James Marape, Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, made a bold speech to tackle the colossal problem of climate change by leveraging PNG’s forests for development finance.
Climate change is often referred to as an evil problem. Even the issue of implementing the commitments already made under the 2015 Paris Agreement is complicated, as calls to action meet some resistance from industrialized countries around the world.
On September 24, during his address to the 76th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), Marape proposed that his country be recognized as a frontline state in preserving the world’s carbon sinks. Carbon sinks are an essential complement to reducing carbon emissions to stay within the 1.5 degree mark by 2030, as defined in the Paris Agreement.
With his country holding nearly 13% of the world’s rainforest and up to 6% of its biodiversity, Marape is pushing for PNG to ensure that its rainforests are preserved by the global community in return for development funding. by major carbon emitters to mitigate the climate threat.
“Papua New Guinea recognizes the need to save the Earth. God has blessed us with 13 percent of the world’s tropical rainforests and 6 percent of its biodiversity. We want to preserve these global assets, ”Marape told UNGA.
“If the world’s rainforest reservoir was the global lung, we have a significant proportion of that organ that allows the world to breathe. We function as a great carbon sink; we have this important asset for our planet.
But he said PNG will need financial help to keep its rainforest intact. “We want the main carbon emitters in industrialized countries to be sincere and committed to their actions to finance climate change mitigation and adaptation,” Marape continued.
“I want to make this statement. Enough talk. We need to take action commensurate with the volume of emissions from our industries. “
Speaking exactly one week after addressing his country at the 46th independence anniversary celebrations on September 16, where he reiterated, among other things, resource sector reforms by his two-year-old government, Marape has been clear about the role he sees for PNG in this area.
He said that as chair of the Coalition of Rainforest Nations, PNG stands at “an important crossroads”:
We are a carbon cleaner from the atmosphere. The extraction capacity of our forests is over 100 million tonnes per year. Our energy emissions are currently around 10 million tonnes per year.
“Therefore, if the REDD + mechanism (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation and Improving Forest Stocks) works as it should, PNG can stay where every country needs to be by 2050 under of the Paris Agreement – a carbon cleaner from the atmosphere.
The preservation and conservation as well as the sustainable harvest and use of forest resources can be our commitment to all of you for the care of the earth, leading the Secretary’s “Code Red for Humanity” call. General Guterres.
I appeal to all of us, especially the major carbon emitting nations who are now benefiting from their national economic transformations through industrialization, to pause, reflect and take responsibility for saving our planet.
Marape’s appeal to the UNGA sets the stage for his next submission to this year’s United Nations Climate Change Summit (COP26) in the UK in November, where he seeks to advance a number of issues to PNG and the smaller Pacific island nations.
Regarding climate change ambitions, Marape’s advocacy to find the balance between conservation and development for his country will be up to the leaders who have recognized the existential threat that climate change poses to the means of subsistence and now do something about it.
The prime minister said he will seek support and advocacy from developed and industrialized countries to support PNG and the Pacific’s adaptation and mitigation efforts through global financial assistance.
This is in line with PNG’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), submitted in 2020, to be carbon neutral by 2050. This plan includes the country’s NDC implementation plan, regulations and alignment NDC adaptation and national adaptation plan, all supported by the United Nations Development Program.
Marape told UNGA: “I will seek to understand to establish a special set of simplified criteria to enable us to receive financial support for our adaptation and mitigation strategies… PNG wants to achieve both the conservation and development.
As part of his call for increased funding, Marape suggested that “the annual commitment of US $ 100 billion from developed countries to developing countries on climate finance should be seen as different from official development assistance. . This will allow the guidelines to be sensitive to the climate change mitigation and adaptation program and their specific requirements. “
Back home, Marape has already ordered the stopping of the issuance of new logging permits and the renewal of existing permits, as part of the various resource sector reforms under his government. PNG is also phasing out round log exports, with a complete ban by 2025, as it shifts to value creation and downstream processing.
A 3,600 square meter expanse of rainforest in the country’s Northern Province has also recently been set aside for a pilot environmental conservation program, which will provide a ‘learning experience’ in the management of conservation areas. adding to PNG’s renewed vision for sustainable development.
As an exporter of natural gas and oil, PNG also strives to minimize its carbon footprint through the implementation of its roadmap for Sustainable Development Goal 13 2020-2030 on climate change, launched in 2020, said Marape.
The country has now entered the renewable energy space with its recent partnership with the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and Fortescue Future Industries to develop its solar, hydroelectric and geothermal capacity.
Allocating nearly half of his 40-minute UNGA inaugural address to climate advocacy, Marape used the global platform to call for immediate climate action, especially as climate change has now become a threat. existential in the Pacific.
He told UNGA: “Our ocean homes and way of life are closely linked to the ecosystem in its natural balance. This balance is now affected by human influence, not our doing. But we are the first victims and the most affected because of our inherent vulnerabilities. “
The Prime Minister’s plea is part of the fight that the leaders of the Pacific Islands are waging against a rather reluctant global community since rising sea levels began to threaten many island countries.
At the recent summit of the 51st Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), held virtually last month in August, climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic dominated discussions as the biggest security concerns in the world. overcome for the people of the Pacific.
The success of the PIF against the climate crisis is minimal, but one of the notable achievements was the adoption by the group of the Declaration on the preservation of maritime areas in the face of sea level rise linked to climate change and the aide-memoire that accompanies it during the summit.
The Declaration draws its power and foundation from the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and proclaims at its heart that affected countries in the Pacific have the right to make international laws to combat threats. to their livelihoods posed by rising sea levels.
Marape was just as firm during this meeting. He told the PIF summit:
It is important to remember that we must not allow others with economic, financial and military influence to make us – as a region or at the national level – appear subservient to their interests on the ocean agenda. .
We must be treated with respect for our rights over maritime areas and our sovereign rights.
We must therefore guard against strategic maneuvers that could attempt to strip the rights and rights that UNCLOS grants to States Parties. The Declaration not only preserves but strengthens those rights and rights under UNCLOS that we already have.
The Declaration is the result of the FIP’s formal recognition of sea level rise as an existential threat to the lives of the peoples of the Pacific when it met in Tuvalu in 2019.
This year in Glasgow, when Marape and his fellow Pacific leaders reconvene at COP26 and once again present their case, it will be interesting to observe whether the global community finally hears the urgent calls for action from the Pacific. since the adoption of the Paris Agreement five years since. Is anyone serious enough to help PNG preserve its forests in this global fight to save Mother Earth?