REDD+ projects 2
Other readiness initiatives 14
Forest cover High
Deforestation rate Low

Papua New Guinea

REDD in Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea (PNG) is a country emblematic of the challenges facing rainforest nations in the developing world. Despite its rich natural resources (between 50% and 70% of the country’s 46.4 million hectares are forested) and a relatively stable political climate, the country remains poor, with an estimated 40% of the population living on less than $1 a day (Shearman et al, 2008; Leggett and Lovell, 2011). A heavy reliance on extractive mining and forestry projects contributes the majority of the nation’s GDP, but also threatens the livelihoods of the 87% of the population who depend on natural resources for their subsistence needs (Shearman et al., 2010).

Rates of forest degradation and deforestation are estimated at 1.41%, with recent projections indicating that by 2021, 83% of commercially accessible forest in PNG will have been cleared or degraded (Shearman et al. 2010 and Filer et al. 2009; Papua New Guinea Forestry Authority (PNGFA, 2011)). Approximately 95% of the country’s carbon emissions are generated from land-use change and forestry – with commercial logging (48.2%) and subsistence agriculture (45.6%) being the dominant drivers of deforestation, with clearing for agricultural plantations and mining only accounting for 1.6% of forest clearance (Shearman et al., 2010). Rapid population growth, an increasing demand for timber from aggressive markets in China and South East Asia, and generally weak forest governance are seen as the indirect drivers of deforestation in PNG.

PNG was a co-founder of the Coalition of Rainforest Nations (CfRN) and, along with Costa Rica, one of the original proponents of REDD+. The Government of PNG has voluntarily committed PNG to reducing national greenhouse gas emissions by 50 % below the business as usual forecast by 2030 as part of their National Climate Change Strategy, and anticipates that the majority of these emissions reductions will be generated through REDD+ projects (GoPNG, 2011). PNG therefore remains active in United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations, but has faced criticism over a perceived failure to match their international profile in these negotiations with corresponding progress on REDD+ at the national level (IGES, 2012).

Although PNG has historically opposed development of voluntary REDD+ projects, partly in response to well-founded fears of an increase in illegal land deals, a recent changes of government in early 2012 may signal a possible shift in attitudes (Winrock, 2011). PNG is now on the verge of releasing a National Climate Change Policy which is intended to provide the legal remit needed to move ahead with national level REDD+ development. In the meantime, current REDD+ activities remain focused on institutional and technical capacity building at the national level. The UN-REDD National Joint Programme with PNG began implementation in June 2011. This three year agreement provides funding of USD 6.4m for work largely focused on MRV, the establishment of reference levels, and the support of institutional capacity for REDD+. The Japanese government through Japan’s International Cooperation Agency (JICA) also support PNGFA’s forest monitoring capacity and data management with a grant of PNG Kina (PGK) 20m (c. USD 8m). Additional support is expected from the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) during 2013. The Readiness Preparation Proposal (R-PP) was submitted to the FCPF in February 2013 and is expected to be ratified in July 2013, providing access to a further potential US$3.6m for REDD+ readiness activities (FCPF, 2012).

Further on-going support for REDD+ readiness is provided through the Australian government’s International Forest Carbon Initiative (ICFI). In 2008, Australia and PNG signed the PNG-Australia Forest Carbon Partnership, which provided AUD $3m for technical, scientific and analytical support for the design of Papua New Guinea's carbon monitoring and accounting systems (DCCEE, 2008). Through the ICFI, Australia has also funded five NGOs to develop sub-national concepts for REDD+ demonstration activities to inform the development of a national REDD+ framework. This work was largely completed in late 2012. Sub-national activities outside of these windows remain under-developed. 

