Thursday, August 9, 2012

SABLs gave away $23 billion in carbon trading rights

HAMISH MCDONALD | Sydney Morning Herald
THE FORMER SOMARE GOVERNMENT in Papua New Guinea introduced a controversial concession that allegedly accelerated deforestation of its tropical forests and gave away a potential $23 billion in carbon-trading rights to foreign interests, according to a Greenpeace report released yesterday.
The political time-bomb that awaits PNG's new government details how a new type of concession introduced by the Somare government in 2003 called Special Agricultural and Business Leases has hastened the deforestation of the country.
Immediately after he ousted predecessor Sir Michael Somare from the prime ministership last August, Peter O'Neill, initiated a commission of inquiry into controversial forestry concessions granted over the previous decade when Sir Michael held power.
The commission's report was completed in May and will be tabled in the new parliament. It is believed to include damning criticisms of the granting of a new form of lease for more than 5 million hectares of forest owned by locals under traditional title.
With results of the recent election expected this week, Mr O'Neill is almost certain to lead the new government, but with Sir Michael and his party members as part of the governing coalition.
The Greenpeace report says that since 2003, 72 ''special'' leases have been granted, in many cases to Malaysian and other foreign logging companies in alliance with dummy landowner companies or cooperatives.
PNG log exports grew almost 20% in 2011 due almost entirely to logging within these special leases, Greenpeace said in the report, entitled Up for Grabs.
The conversion to palm oil plantation of the cleared land is increasing the felling rate. In many cases, loggers pay for forestry and other officials to carry out compliance inspections.
''In one case, they even paid police to intimidate and brutalise landowner opposition to their land being stolen,'' Greenpeace said.
The group has obtained expert analysis saying that the forests covered by the leases contain about 12% of the nearly 7 billion tonnes of above-ground carbon stored in Papua New Guinea's forests.
As well as selling off forests and land for little return to government revenue or local landowner income, the Somare government gave away the potentially more lucrative sale of 630 million tonnes of carbon rights, worth up to $23 billion.