credits to stem deforestation, said Greenpeace, citing corruption, “carbon cowboys” and lack of political leadership.

A Greenpeace report into PNG’s attempts to promote a U.N.-supported scheme REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation), found it was more interested in the funding than reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

REDD, which the United Nations hopes will become part of a broader climate pact, aims to reward developing nations that preserve and restore carbon-absorbing rainforests, a step that could curb the pace of climate change.

Rich nations would be the main buyers to help them meet emissions reduction targets, effectively helping them offset some of their pollution by preserving forests in poor nations.”

But REDD requires substantial initial funding to launch pilot projects, craft policies and ensure money reaches communities.

“There has been little international interest in PNG as a responsible recipient of REDD funding due to high levels of corruption, carbon cowboy scandals and a lack of political leadership on REDD,” Greenpeace said in its report.

“PNG is not currently ready for REDD funding,” it said. The report was released on Monday on the sidelines of a U.N. environment conference in Japan.

PNG is committed to reducing emissions by about 30 percent by 2030, said Greenpeace, but added widespread logging had left only 55 percent of its forests intact.


A government spokeswoman, in email comments, said the report took no account of the latest efforts to try to make REDD work.

She said the country was building a consensus and bolstering institutions, “while still ensuring social and economic development benefits to our population.” The spokeswoman also said lack of funding precluded enforcement of a logging ban.

“We regret that Greenpeace directs all its effort into a glossy but superficial report instead of trying to solve the problems together with the relevant Government departments, NGOs and development partners,” she said.

Papua New Guinea and the adjacent Indonesian province of West Papua account for the world’s third largest expanse of tropical rainforest after the Amazon and Congo forests, the U.N. says.

“PNG has the second highest proportion of national greenhouse gas emissions from land use and land use change and forestry in the world,” Greenpeace said.

It said Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare told a conference in May that PNG would lead the way in REDD credits, but needed $715 million to $1 billion in funding between 2011 and 2015.

Greenpeace said PNG’s pledges to reduce emissions relied on analysis which inflated the benefits and opted for changes to logging as the main REDD abatement strategy. It said current rates of logging were “unsustainable.”

Greenpeace also said that indigenous land rights were being undermined by “carbon cowboys” buying forest rights, citing cases of questionable schemes to develop voluntary carbon trading.

About 85 percent of PNG’s population live at subsistence levels in forest villages and indigenous people own the vast majority of forest land, but Greenpeace said recently introduced laws attempt to undermine the rights of communities.

Reporting by Michael Perry; Editing by David Fogarty and Ron Popeski