As Papua New Guinea is the host of APEC in 2018, the APEC Expert Group on Illegal Logging and Associated Trade (EGILAT) meets in Port Moresby. The aim of the group is to monitor forestry in APEC economies and halt illegal logging.
However activists and anti-forestry groups are campaigning to restrict all commercial forestry. This has been a long standing target of WWF and Greenpeace. They have deliberately opted not to understand or care not to know that forestry management in PNG is effective and regulated by law.
Their objection is PNG is not applying the standards they prefer. More than that, this is part of a bigger campaign to subject to WWF control PNG’s most lucrative agricultural industries. They have ambition not to control just PNG’s forest industry also Palm Oil and Cocoa.
In PNG, under the constitution, the people own the forest. Licences for forestry require payment of royalties to landowners. Log shipments are independently inspected before shipment. Most of the wood and timber is shipped to China and, to a lesser extent, Japan.
Greenpeace contended for years that PNG forestry was being depleted and declared a decade ago all natural forestry would be lost within a decade. Japanese satellite remote sensing two years ago showed PNG forestry was not being reduced. Sixty percent of old growth natural forest remains intact. Alongside regrowth, 80 percent of PNG remained forested. These conclusions have been endorsed by the FAO.
Greenpeace packed up its office, sold its residence and left PNG.
WWF stayed on, encouraging Western donors to fund activities to press forestry operators to apply the WWF sustainability standards (which, when applied, work to limit all forestry and are controlled by WWF personnel and associates, not the national forestry agency). Other activists stepped in to replace Greenpeace, notably Global Witness and the Soros Foundation. Global Witness tried to prove commercial forestry stopped children going to school and local people lost their forestry rights.
The claims were shown to be false.
But Global Witness persisted with its campaign and was early in the year granted a quarter of million pounds from the UK People’s Post Code, not-for-profit, lottery to continue its campaign in PNG.
Global Witness contends 12 percent of PNG’s land has been “annexed” for commercial forestry when it should have been used for small scale agriculture. There are questions about the legality allocation of some Special Agricultural Business Licences (SABLs). These are being investigated, but in no way do they constitute the amount of land claimed as misappropriated by Global Witness.
Global Witness is still yet to learn from WWF and Greenpeace, long-standing activists in PNG, that the land rights of Papua New Guineans are their biggest obstacle. Landowners are generally content with the arrangements for regular fees from commercial agricultural businesses. The fees they receive are considerable and welcome. The forestry practices are mandated and regulated by the PNG Forestry Authority. PNG has been consistently rated by the International Tropical Timber Organization as one of the best regulated commercial forestry systems among least developed economies.
All Western activists have come to appreciate this basic truth but choose to remain deaf to it. Unable to persuade landowners to follow their agricultural models, the activist groups have focussed on the other end of the supply chain. There they pressure the buyers of timber and other agricultural products developed from PNG raw materials to demand the PNG agricultural producers meet the Western activist standards. Failure to do so threatens a public character attack on the processors, publicised so consumers see it.
The Global Witness campaign is to pressure Japanese and Chinese manufacturers of timber products (supplying structures for an international games event in Japan and timber furniture made by Chinese manufacturers for sale in developed markets) to cease using PNG timber unless forest industries adopt WWF timber standards.
This is part of a global stealth campaign by WWF to use its sustainability standards to control most agricultural industries. Globally, as well as forestry, WWF is trying to regulate the control of fisheries, aquiculture, palm oil, cotton and beef. PNG’s most successful agricultural industries, not just timber but also palm oil and cocoa were analysed in a report on how to do so by two experts with UNDP funding a couple of years back. They had associations with WWF but were not so identified in that report.
As well WWF has contributed a consultant to prepare a bid by the PNG Climate Change Authority for $30 million from the Green Climate Fund based in Korea to regulate PNG’s economy so it is consistent with the Paris Climate Change Convention. Yet PNG is not an emitter of greenhouse gases. With its extensive forests, it is a carbon sink. Furthermore there is no such obligation on developing economies in the Paris Agreement. As it is, there is a major dispute among economies over how the Green Climate Fund money is to be spent.
None of that matters to WWF. Its aim is to control agricultural industry and reduce its footprint in global forests. That PNG has the capacity both to generate wealth from agriculture and forestry and sustain ample natural forest land simple doesn’t compute with interests ideologically committed to making commercial forestry as small as possible and reducing farming.
PNG forestry is progressing steadily to adoption of reputable and recognized global standards which will further demonstrate sustainable practice in PNG forestry.