PORT MORESBY - The wealthy countries of the world have agreed on a 'Green State Vision’ at COP26, which ends in Glasgow today.
Indonesia signed up and now has the hard task of navigating what this means for itself and especially West Papua.
It is the restive province of West Papua that carries the bulk of Indonesia’s forest richness, which the country has now ratified and agreed to protect.
The Green State Vision entails recognition of Indigenous peoples and their environmental protection practices.
Needless to say, the Indigenous people of West Papua are right behind it.
Indeed, the vision constitutes an important part of their long-standing demand for independence from Indonesia, which was handed to Indonesia in 1962.
Last year the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULM) declared itself a government-in-waiting and declared exiled leader Benny Wenda as interim president.
"In West Papua, we’re facing a genocide and an ecocide," Wenda said. "They are destroying our land, our environment, in the name of development."
The government-in-waiting hopes to create the world’s first green state if independence is achieved.
ULM launched its Green State Vision at COP26 in a small marquee a few hundred metres away from the conference halls where wealthy nations used flashy pavilions to try to convince the world of their environmental credentials.
"In recent years we’ve seen huge numbers of palm oil companies coming into West Papua, with the support of the Indonesian government,” said Raki Ap. “The result is the destruction of ancient rainforest."
The island of New Guinea is home to the world’s third-largest treasure of rainforest and other natural resources that have made it an attractive destination for mining and fossil fuel companies.
West Papua is half that island and home to the giant Grasberg mine, the world's largest reserve of gold and second-largest reserve of copper. The mine has caused extensive damage to the region's ecosystem.
The Green State Vision if formalised and implemented will make ecocide a serious criminal offence. It will also ensure that extraction companies adhere to international environmental standards or be forced to cease operations.
Also under the plan, guardianship of natural resources will be restored to Indigenous groups.
"Indigenous peoples know how to preserve nature,” said Ap.
West Papua did not have an official seat at COP26 and talks with official participants have been limited.
Instead, the group's leaders spoke with grassroots environmental activists, hoping to gain public support for their vision.
"It's all about peace, justice and harmony with nature, our culture and our identity," said Wenda.
"We want to set an example to the world. We are ready to govern ourselves and set an example for the rest of humanity."