Questions for PM on Carbon Trading

By Emmanuel Narokobi

So more fun and games with Carbon Trading here, Leader of the Opposition Sir Mekere Morauta came out today with a media statement in the papers and some questions on the Carbon Trading issues. They love to tell everyone what’s what and so here goes:

http://t0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:XB1U2LZcIm2d9M:http://www.solomontimes.com/news/images/Sogavare%2520should%2520keep%2520out%2520of%2520PNGs%2520politics%2520Sir%2520Mekere_2_250s.jpgOn 16 July 2009, I made a Parliamentary Statement on the Office of Climate Change and Carbon Trading. In that statement I raised a number of questions about the actions and accountability of the Prime Minister, Minister Paul Tiensten and the Director of the Climate Change Office in relation to reports of carbon trading deals going back to 2005.

Since August 2009, various newspapers have carried an advertisement by the Prime Minister entitled “The Prime Minister’s Parliamentary Statement – Carbon Trading and Office of Climate Change and Environmental Sustainability”. A rather misleading title given that the Prime Minsiter did NOT make a statement in Parliament on Carbon Trading in either “session” of Parliament held in July 2009.

The PM’s advertisement is however apparently a response to the Statement I made in Parliament on 16th July. The Prime Minister provides a long-winded account of climate change dangers to PNG, the establishment of the Office of Climate Change, the funding and establishment of the Coalition for Rainforest Nations Secretariat and his view that his friend Ambassador Conrad has “greatly advanced the intellectual, economic and diplomatic well-being of Papua New Guinea”. That’s quite a claim! A gigantic claim! No comment.

The PM acknowledges that the Government has “concerns” about carbon trading and the role of the Office of Climate Change and says that he has instituted an “independent review” of the Office. The review is to be undertaken by the Acting Secretary for Personel Management supported by Central Agencies. This NOT an “independent review”. It is an in-house review – quite a difference.

The Prime Minister declined to answer the specific questions I posed about carbon trading deals. The questions all related to past actions of Ministers and officials. They need to be answered. So I ask them again:

  1. Did Minister Paul Tiensten make Climate Assist (PNG) Ltd the beneficiary of 33,333,333 million metric tonnes of carbon credits on 26 July 2005, as evidenced by a certificate bearing his signature?
  2. Did Minister Tiensten have your authority when he wrote to Climate Assist on 24th October 2005 saying that you as Prime Minister and he had (quote) “unconditionally guaranteed all actions undertaken for the monetization” of the carbon credits assigned to the company?
  3. What expertise does Mr Greg Corby, the director of this one dollar company “Climate Assist” have to “broker” for the Government in carbon trading?
  4. What did this stupendous volume of carbon credits assigned to Climate Assist translate into, in Kina terms?
  5. Did the Office of Climate Change (OCC) sign as a memorandum last year with Climate Assist and another company called Earth Sky, whereby the companies would advance $10 million to OCC in return for the rights to sell $500 million carbon offsets?
  6. What was to be the distribution of this $500 million? How much was to be kept by Climate Assist and Earth Sky, and how much by the Office of Climate Change?
  7. Did the Office of Climate Change authorize a Swiss based broker, South Pole Carbon Asset Management, to market 1 million tonnes of avoided carbon dioxide emission per annum from a project in the East Sepik, April Salome?
  8. What other companies are involved in the April Salome project and what rights have they been given?
  9. What expertise does the South Australian company Carbon Planet or its director Jim Johnson have to offer the Government?
  10. How has the $1.2 million advanced last year to the Office of Climate Change by Carbon Planet been spent?
  11. What conditions did this carry?
  12. What commitments has the Government given to Carbon Planet in return for the $1.2 million advance?
  13. Did the suspended Director of the Office of Climate Change give a mandate to a Hong Kong based company Forest Top and Nupan PNG to trade carbon while he was still Chief of Staff of the Office of the Prime Minister?
  14. What are the connections between Carbon Planet, Forest Top, Nupan PNG Corporation?
  15. What expertise does Mr. Kirk William Roberts of Nupan PNG have? He claims, quite fantastically, that he is currently (quote) “the most beneficial foreigner to PNG”!
  16. Why is the Somare Government hawking to Mr. Roberts carbon credits relating to Kumula Doso, when there is a court injunction in place restraining both the Office of Climate Change and the Lands Department from dealing with this land?
  17. Where have the monies from Carbon Planet, Climate Assist, