There’s money in standing trees too

Weekender

By PETER S KINJAP
CLIMATE change is real and its impact is experienced all over the world, the Pacific Island countries being the most vulnerable and susceptible.
Various communities in PNG can tell their own stories about how the catastrophe is affecting human life. The sinking Carteret Islands is a classic example of how climate change is affecting the environment. Carteret Islanders have become the first climate change refugees in the world and are facing social, economic and health issues coupled with relocation issues.
The environmental damages have undermined human security on the island; women and children being denied their rights to better health services and education.
Climate change should be now considered in every sector of human society as its footprint are evident all over the country.
The New Ireland Autonomous Government is on the road to formulating a green policy with the enacting of its Forestry Act to protect forests against illegal logging and revive the renewable resource.
Speaking at a recent provincial executive council meeting in Kavieng, New Ireland Governor Sir Julius Chan said, “The provincial forestry law will align with operations of the PNG Forestry Authority and National Forest Service and along service delivery partnership agreements and greater autonomy.”
Meanwhile, a report by Mongabay News online stated that the leaders of Central Island province of Solomon Islands, have decided not to issue new business licenses to logging and mining companies following a local petition and recent reports detailing the lack of sustainability in the country’s logging sector.
Local and international organisations have blamed unsustainable and corrupt logging practices for destroying the islands’ sensitive habitats and creating civil strife among the people who live there.
Provincial governments in the Solomon Islands lack the power to block logging outright, leading Central Island province to take the licensing approach to stop new operations.
Central Island province has blocked new logging and mining operations in an apparent attempt to halt the degradation of the archipelago’s sensitive ecosystems.
“With timber on the islands harvested at a hugely unsustainable rate, this is an important first step,” the London-based watchdog organisation Global Witness tweeted on January 14, 2019.
Timber accounts for nearly one third of the Solomon Islands’ exports, according to a 2013 study by the World Bank.
In October 2018, Global Witness reported that companies were cutting down the country’s trees at a rate that was 19 times what could be considered sustainable.
The organisation also found that more than 12,600 km (7,800 miles) of logging roads snake through the country’s land area.
Central Island province, also called Central Islands or just Central province, is home to Tulagi, the colonial capital of the Solomon Islands, a group of islands stretching east of Papua New Guinea across 1.34 million square kilometers (520,000 square miles) of the South Pacific.
The national government holds the power to permit logging in the country, Patrick Vasuni, the province’s caretaker premier, told ABC Radio Australia. (Vasuni is officially a “caretaker” until the upcoming elections, expected in 2020.)
But companies must also obtain business licenses from provincial governments before they begin operations.
“That is the area we are banning,” he said, adding that the injunction came on the heels of a local petition to halt logging in the province.
Vaeno Vigulu, who heads the country’s forestry ministry, confirmed by text message to ABC Radio that the order hadn’t come from his agency.
Conservation groups have long warned that logging and mining were destroying highland, rainforest and coastal habitats throughout the country, along with inciting societal strife; posing a greater threat to the ecosystem and contributes to the global climate change issues.
The Global Witness investigation found that 82 per cent of the Solomons’ exported logs end up in China, with much of it potentially having been harvested illegally, unsustainably, or both.
Logging has contributed a lot to the climate change.
Forests in PNG and the Pacific may see greater economic benefit from climate change mitigation incentives, such as sustaining the standing forests and planting new trees under REDD+ programmes.
While PNG is experiencing lot more environmental damages due to climate change, other developed nations are willing to pay for the sustaining the forests to sink carbon emissions.
This carbon trade can benefit our vulnerable communities.
On the national front, carbon trade is one of the valuable assets to Papua New Guinea’s development and economic growth.
It can play an important role in improving the living standards of our people in the nation. For instance, a country like Vietnam has developed in a bigger scale because of carbon trade being the core foundation to their country’s economic growth and development. There are similar stories in other countries of the world.
Carbon trade can be in four different categories: Grey carbon; green carbon; brown carbon; and blue carbon.
As citizens of Papua New Guinea we should be responsible for our natural resources and encourage reforestation in areas that are experiencing deforestation and prevent any form of threat to our natural resources.
Basically our main aim should be to trade our natural carbon to other countries so that the outcome can benefit our people, especially in economic growth.
If other countries like Vietnam can practically build that capacity, why not Papua New Guinea?
Customary landowners in Papua New Guinea have to be considered in efforts by the Government and the United Nations to reduce gas emissions in the country, an official said.
Dr Justin Ondopa, a senior researcher with the National Research Institute (NRI) urged the Climate Change and Development Authority (CCDA) and the UN-REDD+ programmes to include landowners as much as possible for the sustainability of the project.
“Resources are on the land and land is owned by the indigenous people. When we define carbon right, where does the carbon stay?” he asked.
He was speaking during the question-and-answer session at a one-day workshop that concentrated on information-sharing between stakeholders.
He challenged the participants to create more awareness in the communities. He said carbon right was an issue that very few people had knowledge of and more awareness was needed at the village level.
“When we talk about carbon emission, carbon is found in trees and trees are on the land owned by the people. We need to involve landowners as much as possible,” he said.
Trees help regulate carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as they help store carbon. When trees are cleared, the carbon stored is then released thereby increasing the level of greenhouse gases.
It is important that landowner communities should not only be made aware of the benefits of the REDD+ project, but also of any social, economic, political and environmental consequences that may result due to the establishment of the project, in their rivers, on their lands and the community which they live in.

  • Peter S Kinjap is a freelance writer and a blogger, email: pekinjap@gmail.com

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