The government of the rainforest rich country of Papua New Guinea (PNG) is sending out deeply conflicting signals regarding whether they will protect their rainforests, the Earth's third largest, using carbon markets, or will continue with destructive and often illegal logging and oil palm projects. PNG has been a leading proponent for UN carbon market based "Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation" (REDD) -- to pay for ancient forest protection with carbon monies. PNG is likely to be one of the main beneficiaries of UN proposals to integrate forest protection projects into the global carbon market as part of any deal in Copenhagen that succeeds the Kyoto Accord at the end of the year.
Yet PNG continues to allocate massive primary rainforest areas to first time industrial logging and intensive clearing for oil palm plantations; almost all of which are illegal, against local desires, and fraught will violence and corruption. Loggers and the government are beginning to claim such ecologically and socially devastating activities are "sustainable forest management" and protect the climate and are thus eligible for REDD carbon payments. The new Office of Climate Change (OCC) director recently was fired after issuing unofficial carbon credits worth millions of dollars from 39 different forestry projects, without the consent of their landowners, and before proper verification and legislation are in place.
Most shockingly, the PNG government recently went so far as to successfully recommend that Tiong Hiew King, the chairman of notorious Rimbunan Hijau logging and PNG's most well-known illegal logger, be knighted by the Queen! The matter is causing controversy in the UK, as two weeks after the knighting by Queen Elizabeth II, no British authority is prepared to take responsibility for the step, which appears to be increasingly embarrassing for the Royals and the British government. Particularly as it came only six weeks after Prince Charles launched an internet initiative to preserve the world’s dwindling rainforests and prevent "catastrophic climate change". He has not yet indicated whether this includes continued first time industrial primary rainforest logging, yet the award suggests it does.
REDD was proposed originally to avoid deforestation AND diminishment. It was intended to fully protect intact primary forests, so that local peoples and governments could benefit from standing rainforests, rich in carbon and biodiversity. The meaning is now being watered down to include first time selective industrial logging of primary forests (mythical 'sustainable forest management') and perhaps even plantation establishment in primary forests. It appears the PNG and other governments supporting REDD are doing so primarily for the money, and not out of a desire to address climate change in the most effective manner -- by keeping their forests standing forever. Concerns that REDD will legitimate continued industrial forestry and land seizures in primary forests appear to be coming true.
The PNG government has a choice. They can either be paid by carbon markets to fully protect their forests from industrial activities, or they can continue with business as usual logging and oil palm (albeit ending illegal land grabs). But they cannot destroy and diminish their forests, and be paid to protect them too. Please ask the PNG government to demonstrate they are serious about REDD proposals and immediately ban all industrial clearance of primary forests. Further, they must establish a commission of inquiry into the logging, oil palm and carbon industries; expel Rimbunan Hijau and other loggers and oil palm projects, and commit to strict protection of their rainforests through carbon markets and small scale community eco-forestry. And call on the Queen and Prince to strip Tiong of his knighthood over his criminal logging record. Make clear solutions to global climate, biodiversity and related ecological crises have no place for carbon market subsidized ancient forest logging.
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"Sustainable Forest Management", Papua New Guinea Style: Soon to be subsidized by UN carbon markets?
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