Commentary » Climate change confronts PNG
Climate change confronts PNG
Written by Ethel Namuri   
Wednesday, 16 February 2011 00:00


Climate change is one of the most fundamental challenges ever to confront humanity. In Papua New Guinea, its impacts are already showing and will intensify over time if nothing is done. The real threats that we are already experiencing are increased flooding, rising sea levels, storms, and more frequent and severe droughts.

Papua New Guinea Government’s overall ambition to reduce greenhouse gasses between 50-75% by 2030 and become carbon neutral before 2050 as envisioned in the PNG Vision 2050 maybe still inadequate if we were acting alone.

This is a global issue that requires a global solution and everyone has to act now. This includes the developed countries of the world who contribute almost 70 percent of the green house gas (GHG) emissions through man-made emissions from; industry, power generation, transport and buildings.

The forestry sector is the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Papua New Guinea. At the current rate of logging, PNG is likely to run out of commercially accessible primary forest shortly after 2030. If all current plans to reduce emissions were delivered completely and on time, global emissions would still keep growing in the next 10 years, under present trends.

However, stringent initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Papua New Guinea as part of its readiness phase cannot be postponed much longer. The PNG Government’s policies and initiatives covered within the Interim Action Plan for Climate-Compatible Development Strategy (CCDS) highlights these initiatives that the Government plans to undertake to contribute towards keeping the average global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius.

Papua New Guinea is ready to act through its Office of Climate Change and Development (OCCD) which is the government’s coordinating body for all climate-change related initiatives. The OCCD is a role model for effective, efficient and transparent public service.

Within a time frame of just 4 months into operations since its inauguration in September, 2010, the small office of 20 professional staff has had immeasurable achievements. Dr. Wari Iamo as the Acting Executive Director has led PNG’s climate change office over the past 12 months resulting in the development of PNG’s Climate Compatible Development Strategy (CCDS) and the Interim Action Plan.

OCCD’s work builds largely on the Climate-Compatible Development Strategy (CCDS) and the Interim Action Plan. The CCDS sets out the strategic direction for Papua New Guinea’s action against climate change domestically, with a strong focus on REDD+ while the Interim Action Plan sets out the immediate priorities for action over the next 6 months while the CCDS is being finalized. The CCDS is not yet a fully completed strategy which requires full consultation. The OCCD has already initiated this process which is continuing this year.

Looking back on its major achievements since its inauguration, the OCCD has visited 4 provinces as part of the national consultation program, reached more than 20 thousand listeners to its radio talk back program on climate change awareness, had 5 meetings of the National Climate Change Committee (NCCC) over the last 5 months of which 13 key GoPNG agencies are actively involved, secured funding of US$6.4 million for Papua New Guinea’s MRV system, employed 18 Directors and officers, mooted a Coastal Early Warning System in collaboration with six key Government Departments, had 20 multi-stakeholder Technical Working Group Meetings, and received a grant of US$.5million for adaptation work in PNG.

All in all, the OCCD has achieved a tremendous amount of work in 2010 within a record time of just four months. This year the organization is again determined to continue implementing major Government initiatives and is ready to act. The office is currently focusing on a wide range of readiness activities, capacity building by training its employees, the planning of pilot projects and stakeholder consultation.

The organisation’s three divisions; REDD+ and Mitigation, Adaptation and MRV and National Communication are excited and ready to commit their time and resources into implementing their 2011 work plans. The initiatives are executed in close consultation and with the support from stakeholders, such as development partners, key Government agencies and non - governmental organisations (NGOs) and private companies.

It is anticipated that by year end, more provinces will get involved with the readiness phase under the REDD+ or Reducing Emissions from avoided Deforestation and forest Degradation plus Conservation, Sustainable Forest Management, and Carbon Stock Enhancement. The REDD+ & Mitigation Division is responsible for this project as well as the low carbon growth initiatives.

As the division prioritizes readiness activities for a future reduction in emissions from REDD, it is also looking for economic growth opportunities to reduce emissions. Alternative and sustainable livelihoods as well as renewable energy sources for domestic use and export are some of the things that are being proposed. Low Carbon Growth will be focusing on two hydro projects this year in Bialla, West New Britain and Sohun, in the New Ireland Province. While on that; this division will also take lead in the proposed Agriculture lease moratorium. This is one of Papua New Guinea’s most important abatement levers or area where action needs to be taken to reduce carbon emissions.

Under the REDD+ readiness activities, Agricultural conversion is bound to become one of the largest sources of land-use related emission drivers over the next 20 years. These abatement levers are highlighted in PNG’s Interim Action Plan. The proposed moratorium allows for the Papua New Guinea Government to improve its approval processes for agriculture purpose leases and also assess other development options for such special purpose leases. The OCCD will be working closely with key Government agencies on this.

The division is also determined to get Papua New Guinea National Joint Programme (PNGNJP) signed with funding released for immediate implementation. The PNG NJP builds on the 2009 draft NJP which has received approval in principle by the UN REDD Policy Board. It basically aims to support the Government of Papua New Guinea to further progress its efforts towards REDD readiness and places heavy emphasis on the development of a Measurement, Reporting and Verification (MRV) system for PNG.

Adaptation on the other hand; will prioritize measures to help vulnerability to climate-associated risks through gradual hazards. Its current priorities are malaria and event-driven hazards like coastal and in-land flooding. One of its many initiatives this year is the coastal communities’ response to climate change by planting 2 million mangroves. Adaptation division also takes lead in the development of a plan of high level funding requirements and conducting bilateral and multilateral negotiations to provide funding support.

Multiple national level events with government and non-government stakeholders are continuing this year to build knowledge, obtain feedback and develop working relationships. The MRV and National Communication are taking the lead with this initiative. Meanwhile, Acting Executive Director Dr. Wari Iamo is very supportive on the OCCD work plans for the coming months. These work plans build largely on the Climate-Compatible Development Strategy (CCDS) and the Interim Action Plan.

In one of his recent statements on the Interim Action Plan for Climate-Compatible Development Strategy (CCDS) Dr. Wari stated; “My hope is that the Government of PNG, development partners and affected communities alike focus on tangible actions that can be taken quickly. Additional analysis certainly needs to be conducted, but more analysis is a complement to action, not a replacement for it…….” Dr. Wari’s comments also summarizes the requirement to building a deeper and more informed dialogue internally and finding international support to ensure full consultation on the Interim Action Plan.

He further stated that; “The successful achievement of the action plan depends on robust institutional arrangements and collaboration at all levels between Government agencies, development partners, NGOs, and the private sector. It depends on cumulative decisions, actions and aligned mindsets across all sectors and communities in Papua New Guinea”.


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