Climate hero under fire in PNG

By Emmanuel Narokobi

After a rousing international speech at the Bali Climate Change meet in 2007, Kevin Conrad has become something of a pinup boy for Climate Issues, but it seems his past is catching up with him and he may have to sort out his backyard soon before he takes on the world.

(For those of you in London, you can catch Kevin at Chatham House from 6-7 July this year, where he will be a keynote speaker at a high-level debate on the politics of reaching a multilateral climate change agreement in 2009.)

As a comment on a blog stated, “Kevin “Con Rat” Conrad does not represent Papua New Guinea, he is representing the Somare family who is involved in logging of Papua New Guinea’s rainforests and contributing to destruction of environment and lives of forest [depending] people.” Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know but Ilya Gridneff from AAP reports below:

One of the world’s leading voices on climate change policy, Kevin Conrad, has been linked to a string of failed business dealings in Papua New Guinea.

Conrad, PNG’s UN Special Envoy and Ambassador for Climate Change and Environment, came to international notoriety at the Bali conference in 2007 he told the US to either lead the debate or get out of the way.

This year the UN Environment Program named Conrad a ‘Champion of the Earth’.

Last year, Time magazine named Conrad number one “Leader and Visionary” within its annual list of “Heroes of the Environment”.

But in PNG, Conrad has a different legacy.

PNG’s Public Service Minister Peter O’Neill when opposition leader in parliament in 2007 attacked the government on Conrad’s business dealings.

He accused Conrad of involvement in a failed housing scheme in the 1990s for the Public Officers Superannuation Fund where 17 million kina ($A8million) was paid but not one single house was built.

O’Neill also alleged Conrad in the early 2000s was involved in PNG’s banking corporation losing almost 35 million kina ($A18million) while landowners lost their coffee plantations because of the collapse of an coffee export company.

PNG’s Eastern Highlands province Governor Mal Smith told AAP that Highlanders who lost coffee plantations due to Conrad fear they will lose their forests through his climate change dealings.

“We don’t trust him with the money carbon trading will bring,” he said.

Paul Barker director of PNG think-tank, the Institute of National Affairs, said Conrad’s international persona was quite different to the perception in PNG.

“There are tens of thousands of (superannuation fund) contributors now asking where did the funds go?” he asked.

“And now if he is going to be directly involved in a mechanism managing trust funds for carbon trading, well concerns about the past need to be resolved.

“He really needs to do a little bit of explaining.

“There is a wide public scepticism within PNG.”

Conrad was notably absent from this week’s PNG Office of Climate Change and Environment Sustainability roadshow touring the country to promote and explain their push towards carbon trading.

And Conrad did not respond to approaches in relation to O’Neill’s allegations.

But in an interview earlier this year with AAP, when asked if he was a failed businessman Conrad said: “I’ve succeeded more than I’ve failed. If you look at PNG every businessman has failed about as often as they have succeeded and the reason is because the government has had too much control.”

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10 thoughts on “Climate hero under fire in PNG

  1. Isn’t that the nature of success, you fail so many times before you become success full, It doesn’t make a different if Joe Blow invested K1000 or Mr Conrad invested one million kina into their ventures, the fact of the matter is business man DO fail. The only reason why Mr Conrad character is being questioned is because his business ventures involves a lot of money and stake holders and these ministers mentioned seem to base their attack on such failed ventures. Am sure if he did anything against the law then they would have mentioned it, at least it would have given them some valid reason to argue his credibility.

    Mr Conrad involvement as PNG’s UN Special Envoy and Ambassador for Climate Change and Environment is not a personal venture but one of National and International significance fully supported by the government of PNG. He should be given credit to what he has achieved for PNG so far and what he is trying to achieve. If all goes to plan PNG forest owners and the Government should be getting compensated to save their forest and play its part to address climate change.

  2. carlos,

    it is true that business people DO fail, as you rightly said. but how many times do they have to fail to get it right?

    i’d be very nervous dealing with some who has a history as a failed business man. i can live with someone failing in two ventures. but i definitely will not want to have anything to do with someone who failed more than twice, because they simply can’t learn to succeed. hence, it is more likely than not that they will fail again in the new venture.

    you touch raw nerves when you start going into land issues in PNG because mamagraun em mama blong mipla. lusim ol busgraun blong mipla stap na noken touchim.

  3. decay,
    if you and others are unaware of what Mr Conrad is trying to achieve then I suggest you visits the following link http://www.rainforestcoalition.org/eng/.

    Put simply he wants the industrialised countries to pay for rainforest nations to keep their forests. Industrialised nations will compensate for the huge amount of CO2 that that they release into the atmosphere which is consumed by the rainforest.

    Currently rapid deforestation is happening in PNG, this is due to foreign logging companies exploiting our deprived forest owners. All the forest owner wants is development from this greedy logging companies but all they get in return is empty promises and empty lands.