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Institutional arrangements

Climate change issues in PNG are currently the responsibility of the Office of Climate Change and Development (OCCD), which sits under the Office of the Prime Minister. OCCD receives policy recommendations from a series of monthly Technical Working Groups (TWGs), and specialist sub-working groups (on Agriculture, Forestry and MRV) which are open to representatives from all stakeholder groups, including non-governmental organisations and civil society groups. The technical and policy recommendations of the working groups are then passed to the National Climate Change Committee (NCCC). Current NCCC board members include the Secretaries of the Department of Environment and Conservation, Lands and Planning, National Planning and Agriculture. Currently the NCCC does not have legislative power, but can request its members perform certain functions and can make recommendations to the National Executive Council (NEC). The NEC has the power to demand for actions that do not require legislation, and can propose and draft new legislation, which is then passed to Parliament for review.

However, there is currently a lack of clarity regarding the remit and legal responsibilities of the PNG Forestry Authority (PNGFA) and the Office of Climate Change and Development (OCCD) with respect to REDD+. Both agencies are currently claiming authority for the management of REDD+ and there is increasing overlap between the activities of both institutions. However, a recent change of government (mid-2012) has resulted in the merger of the Ministries of Forests and Climate Change, which may indicate a possible future intention to merge the responsibilities of these institutions (Winrock, 2011; IGES, 2012). 

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Stakeholder engagement and participation

Since 2009 the PNG government has made significant efforts to involve a wide range of non-governmental and governmental stakeholders in the discussions and design of REDD+ work programmes and policies. The main avenue for formal engagement continues to be through the three Technical Working Groups (TWGs) managed by the Office of climate Change and Development (OCCD). Environmental NGOs have also worked directly with the OCCD in organising awareness raising ‘REDD+ road-shows’ in four of the provinces in PNG, and remain active in lobbying and holding the government accountable for activities related to REDD+ (IGES, 2012). Numerous workshops and REDD+ training events have been coordinated between 2009 and 2012, with the vast majority open to all stakeholders in PNG.

Although NGOs have been strongly engaged with REDD+ development, other governmental departments appear to be slower to engage with REDD+ through the OCCD. Uncertainty over the exact remits of the OCCD and the PNG Forestry Authority (PNGFA) is likely to have contributed to this situation. Due to significant logistical constraints, poor communications and the relative inaccessibility of large areas of the country, landowners in forest areas away from main towns also remain poorly aware of REDD+ developments at the national level (Leggett and Lovell, 2011).

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Land tenure arrangements and carbon rights

Customary land tenure is enshrined in the PNG Constitution, with estimates of between 75% and 94% of land in PNG legally owned by ‘customary’ or traditional landowners (see Filer, 2009; Shearman, 2008; GIZ, 2012), which on face value provides highly supportive enabling environment for REDD+. The remaining land area is either owned by commercial agricultural businesses operating on 99 year leases, or has been purchased by the government (Filer, 2009, 2012). Communities that wish to sell their resource or land usage rights, typically communities wishing to engage in forestry or other natural resource projects, must form legally recognised entities - Incorporated Landowner Groups (ILGs) – in order to do so. The majority of ILGs have been established as part of the establishment of Forest Management Areas under the PNG Forestry Authority (PNGFA). In these cases, the clan landowners seek to establish an ILG over their land, and sign a contract with the PNG Forestry Authority (PNGFA) empowering them to sell the timber concessionary rights to a third party developer (Leggett and Lovell, 2011).

However, the formation of ILGs is a lengthy and complex process, and is often compounded by a lack of local understanding of cross-generational contractual obligations within clans, as well as high levels of illiteracy in rural areas (GIZ, 2012). As a result of these factors, the level of Free Prior and Informed Consent obtained in the formation of both ILGs, and the establishment of contractual relationships between the government and communities (particularly in the case of forestry projects) has been criticised in the past (Filer, 2009).

These factors have contributed to calls for a reassessment of the ILG incorporation system in order to ensure that existing protocols and practices meet the high standards for FPIC demanded by REDD+ projects. Additionally, although there is currently a legal framework that explicitly addresses land tenure, the management and distribution of possible future benefits derived from carbon, or other potential ecosystem services, has not yet been clarified. In October 2012 OCCD drafted an analysis of REDD+ and tenure in PNG in partnership with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community and the German Organisation for International Development (GIZ, 2012). It is expected that a draft policy on REDD+ and carbon tenure will follow this work. However, indications are that the customary land tenure system in PNG cannot currently legally support a market-based approach to REDD+ without revision. The current version of the National Climate Change Policy assigns carbon rights in PNG to landholders, however, reserves the government’s right to develop and sell such resources (IGES, 2012).

