Papua New Guinea criticised on forest funds call


PAPUA NEW Guinea (PNG) “is in no fit state” to receive international funds under a global deal to stop deforestation and mitigate climate change because of continued logging and corruption, according to a new report by Greenpeace Asia-Pacific.

The organisation presented the Asia-Pacific state with a “Golden Chainsaw” award for demanding fast-track funding from donor countries under the UN’s Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) programme, even though it continues to destroy rainforests.

Sam Moko, Greenpeace Asia-Pacific’s PNG-born forests campaigner, accused his government of being “hungry for international forest protection funds, but [it] has no plans to stop destroying its rainforests or to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions”.

The report, PNG Not Ready for REDD, urges donor countries to put strict preconditions on any funds they give PNG, including a moratorium on all deforestation, the tackling of corruption and illegal logging, as well as the protecting of biodiversity and indigenous peoples.

“With only weeks until the UN climate summit in Cancun, efforts to fast-track forest protection funds could come to nothing if PNG continues to use its position as co-chair of the negotiations to undermine efforts to ensure the funds are spent effectively,” it warned.

PNG’s climate change envoy, Kevin Conrad, who famously spoke out against the US at the Bali climate summit in December 2007, leads the Coalition of Rainforest Nations. It is seeking a global deal that would give these countries billions of dollars to protect tropical forests.

A letter in the current issue of Nature from seven leading scientists warns that PNG will lose all of its accessible forests, home to a vast array of species, within 20 years unless swift action is taken against poor governance, corruption and “corporate disregard”.

“Papua New Guinea has some of the world’s most biologically and culturally rich forests, and they’re vanishing before our eyes,” according to the lead author, William Laurance of James Cook University in Cairns, Australia. “It looks like a tragedy in the making.”

The letter says logging in PNG is being driven largely by Malaysian firms, with raw logs shipped to China for processing into finished products, such as plywood, which are eventually exported to feed the demand of rich nations for cheap wood products.

Tom Roche, founder of the Irish group Just Forests, said: “Right across this country of ours, construction companies and those they are building for are contributing to the destruction of Papua New Guinea’s rainforests by their incessant demand for Chinese plywood. Samples of Chinese plywood taken from building sites across Ireland by Just Forests were verified as containing wood from Papua New Guinea by Hamburg University,” he said. “This is the time when we should be supporting Irish panelboard manufacturers.” He welcomed new EU legislation on illegal logging, but said the law would not be enforced in Ireland until 2013.