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The impacts of climate change in PNG are enormous


Climate change is a catastrophe that affects the entire planet earth and thus Papua New Guinea has agreed under the Paris Agreement to report and contribute its mitigation and adaption issues to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Many would argue that it is far more an unreachable issue to talk about at this time. But if you look around, you would see why it is an issue to address sooner.   

The tangible impacts of climate change in PNG can be seen through the sinking of Cataract Islands, changes in weather patterns (from the highlands to the coastal), and the increase in the size and intensity of droughts, floods and other natural hazards we are encountering recently.

UNDP Disaster Risk Management National Project Manager Michael Sembenombo said that people should get ready to respond to disasters now.

“People need to be aware about the impacts of climate change,” he added.

He told NBC Radio on its program “Our Talk on Dabai” that the results from a local survey from four regional sites indicated flood, drought and rising of sea level are common hazards with landslide in Momase and the Highlands region affecting food chain supply in the highlands and water-borne diseases due to contaminated water sources after the floods.

He stressed that the challenge is how to address or mitigate the issue from the National, Provincial, District and Community level.

“We are faced with lack of capacity at intuitional level and disaster risk management local capacity as the community is first respondents from the natural disasters,” he told the listeners. 

“Making the local community, district and provinces aware of the common hazards and whether that hazard will be occurring again and when and how to mitigate it are fundamental to mitigate,” he added. 

For example, flood is frequent in recent years in Central Province and this pose a challenge on how local people in the communities can be aware of the flood and get ready for the disaster. It is important to make them aware of the disaster so that they can better prepare themselves at the community level.
PNG Climate Change and Development Authority (CCDA) is the coordinating entity for all climate change related policy and actions in Papua New Guinea and the designated National Authority under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

CCDA, formerly known as the Office of the Climate Change and Development (OCCD), was established in September 2010 and replaces the former Office of Climate Change and Environmental Sustainability (OCCES), abolished by the Cabinet (NEC) in 2009.

On the 31st August 2017, key representatives from forestry, lands, agriculture and the environment sectors took take part in sector retreats around Papua New Guinea to help the nation secure increased international funding and support to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

Stakeholders from across civil society and private sector have also participated in a workshop to agree on a national plan to help address climate change through the management, conservation and sustainable use of PNG’s forests.

Hosted by the Government of Papua New Guinea (GoPNG), the workshop focused on representatives from multiple sectors agreeing on the final version of PNGs National REDD+ Strategy (NRS) 2017-2027.

REDD stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation and is a mitigation approach to address climate change to sustain the standing forests and planting new trees. 

GoPNG, with the support of the UNDP, has been developing the PNG National REDD+ Strategy since 2015, under the UNFCCC.

REDD+ is an important part of PNG’s plan to take action against climate change and PNG is one of the countries that supported its inclusion in the Paris Climate Change Agreement Implementing REDD+ under the UNFCCC.
REDD+ provides PNG with an opportunity to have its contribution to the global fight against climate change internationally recognized and financially supported.

CCDA is responsible for leading coordination of the strategy’s development on behalf of the PNG Government.

CCDA Managing Director Mr Ruel Yamuna said the National Strategy Plan marks a major step forward in the process of developing REDD+ programs in Papua New Guinea.

 “The validation of PNG’s National REDD+ Strategy is a further landmark in PNG’s action on climate change," he added.

The PNG National REDD+ Strategy provides the overarching direction PNG will take in achieving action towards REDD+ over the coming decades.

The strategy outlines a cross sectorial approach encouraging stakeholders from government, private sector and civil society to work together in creating a better way to manage and protect our forest resources.

UNDP Resident Representative Roy Trivedy congratulated the Government of PNG and all partners on its progress in developing REDD+: “Moving forward with PNG’s National REDD+ Strategy would certainly help move PNG towards a smarter, more environmentally and socially responsible development in line with the country’s broader vision to follow a climate compatible development pathway.”

“This would also contribute towards PNG achieving targets set out in the Sustainable Development Goals on Climate Action and Life on Land,” Mr. Trivedy said.

While the current strategy marks a critical step in the nation’s REDD+ development process further action is needed to ensure that the strategy is effectively financed, that proposed policies and measures are developed and tested, and that long term sustainable financing and management systems are in place.

The PNG National REDD+ Strategy is an endorsed document from the National Executive Council (NEC).

On the 6 October 2017 in Port Moresby the Government of PNG officially launched the National REDD+ Strategy 2017-2017 at the Grand Papua Hotel.

The strategy is both a key part of the country’s Green Growth Development agenda as laid out in the Strategy for Responsible and Sustainable Development (StaRS) and is central to PNG’s approach to addressing climate change.

Its implementation will strengthen the sustainability of PNG’s forest industries, support agricultural development and improve land use planning and management to ensure our most important environments are protected.

This will help to both reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and the vulnerability of rural communities to climate change.

NRS will support improvements in legislation and capacity across government sectors including climate change, environment, forestry, and lands as well as partnerships with private sector to help strengthen economic activities and increase the opportunities for rural communities.

The development of the NRS was led by CCDA and PNG Forest Authority (PNGFA) with support from other government agencies, civil society and private sector representatives.

“I am extremely proud to present this strategy, which has the potential to provide real benefits to our communities, our environment and our nation, while also supporting the global fight against climate change,” the Minister for Environment and Climate Change Hon. John Pundari said during the launching.

Minister for Forests Hon. Douglas Tomuriesa also said, “I am proud to have been involved in the development of a strategy that has built on the detailed information that PNGFA have been able to provide on our country’s forest resources.”

“This is truly progress in the development of evidence based forest policy and is based on the excellent analysis conducted in PNGFA and supported by the EU funded National Forest Inventory and the PNG-FRIMS projects under JICA,” Mr. Tomuriesa added.

UNDP supported the development of the NRS with funding from the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF).

UNDP Regional Director for Asia and Pacific Haoliang Xu said, “It is my privilege to witness PNG’s progress in fighting climate change and the strides the country is taking towards the Sustainable Development Goals.”

“REDD+ will help ensure forest development is sustainable and support green growth in PNG. I congratulate the Government of PNG and express UNDP’s ongoing commitment to supporting the Government to take action on climate change,” Mr. Xu said.

The NRS will be followed by the development of a National REDD+ Finance and Investment Plan to ensure long-term sustainable financing and management systems are in place to support the implementation of the strategy.

“I urge all relevant government agencies, the private sector and civil society groups to see this strategy not as an achievement but as the beginning of the next phase of our joint work”, said Minister Pundari.

There is also some evidence revealed that climate has a greater impact than landscape on how many languages are spoken there, according to a study that mapped language diversity around the world.

The research, published in the Nature Communications, found that areas with more productive climates tend to have more languages. 

“We were able to show that despite popular belief, climatic factors have a stronger effect than landscape factors – like how mountainous it is, or how many rivers there are – when it comes to language diversity,” the reported stated.

Peter S. Kinjap is a freelance writer and a blogger, email: pekinjhap@gmail.com


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