Papua New Guinea’s Climate Change and Development Authority (CCDA) recently published updated estimates of forest conversion in PNG that show the issue has been grossly exaggerated by activists. The Forest Reference Level Annual Report produced by the CCDA reports that just 200,000 hectares – or 0.71 percent – of PNG’s vast forest estate was converted over the past 15 years.
These findings fly in the face of scientifically questionable estimates of forest loss that have been peddled by Phil Shearman, formerly of UPNG. Mr Shearman reported in 2002 that PNG was losing 1.41 percent of its forests every year, a rate 3000 percent higher than the rate reported by CCDA.
The true rate seems likely to be even lower than was reported by CCDA. The most recent Forest Resource Assessment – published by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation – puts PNG’s forest clearance rate at effectively zero.
PNG remains one of the most densely forested nations on earth, with over 80% of its land mass covered in forest or other wooded land. Sustainable forestry practices help maintain this resource in many parts of the country. Some areas are progressively being allocated for conversion to agriculture – with the full agreement and participation of customary landowners. Papua New Guineans will benefit from this carefully managed process.
PNG’s forests are a natural marvel, and are bigger than previously understood. Some land use change – and selective forestry – will ensure that vast forested areas are maintained for future generations, while economic development is allowed to flourish, and to improve people’s lives.