Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Update from the forests of Papua New Guinea

As some readers of this blog will recall, I have written quite a bit in the last year about Papua New Guinea—particularly this country’s flirtation with generating carbon credits from its abundant forestry resources. (The idea being that payments will be made from the rich carbon emitting countries to the poorer countries who choose not to cut down trees and thereby avoid emissions of carbon associated with deforestation.)

While the government of Papua New Guinea has been trying to set up an approved scheme through official channels (via payments from other donor governments such as Norway as well as the UN), the private sector has been far quicker off the mark. One entrepreneur in particular having signed up many of the country's forest landowners to “broker” their carbon on international markets. These are the "guilt" markets whereby offsets are sold to voluntarily to buyers such as airline passengers or corporations that emit a lot of carbon and wish to green up their image.

The international donors are at a loss. Should they support the government's attempt to participate this market? This decision is difficult because Papua New Guinea is still reeling from the affair of irregular carbon credits produced by the government's own office of climate change (OCC).

No report has emerged into the collapse of the OCC last year, and as time progresses it seems less likely that one will appear. This is wrong. A major problem emerged last year, and no questions have been answered. Those who live in Papua New Guinea say this is just the way the place works.

I would argue that, as someone said recently: sunlight is the best disinfectant. Without transparency, things will continue to fester and it will make it impossible for the government to attract the international donors that it wants.

Ilya Gridneff, the Australian Associated Press reporter in Papua New Guinea, and I have been writing about this on and off since the middle of last year. (We were jointly awarded a UN climate-reporting prize in December.)

Ilya has a fine update on the ongoing saga here.

(Another recent item is here.)