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Forest management

The Office of Climate Change and Development (OCCD) have produced REDD+ Project Guidelines in an attempt to set a standard for the development of REDD+ projects at the sub-national level in country. OCCD currently has a limited capacity for ensuring compliance however, as climate change plans and activities are not supported by national legislation. Although the PNG Forestry Authority (PNGFA) have a mandate to develop forestry projects, the concept of REDD+ is not incorporated or accommodated by existing forestry legislation, and the legal status of ‘pilot’ REDD+ projects is uncertain. PNGFA already face well documented challenges in enforcing existing forestry legislation (Filer, 2009; Shearman, 2010) – enforcing compliance with legal guidelines related to REDD+ will be additionally challenging. There are currently no formalised incentives in place for REDD+ project development in PNG - The PNG Government has been opposed to the development of REDD+ projects under voluntary schemes (as outlined in the NEC policy decision 55/2010), which has reduced incentives of stakeholders to invest in early REDD+ project development (Winrock, 2011).

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Reference levels

The Government has voluntarily committed PNG to reducing national greenhouse gas emissions by 50 % below the business as usual forecast by 2030 as part of their National Climate Change Strategy (GoPNG, 2011). However PNG has not yet developed reference levels or established an emissions baseline. This remains a key goal of the UN-REDD National Joint Programme document, which states that “further research is required to verify the emissions in specific sectors and develop a detailed greenhouse gas inventory”. Additional work to update emissions data and the National GHG Inventory is currently being carried out in the development of the Second National Communication to the UNFCCC (UNREDD, 2010)

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The main activities to develop a national MRV system in PNG are being carried out as part of the UN-REDD National Joint Programme grant and the JICA project on Forest Information Services (UNREDD, 2010). The proposed MRV system consists of four main pillars: a satellite land monitoring system; a multipurpose national forest carbon inventory; a national GHG inventory; and a national REDD+ information system (IGES, 2012). A national forest cover map does not currently exist but developing one is planned to be a main outcome of the JICA support along with increasing capacity for remote sensing within PNGFA. 

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The Office of Climate Change and Development (OCCD) have completed a REDD+ Project Guidelines document which incorporates safeguards methodologies from the Voluntary Carbon Standard (VCS) and the Climate, Community, and Biodiversity Alliance standard (CCBA) (OCCD, 2011). However, OCCD currently has a limited capacity for ensuring compliance with this document, as climate change plans and activities are not supported by national legislation. PNG Forestry Authority (PNGFA) operate according to Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) guidelines established under the Forest Code and Logging Code of Practice, however in practice these guidelines are reported to have been inadequately implemented or enforced in sub-national projects (OCCD, 2011; Filer, 2009). FPIC guidelines are currently under review (IGES, 2012).

Gender Equality

Papua New Guinea’s R-PP does not have strong references to women or gender equality. Nonetheless, it stipulates that gender analyses and consultations with women shall inform the application of the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) (Section 1c.2).

The country’s UN REDD National Programme Document recognises that gender inequalities are to be addressed, however it remains unclear how this is to be done. With the phase out of the UNREDD Programme in PNG in 2015, there are plans to address gender as a safeguard issue under the World Bank Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) Program.

The Office of Climate Change and Development (OCCD) as the Designated National Authority (DNA) on climate change recognises the importance of gender equality and women’s participation in decision making on REDD+ and climate change in all levels of government and society. OCCD has set up an informal gender group within OCCD to enhance the internal capacity building of its own staff for greater gender-integration in REDD+ policies and implementation. In 2014, the OCCD prepared Draft Guidelines on FPIC for REDD+. These guidelines encourage the identification of women as important stakeholders, the consideration of the likely effects of REDD+ on women, and mechanisms to allow for their meaningful participation in consultations. Currently, there are no plans to make the guidelines legally binding (Ogle 2014). A 2015 Draft REDD+ Policy makes reference to these guidelines, although  it has invoked a lot of dissidence amongst civil society and landowners due to a failure by the OCCD to carry out sufficient stakeholder consultation,.

