Papua New Guinea landscapes are largely dominated by mountains. From the central ridge in all directions spread extensive valleys and gorges, overgrown with hard-to-reach forest. In the north, the mountain slopes abruptly cut off to create a narrow coastal strip and the vast marshy plain of Sepik River. In the south they descend more gently to relatively flat, but heavily swampy valleys of Fly, Kikori, Purari, Tauri and other rivers, finally becoming coastal mangrove swamps. It comes as no surprise that the second largest island in the world, Papua New Guinea, hosts one of the most significant and diverse tropical forests in the world.
Recognising the significance of tropical forests and the importance of their protection, Papua New Guinea was one of the first countries to take the global lead in seeking to combat climate change by proposing measures to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+). REDD+ was first discussed in 2005 by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at its 11th session of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention (COP) at the request of Costa Rica and Papua New Guinea. On behalf of the Coalition for Rainforest Nations, the two countries submitted the document titled "Reducing Emissions from Deforestation in Developing Countries: Approaches to Stimulate Action."
Following the successful recognition of REDD+ as an effective tool for addressing climate change and global development agendas, the UN-REDD Programme was formed in September 2008 to assist developing countries, including Papua New Guinea, in reaching their REDD+ goals. The programme was built on the joint technical expertise of its three participating UN organizations: the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Environment.
“It was extremely important for Papua New Guinea to receive technical support in preparing and implementing various REDD+ activities,” says Alfred Rungol, Manager of MRV and National Communications, the Climate Change and Development Authority (CCDA). “At the beginning of our REDD+ journey, the forest distribution maps that support the measures for such efforts were out of date. The country needed better capacities, better data and better tools in order to plan and monitor its actions, thus we formulated the UN-REDD National Programme to fill the gap.”
Since then, Papua New Guinea has made significant progress in strengthening its institutional capacities in sustainable forest management and monitoring. The Papua New Guinea UN-REDD National Programme, implemented by CCDA and the PNG Forest Authority (PNGFA), started in 2011. Collaborating with the projects implemented by other international development partners such as Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and European Union, it paved the way for many country-tailored REDD+ actions, such as the establishment of Measurement, Reporting and Verification (MRV) system, PNG REDD+ and Forest Monitoring Web-Portal and Forest Reference Emission and Forest Reference Levels (FREL/FRL) that Papua New Guinea has submitted in January 2017. The success of the PNG UN-REDD National Programme, collaborating with other partners, has provided a base which has attracted new partnerships and funding sources, i.e. from the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) and Global Environment Facility.
Other important REDD+ milestones are the launch of Multipurpose National Forest Inventory in March 2016 and the National REDD+ Strategy in October 2017.
At the moment the country is preparing to report on its REDD+ results to the UNFCCC. In preparation for the planned submission later this year, the Climate Change and Development Authority (CCDA) in collaboration with PNGFA and FAO hosted a stakeholder consultation workshop which included 50 representatives of various relevant government agencies, private sector, non-government organisations and donor agencies.
Organised on 27 June 2018, the workshop was part of the stakeholder engagement process required for the development and submission of the Biennial Update Report (BUR) and its Technical Annex. The consultation ensured that all results of the greenhouse gas inventory and the technically assessed REDD+ FRL were reviewed and the findings were openly presented and discussed.
During the keynote address by the CCDA Director for REDD+ and Mitigation Ms Gwen Sissiou, she acknowledged the PNGFA as a key technical partner in helping the CCDA to report on REDD+. She also acknowledged the support provided by FAO and others through technical expertise, emphasising the need to learn from the international context so that Papua New Guinea could use these experiences to develop appropriate methodologies in moving these initiatives forward.
So what does future hold for the country’s forests? Vision 2050, the most recent long-term national development strategy for Papua New Guinea identifies “Environmental sustainability and climate change” as one of the seven key areas for action to achieve sustainable development for all. Additionally, Medium Term Development Plan 2016-17 set the goal of making forestry and biodiversity sectors environmentally sustainable and profitable while at the same time maintaining levels of forest cover. Such plans go hand in hand with REDD+ goals to not only halt deforestation and help mitigate climate change but also to have a positive impact on sectors beyond forestry. Given the country’s expertise and vast experience in the topic, as well as the facilities offered in the National Forest Inventory Office, PNGFA plans to share knowledge with other countries in the region and beyond.