NOOSA - Landowners on the west coast of New Ireland's Namatanai district claim a US-based company is illegally selling carbon credits on the international market that have been obtained by fraud.
The Kamlapar Incorporated Land Group alleges that New Ireland Hardwood Timber (NIHT), and its PNG-registered subsidiary NI Holdings, entered their customary land without clan consent having been engaged by clan members who had no authority to deal with the company.
The group has asked the Marape government’s Climate Change and Development Authority to order NIHT to cease operating on their land.
It has also written to Verra Inc, a Washington-based organisation that certifies international carbon emission reductions under the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS), asking it to withdraw its verification of carbon credits derived from their land.
The landowners allege that NIHT “is operating illegally as it does not follow Papua New Guinea’s laws, and they have used fraudulent ways to obtain their VCS project and carbon credits.”
Verified carbon credits are sold to international companies seeking to reduce their carbon footprints and Verra Inc is a not-for-profit organisation that operates the world's most widely used voluntary greenhouse gas program.
Although the Kamlapar Incorporated Land Group initially signed a contract with NIHT, the landowners claim the agreement is invalid as they did not give free and informed consent.
The members say they were rushed into signing the contract and were not given time to seek independent legal advice or even discuss the terms amongst themselves.
They also say they have never been given a copy of the benefit sharing agreement and do not know if they are entitled to a share of the total revenue from the carbon credit sales or just a percentage of the profits.
It seems the contract was not cleared by the State Solicitor prior to it being signed as is required under PNG’s Carbon Credit Management Act, which states that a contract that is not approved shall be “invalid and unenforceable”.
The Kamlapar members say they have twice complained to the Climate Change Authority about the activities of NIHT and NI Holdings but have never received a formal response.
They say the Climate Change Authority sent two staff to the area, but claim the visit was sponsored by NIHT and the officers talked only to project supporters who did not represent the true landowners.
They have demanded that the Authority order NIHT and NIH to halt all operations on their land as they breach PNG legislation and “PNG customs and ways”.