Papua New Guinea promotes social and environmental benefits from REDD+

Papua New Guinea hosts one of the largest areas of intact tropical forest in the world. The country’s wide rainfall and altitudinal gradients have led to widespread and diverse forests, growing under all conditions from the lowlands to heights of well over 3000 metres. As a result, the country’s forests are globally renowned for their high levels of biodiversity, including many species that occur nowhere else.

With more than three quarters of the population based in rural areas and living in close relationship with forests, Papua New Guinea’s forests provide critical ecosystem services for local livelihoods, such as regulating water flows; supplying clean water; protecting soils; providing food, medicine and forest products; as well as meeting cultural and spiritual needs.

Tree-kangaroos are forest-dependent marsupials native to Papua New Guinea. Most tree kangaroo species are considered threatened due to hunting and habitat loss. Photo credit: Shutterstock

However, ongoing deforestation and forest degradation, driven partly by the rapid economic growth in Papua New Guinea in recent years, have caused an increase in greenhouse gas emissions and threaten the future provision of ecosystem services. This loss of forests and their services can limit the capacity of local communities to adapt to the negative impacts of climate change.

In order to reverse this trend, Papua New Guinea has committed to a low-carbon sustainable development pathway, which aims to achieve stronger long-term economic growth while ensuring that natural resources are managed in a sustainable way for future generations.

Papua New Guinea’s National REDD+ Strategy, endorsed by the Government on 5 May 2017, states that, through REDD+, the country intends to reduce carbon emissions from the forest sector, and conserve its unique levels of biodiversity and ecosystem services derived from forests. The Strategy also highlights the need to strengthen national and sub-national spatial land-use planning in a way that is able to promote these objectives.

The ability of REDD+ to deliver these social and environmental benefits will largely be affected by the location of REDD+ activities. For example, REDD+ activities that retain intact old-growth forests with high levels of unique species may yield higher biodiversity benefits, whereas forests growing on slopes with heavy rainfall may play a more important role in erosion control and in protecting water sources. All else being equal, both these types of forest may be ideal for implementation of REDD+ activities that promote forest conservation or restoration.

Participants of the Joint technical working session carried out in Port Moresby. Photo credit: Xavier De Lamo

With support from the UN-REDD Programme, Papua New Guinea’s Climate Change and Development Authority (CCDA) and the UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) joined forces during 2017 and 2018 to make progress in identifying how and where REDD+ activities could achieve the greatest social and environmental benefits. Under the auspices of the University of Papua New Guinea, the partners worked together in joint technical working sessions to develop in-country capacity in the use of spatial analysis tools and techniques to support REDD+ land-use planning and decision-making.

Using open-source software, technicians from CCDA, Papua New Guinea Forest Authority and other government bodies carried out a series of spatial analyses to identify areas where avoided deforestation could deliver the greatest benefits for biodiversity conservation, ecosystem services and livelihoods. They also explored different map design techniques to present the results in the most accessible form for land-use planners, decision makers and other stakeholders. Another key outcome of the consultations was an improved understanding of the availability and applicability of spatial datasets in Papua New Guinea relevant to REDD+ planning.

Results of the analyses highlight the potential of Papua New Guinea’s forests to deliver benefits such as biodiversity conservation, soil erosion control, landslide risk reduction and nature-based tourism activities. By combining these individual outputs, it is possible to highlight areas where forests are valuable for multiple reasons, and where REDD+ activities to retain threatened forests could therefore bring about the greatest benefits.

Maps illustrating the spatial distribution of non-carbon benefits, such as soil erosion control, can be useful decision-support tools to help identify priority areas for REDD+ actions that deliver additional social and environmental benefits.

The results of this collaboration, alongside other relevant information, could inform a REDD+ land-use planning that enhances multiple benefits in Papua New Guinea’s transition from REDD+ readiness to implementation. It could also contribute to ensuring that emissions reductions are maintained over time and provide a competitive advantage in carbon markets when Papua New Guinea moves to results-based payments.

You can find the reports, presentations and workshops materials produced in this collaboration at the Multiple Benefits Country Resource Hub.

Training materials for map analysis are freely available here.

About the writer

Xavier De Lamo provides technical support to national REDD+ readiness activities in a wide range of countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America and contributes to projects related to ecosystem-based adaptation and other forms of climate change adaptation.

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