Biodiversity not under PNG government's spotlight, says researcher

06/01/2012 00:10

A Greenpeace anti-logging campaign tag advocating the protection of New Guinea's rainforest.


The Papua New Guinea government has not done enough to acquire customary land to conserve the country’s biodiversity, says Port Moresby-based think tank Nation Research Institute (NRI).

PNG is a signatory to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which agreed in 2010 with 193 other countries to halt the loss of biodiversity by protecting 17 per cent of land and 10 per cent of seas. However according to the NRI only 2.8 per cent or 1.29 million hectares of the total land area in PNG have been categorised protected areas.

“Only 2.8 per cent of the total land area in PNG (1.29 million hectares) is currently under protected areas while Yus conservation area in the Morobe Province was recently declared the first conservation area in PNG. The PNG Government has not done enough to acquire more customary lands for the protection and sustainability of ecosystem services,” said NRI research fellow Nalau Bingeding.

According to the researcher, there was no incentive to protect biodiversity: “One of the reasons for this was that there was little economic incentive in the protection and sustainability of ecosystem services – a tree was worth more dead than alive.”

The island of New Guinea, which PNG shares with the Indonesian province of West Papua, is a biodiversity hotspot as it is home to the third largest rainforest in the world (behind the Amazon and Congo Basin) and is the habitat for 5 per cent of the planet’s animal and plant species.

Mr Bingeding has appealed to the PNG government to look at the areas that are not protected and to create incentives that could compel communities to embrace the conservation of ecosystems, with a view to establishing environment management policies that would enable them to be paid or compensated.

“PES (payment for environmental services) has the potential to become an important environmental management tool, and is becoming a popular method for paying farmers and landowners for the ecosystem services their private or communal lands provide. Therefore, if we can develop more precise methods for measuring ecosystem services, we can ensure we cost‐effectively deliver payments for ecosystem services to our farmers and landowners.”

According to the FAO current PES schemes focus on water, carbon, or biodiversity and respond mainly to public, but increasingly also to private, interest in addressing an environmental problem through positive incentives to land managers.

Mr Bingeding added that the PES scheme could be the best alternative in mitigating the effects of climate change in PNG, instead of the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) mechanism, which PNG has championed under the auspices of the Coalition of Rainforest Nations.

“Due to the general lack of understanding of the climate change phenomenon and the socio‐economic conditions under REDD+ in PNG, PES is an economic incentive that could be used to protect and sustain environmental goods and services and mitigate climate change without most of the issues faced by REDD+.”