Centre for Environmental Law & Community Rights Inc.


A documentary report produced by the ABC Journalist Stephen Long has found many blunders in Carbon Offsetting/Trade operations in Papua New Guinea.

Carbon offsetting/Trade Business sounded like a lucrative business to many local Papua New Guineans. But what is Carbon Trade?

To deal with the impacts of climate change, the Paris Agreement sets out a global framework to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C and pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°C.

To put simply, carbon trading is the process of buying and selling of carbon stocks that allows the holder of a certain permit or license to emit up to a tonne of CO2. So if a company’s or a country’s emissions are lower than its allowable one tonne, it can sell its surplus. If it exceeds its limits (more than one tonne), on the other hand, it will have to buy additional share on the market or cut its production.

The transfer of allowances is referred to as a trade. In effect, the buyer is paying a charge for polluting, while the seller is being rewarded for having reduced emissions by more than was needed. Carbon trade has been proposed as a win-win solution to mitigate climate change, one that helps the developed countries to meet their emission regulations while promoting sustainable development in the developing countries.

Carbon Trade allows industrialized nations and their private corporations to invest in carbon efficient projects in developing countries while the net benefits of carbon reduction accrue to the investors.

Figure 1. This figure shows how the clean development mechanisms chapter of the Paris Agreement works.[1]

In the race to curb catastrophic climate change, prominent Australian businesses have been enthusiastic customers of carbon credits. They have been offsetting their emissions by buying credits from Carbon Trade enthusiasts in PNG promising to stop exploitative timber harvesting, whilst lifting locals out of poverty.

But reporter Stephen Long has found that there is a vast chasm between what is marketed and what is really happening on the ground.

In a month-long trip, the ABC team travelled to some of the most isolated villages in Papua New Guinea. They uncovered environmental devastation in the very areas one company claimed to be protecting and indigenous landowners angry at unfulfilled promises.

 ‘Tight-spots’ exposed by the report is of grave concern. Some of the issues found in carbon-offset areas are;

  1. Lack of proper awareness and education on the carbon offset subject. No free-prior-and-informed-consent. Many locals interviewed regretted their decision for allowing Carbon Cowboys access to their resources.
  2. Communities and landowning groups located in Carbon Offset areas live a ‘perilous lifestyle’ with less or no benefit at all.
  3. Logging companies and Carbon Offset companies both exist on one forest area.
  4. Frustrations buildup because of the lack of fair and equitable distribution of income from sale of carbon credits.

The investigations found that much of the revenue from the project goes to the companies acting as agents to sell carbon credits and nothing goes to the locals who own the land and forests. 

This a form of colonialism and the government must look into it. Carbon colonialism is the practice of outsiders coming into the Papua New Guinea in disguise of carbon trade experts to profit off PNG’s forest and people’s expanse.

In May 2022, civil societies have written an open letter[2] calling on the government to ‘polish its laws and filter its processes’ for forest owning communities to fully benefit from Carbon Trading activities. A year later this has come to fruition.

The exposure of this blunder by ABC is timely. Timely for the government to polish its laws and filter its processes to ensure indigenous people get the benefits they deserve.

You can watch the full documentary on the link[3]

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