    Now wouldnt it be good if they could be getting paid to keep their forest?

  4. carlos,

    the principle is simple to understand, and yes i understand it. and the people driving the issue must be congratulated for taking the lead.

    but it is a practical issue for our people and one that cuts deeply into our society, because of the very reason that the idea will involve some sort of land mobilisation to implement it effectively. trees don’t grow on thin air and so, to conserve trees, you need to first identify who owns the land on which the tree stands.

    our public service has a very poor track record of implementing govrnment policies, let alone implementing them to serve the right intentions for which they have been made. so what is there to suggest that the current land mobilisation policy will be done right? and you can understand the nervousness when someone with a questionable background starts heading up the initiative. we are not passing judgement on Mr Conrad, but we know that where there is smoke is a fire.

    we must maintain a skeptical eye on this one because we are the custodians of our land, and whoever does anything with it must do it in the light of day. we want someone with an umblemished track record to spearhead our cause.

    em tasol.

  5. This man is an extremely shady character. But don’t just listen to me – look at his actions.

    He professes to represent the best environmental interests of Papua New Guinea and yet he employs strong arm tactics in the international arena to block and prevent others with a positive agenda from participating in this very work.

    Time will tell. It seems PNGns are the first to register the fact that his actions and his words don’t match.

    If his best excuse at his swindles (faintly disguised as ‘poor busines decisions’) is that its impossible to do business in PNG without fu**ing it up a majority of the time, then I think what a massive TWAT. How dare he. Its patently obvious that he (a) is rubbish at invesment initiatives and should not be trusted with funds that are not his and (b) his actions are completely and utterly NOT transparent. Do we need to get clubbed over the head to see corruption/theft/dishonesty/greed when its staring us down?

    His connection with Somare is not in any way to be underestimated.

    It really is, all about the money. Once again, the natural resources of PNG are being hijacked – this time by someone waving a green flag but in reality its not the green of the environment but the green of greed, the green of money.

  6. PS

    To be clear. There is a reason he is involving himself in climate change and and all the things associated with that (including the carbon credit industry) is that vast amunts of money are involved. Ask yourself why he is preventing others in the international community from participating in what is happening in PNG – because they are well versed in this field and they will see the truthmuch earlier than we will, ol man na meri blo ples – that there is a masterplan whose end is to, once again, make a few people richer (up to you to decide who), at the expense of the greater good.

    Just because he employs the office of PNG’s UN Special Envoy and Ambassador for Climate Change and Environment does NOT make him worthy of this title. He was placed there by someone who calls himself the father of our proud nation … all for a REASON … and please do not be so naive as to think that the reason is the environmental future of our country and its resources.

    WAKE UP PEOPLE!! Start demanding MORE transparency. We are ENABLING the current regime to put people like Kevin Conrad in control of our economic and environmental futures … selling us to the highest bidder. Its is OUR responsibility to demand change. As long as we sit back and watch it happen again and again … well, em sumting wrong bilong mipela olgeta na ol lain blo future by kalap na askim mipela olsem why na yumi sindaun na lukluk tasol – na by yu tok wanem – why na yumi i no exercisim brain bilong yumi na rights bilong yumi na voice bilong yumi long tokaut gut. Sumting bilong conscience bilong yumi olgeta. Get educated and then do something about it but don’t act all surprised when Kevin Conrad and others like him keep ripping us off and then have the audacity to blame it on us – we give him the licence.

  7. These messages represent the worst of PNG.

    None of you know the facts. I know Mr. Conrad, and none of you have any first hand knowledge of any of the facts. There was no swindling, stealing, shady business, or losses by Mr. Conrad. Look at all those making the claims — all political types with agendas. All trying to get their hand in the money tin.

    Why does PNG always want to believe the worst while ignoring the best? Why do we try to destroy the achievements of others? This destructive behavior slow the whole country down. If we spread garbage about each other, how can we expect outsiders to understand?

    Shame on each of you. In fact, your own actions are a crime against PNG.

  8. Hi Les Pinis, just letting you know that since putting up this post I have been in contact with Kevin Conrad and I shall be getting his views so that we can hear it directly from him.

    So will let you and everyone know when that interview goes up on this blog.

  9. ok let’s hear from him then.

    Les Pinis, you are a personal friend of Mr Conrad so obviously you are already compromised in your views.

    no i have no political affiliations whatsoever with anyone. and if i did, there would be nothing wrong with that because it is my right. i am just a young papua new guinean who is very frustrated about how spivs have run this country down.

    as i said in my previous post, we are not passing judgement on Mr Conrad. all we want is for him to come out and clear the allegations that have been made againts him so as to give us some comfort in his dealings with our land and forests.

    em tasol.

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