By MALUM NALU
PRIME Minister James Marape took to the world stage on Friday, Sept 24, 2021, as the world continues to battle the Covid-19 crisis, as well as the greatest long-term threat faced by mankind: climate change.
Amidst these global challenges, he took to the world stage of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York City, to address these as well as various others issues concerning Papua New Guinea.
It was Marape’s first-ever address to the UNGA, however, he was unfazed and presented a speech that received rave reviews in PNG and around the world.
His presentation was televised live for all to see.
Covid-19 and its even more contagious variants have wrought misery upon our world, inflicting massive loss of life and sickness, widespread disruption of health services, and economic ruin with ensuing social upheaval. There is no silver lining.
We can, however, attempt to extract useful lessons from the strategies and tactics──both successful and unsuccessful──used to battle the contagion to better array our forces against that other pending global catastrophe: climate change.
Why now? Because we need to work more rapidly, analytically and efficiently to ensure that climate mitigation and adaptation measures adopted and deployed by wealthy countries do not leave the most climate-vulnerable countries in worse positions than they are in, today.
PM Marape addressed the issues of Covid-19 and climate change – which affect PNG and the Pacific – succinctly.
He told world leaders that Covid-19 would continue to remain a big challenge for PNG.
“I also take this time to extend our condolences to the families in your countries who have lost someone due to Covid-19, and our get-well wishes to those who are sick,” Marape told them.
“I also pay tribute to the global frontline workers and service personnel who have toiled over and beyond the call of duty to care for those who are sick and vulnerable.”
Marape thanked international partners for their assistance to PNG during this difficult time.
“Our numbers are low in terms of both confirmed cases and fatalities,” he said.
“But most concerning, the rates of vaccinations are also low.
“Our government took the necessary upfront ownership through the enactment of an appropriate legislation, the National Pandemic Act 2020.
“This, together with very close working partnership with our valued development partners, including our Pacific family of nations through the Pacific Humanitarian Pathway on Covid-19 Programme, has given us much success.
“We cannot speak highly enough of such partnerships, including those through the Covax Facility, and with the UN system, Australia, New Zealand, US, Japan, China, European Union, United Kingdom and United Arab Emirates, which enabled us to have immediate access to essential medical equipment and supplies including the AstraZeneca, Johnson and Johnson and Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccines.”
Marape said PNG continued to welcome and encourage further strengthening of cooperative global efforts to allow access to the Covid-19 vaccines in countries where they are most needed.
He mentioned misinformation, including on social media in PNG, which has curbed efforts to increase vaccination.
“We advocate for global efforts in curbing misinformation that has resulted in low rates of vaccinations in our country,” PM Marape said.
“It will truly support our efforts in building national advocacy and awareness on the efficacy and safety of Covid-19 vaccines, a programme ably supported by our development partners, including most notably the churches and the UN Country Office.”
Marape said the PNG Government had to do all this, while at the same time, keeping a close eye on the general health sector.
“A National Health Plan is ready to be launched, except for the settlement of the financing plan,” he told the UNGA.
“It will encompass facilities development, capacity building, pharmaceutical procurement, development of primary, secondary and tertiary health care, and provincial capacities, and the requisite capacity building and education.”
Marape then proceeded to the issue of climate change, announcing to all that he would be seeking to progress a number of issues on behalf of Papua New Guinea and the wider Pacific Blue economy at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) to be held in the United Kingdom in November.
He urged all countries to commit to the energy targets, deal with land use, and advocate for the preservation of biodiversity and be bolder in climate financing commitments.
“These issues are important to Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands Forum countries, and we will be seeking support and advocacy from developed and industrialised countries to back our domestic and regional efforts towards adaptation and mitigation through global funding assistance,” Marape said.
“I will be seeking an understanding to build a special set of criteria that is simplified to enable us to qualify for financial support for our adaptation and mitigation strategies.”
Marape called on the international community to collectively meet Paris Agreement obligations and submit individual nationally determined contributions (NDC) without delay.
“Papua New Guinea was among the first countries to submit our nationally determined contributions in 2020, outlining our goal to be carbon neutral by 2050,” he said.
“This plan includes the drafting of our NDCs implementation plan, regulations and alignment of NDC adaptation and national adaptation plan, thanks to the support of the United Nations Development Programme.
“We want to see major carbon emitters in the industrialised nations to be genuine and committed in their actions to fund climate change mitigation and adaptations.
“A failure in that regard is a denial of that responsibility.”
Marape also advocated that the US$I00 billion annual commitment by developed countries to developing nations on climate financing must be considered different from official development assistance.
“This will allow its guidelines to be sensitive to the climate change mitigation and adaptation agenda and their specific requirement,” he said.
“As a natural gas and oil exporter, Papua New Guinea is working towards ensuring our carbon footprint is minimised by implementing our Sustainable Development Goal 13 Roadmap 2020-2030 on Climate Change launched last year.
“However, despite multiple project submissions for climate financing, Papua New Guinea has had limited or no success in accessing these funds, except for technical assistance in developing the fiduciary framework.
“This is disappointing.
“We need to see a more practical demonstration of genuine commitments.”
PM Marape said other forms of assistance towards climate change adaptation and mitigation must also be streamlined to lessen the increasing debt burdens in Small Islands States to free up the required fiscal space to support economic recovery efforts from the Covid-19 pandemic and achieve sustainable development.
He called on UN Member States to finalise robust and fair carbon markets under the Paris Rulebook to unlock new financing streams that better account for the sustainable development interests of countries like PNG.
Marape said PNG wanted to achieve both conservation and development.
“In forestry, we have ceased issuance of new timber permits and renewal of existing ones and will achieve complete round log export ban by 2025,” he said.
“We want to move into value-adding and downstream processing.
“We have adopted and designated a large conservation area in our Northern Province as a pilot programme in partnership with a regional environmental programme, which will give us the learning experience we need for further designations of conservation areas.
“We are also in the process of establishing a NDC roadmap for agriculture, forestry and other land use (AFLOU), and the energy sector.”
Part 2 next week will focus on other matters PM Marape raised at the UNGA
- Malum Nalu works with the Office of the Prime Minister