Papua New Guinea, the island nation located just north of Australia, is home to diverse and rugged geography, including mountain ranges, active volcanos, and dense rainforests. It’s also home to the New Guinea Rainforest, which spans across Papua New Guinea and Indonesia, the third largest rainforest in the world and which functions as a major carbon sink.
But since 2000, Papua New Guinea has lost 1.65 million hectares of tree cover, resulting in the release of 1.2 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions – the equivalent of running 16 coal-fired power plants for 20 years. Conserving and reforesting Papua New Guinea is a critical component of combating climate change and meeting global climate goals, but it will take focused and concerted efforts, and a significant amount of finance.
“The New Guinea Rainforest is one of the most intact, biodiverse ecosystems left on the planet. If you have watched a nature documentary in the past 20 years, chances are part of it was filmed here,” explains Andrew Ireland, Palladium Project Director. “It is also home to millions of people whose livelihoods rely on sustainable management of these forests. They are not only a global treasure, but also the key to Papua New Guinea’s long-term economic growth and development.”
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) recently launched a new five-year, US$16 million project to combat climate change by conserving forests in Papua New Guinea. The work will be carried out in partnership with Palladium, the Government of Papua New Guinea, Forest Trends, and FORCERT, a local organisation supporting natural resources management, to improve forest governance, increase the environmental sustainability of the forest industry, and protect land and resource rights to reduce deforestation and carbon dioxide emissions.
Ireland adds that the Papua New Guinea Sustainable Landscapes Activity will act as a convener and facilitator, bringing together actors from the government, the private sector, and local communities to drive change in the forestry sector.
“Drawing on Palladium’s decades of work fostering systemic change in forest-dependent economies, the Activity will harness Papua New Guinea’s forests as the centrepiece of the country’s future low-carbon economy and an engine of inclusive growth in local communities,” he says. “We look forward to working with the Government of Papua New Guinea and our other partners to make this a reality.”
This project builds on other USAID conservation efforts, such as supporting the creation of Papua New Guinea’s Mt. Goplom Conservation Area – one of the world’s most biologically diverse ecosystems in the Highlands region, which sets aside more than 4,000 hectares of pristine rainforest for biodiversity conservation.
The project also contributes to USAID’s Climate Strategy goals to conserve 100 million hectares of critical landscapes – an area more than two and a half times the size of California – preventing 6 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Finally, the project is part of the broader Indo-Pacific Strategy of the United States and will contribute to efforts to advance a free and open, prosperous, secure, and resilient region.
“Without investing in the protection and restoration of key forest ecosystems like the New Guinea Rainforest, achievement of the goals laid out in the Paris Agreement will be impossible,” Ireland notes. “This Activity will help pilot and scale nature-based solutions needed to get us on track while generating environmental, economic, and social benefits for both Papua New Guinea and its people.”
For more stories like this, read The Catalyst Special Report: Forests. The U.S. Agency for International Development administers the U.S. foreign assistance program providing economic and humanitarian assistance in more than 80 countries worldwide. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.