Australian media wake up to PNG issues
Govt in crisis as leadership issue boils over

Carbon trading: more questions than answers


WELL, IT happened at lightning speed. Despite the Copenhagen debacle, carbon trading has started in PNG.

No surprise that it’s been hailed by Kirk Roberts, head of Nupan (PNG) Trading Co and self-styled ‘carbon cowboy’, who told the PNG Post Courier: "This is a fantastic thing for PNG, who has chosen to take advantage of commercialised carbon trading while the rest of the world talks and talks.”

Roberts added: “The bottom line is PNG saves their rainforests from logging now, while providing a living and income for the landowners next 100 years."

Unfortunately the newspaper article raised more questions than it answered. In any public business arrangement, there has to be transparency.

An important question is whether the PNG government recognises this arrangement, given that the department responsible for these matters was recently reorganized.

It could also be asked if the payments to landowners are to be taxed and who is responsible and accountable for the distribution of these public monies?

The critical issue is whether these agreements will actually stop timber companies from cutting down the forests and how this will be policed. This has never been explained.

The Southern Highlands reportedly contain regions that are virtually in a state of civil war with limited government control. What happens when the initial payments are spent and a timber company then offers to buy the trees?

Has there been a survey on which trees are in the area covered by the agreement and which trees are not covered? Has there been a full and independent examination of who are the rightful owners of the trees?

Three hundred people signed with Nupan yet the details of what was agreed have not been provided. All this agreement claims is that it will “start a carbon trading project to prevent logging in the area and preserve their rainforests for future generations.”. Which I think you’ll agree is pretty sketchy.

An unnamed 'project scientist' is quoted as saying during the ceremonies that: "the people would need to actively work in the forests every month, to provide data and manage the condition of the trees." Exactly who the people would be reporting to and how this would be managed was not revealed.

The report also claimed: “It is expected that thousands of jobs will be created by this process, which will provide employment for generations to come”, but did not elaborate how this would happen.

For those who have seen these promises so many times before, without transparency and proper planning, the initial hype of a project such as this so often leads to disappointment.

Without further details, the potential for this to be revealed as yet another 'cargo cult' or win moni ikamap nating seems great.

If that is the case, it will only exacerbate the frustration of the forest owners and further enhance the plans of the logging companies.

Where will Mr Roberts be then, I wonder.


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Paul Oates

In yesterday's The National: "Mi bin tok wanem a?"

We won’t be fooled’

FORESTRY resource owners from the East Pangia Forest Management Area in the Southern Highlands province have refused to sign a document but recieved a K500 sitting allowance.
The allowance was paid to the 471 chairmen of integrated landowner groups (ILGs) by Tyebo & Associate and Nupan Trading PNG Ltd.
“We are confused. Why are we being paid?” ILG chairmen Noah Taru, Pastor Patrick Piko and Nelson Mandie said.
All three men said the allowance offered was for five months and that they did not know what they had to sign or why they were being paid.
Pr Piko and more than half of the 471 ILG chairmen told The National on Sunday in Apanda village that they feared their resources would be sold off by just putting their signatures on an unspecified document.
Pr Piko said the ILG chairmen did not sit for any meeting and the company did not even explain why they had to sign before getting their allowance.
“We are suspicious of being lured into signing an agreement tied to the allowance,” said Pr Piko.
Molo clan chairman Madie said he had 62 family members and that it would be selfish of him to accept the allowance while his family members did not get anything,
“Even if I had to share amongst my members, the amount would not be enough,” he said.
Mr Taru described the K500 cash payout as “a cargo cult act”.
“We don’t know why we have to sign before we get the payment. I am concerned about my children’s future.
“Without knowing the volume of the carbon sinks in my forest, I certainly would not want to sell my resources off cheaply to foreigners,” he said.
Nupan Trading PNG Ltd director Kirk William Roberts refused to comment when The National located him at the Highlander Hotel.

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