More broadly, in 1979, Papua New Guinea established National Council of Women to promote gender equality. A review of the law resulted in the 2013 National Council of Women Act. The Office for the Development of women is in charge of advancing the interests of women. The country adopted a National Women’s Policy in 1991, however, it has not been updated or revised since then and its objectives are largely outdated. A reassessment process was started in 2008 but it is unclear whether this has yet been completed. Gender is also one of the Strategic Focus Areas of the Papua New Guinea Vision 2050, the country’s overarching development plan. It is envisaged under this Vision that gender equality be achieved through women’s empowerment. However, few recommendations are made as to how this is to be done. The National Climate Change Development and Management Policy (CCDMP) 2014 both recognizes and encourages equal participation by all stakeholders in activities covered within the policy, including mitigation activities (i.e. REDD+). It aims to ensure that gender-balanced decision making is present in all levels of community, sub-national and national decision-making processes. The Land Groups Incorporation (Amendment) Act 2009 has enhanced the position of women in Incorporated Land Groups (ILGs) under which a group can voluntarily register title to customary land. In business meetings of ILGs, at least 10% of participants must be women (and there must be 30% of women for the ILG Management/Executive committees). A Platform for Action aiming to enhance the legal position of women was initiated in 1995 but discontinued in 2000.

In practice, most of Community Based Organisations (CBOs) and Churches are driving gender integration and women’s participation in their respective activities around the country. For example, the participation of women is encouraged through the recently amended Land Groups Incorporation (Amendment) Act of 2009.


Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency (2008). Papua New Guinea – Australia Forest Carbon Partnership. Available here.

Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (2012) Draft Readiness Preparation Proposal, Papua New Guinea. Available here.

Filer, C., R.J. Keenan, B.J. Allen and J.R. McAlpine, 2009.  ‘Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Papua New Guinea. Annals of Forest Science 66: 813. Available here.

Filer, C. and Wood M. 2012 ‘The Creation and Dissolution of Private Property in Forest Carbon: A Case Study from Papua New Guinea. Available here.

GIZ, 2012. Background analysis of REDD+ and forest carbon rights in Papua New Guinea. Draft paper.

Government of PNG (2010). Climate‐compatible development for Papua New Guinea. Port Moresby: Government of Papua New Guinea. Available here.

Institute of Global Environmental Strategies (2012) REDD+ Readiness in Papua New Guinea: State of Play. Available here.

Leggett, M., and Lovell, H. (2012). Community Perceptions of REDD+: A Case Study from Papua New Guinea. Climate Policy 12(1): 115–134.

OCCD, 2011. National REDD+ Project Guidelines. Available here.

Ogle, L. 2014. Regional Project – Climate Protection through Forest Conservation in Pacific island Countries. Papua New Guinea: Legal Framework for REDD+. SPC/GIZ Regional Project. 

Shearman, P.L., J. Bryan, J. Ash, P. Hunnam, B. Mackey, and B. Lokes. 2008. The state of the forests of Papua New Guinea: Mapping the extent and condition of forest cover and measuring the drivers of forest change in the period 1972‐2002. Port Moresby: University of Papua New Guinea.

Shearman, P., Bryan, J., Ash, J., Mackey, B. and Lokes, B. 2010. Deforestation and Degradation in Papua New Guinea: a response to Filer and colleagues, 2009. Annals of Forest Science 67(3): 300.304.

UNREDD, 2010. UN Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation – Programme Document Papua New Guinea. Available here.

Winrock International, 2011. Rapid Assessment of the Political, Legal and Institutional Setting Papua New Guinea. Submitted as part of the USAID funded Lowering Emissions in Asia’s Forests (LEAF) programme.