Wednesday, June 23, 2010

How did we get here?

Only two years ago The Stern Review concluded that preventing deforestation was a vital step towards curbing climate change. In his summary report he wrote: "At a national level, defining property rights to forestland, and determining the rights and responsibilities of landowners, communities and loggers, is key to effective forest management. This should involve local communities, respect informal rights and social structures, work with development goals and reinforce the process of protecting the forests."

Some countries have well-established customary rights, ownership from long and continual use. One might think that this would be a strong basis for action to protect forests but apparently not. Over in Papua New Guinea, the government seems to have decided to give itself the power to remove any rights to consultation with landowners over activities on their land, or to allow citizens to challenge such decisions in the courts. These actions seem extraordinary. I would guess they are a response to the fact that many landowners have decided to sign up to carbon deals with private companies, some of which have involved dubious activities. But even so, Stern had it bang on: respect informal rights. Don't undermine them.

The real question is whether any international agency or government is going to endorse such extraordinary behaviour by funding deforestation projects in PNG?

If you want, you can sign the petition to reverse the Environment Act amendments.


Reader Lucas Winston sends link with further background to new law.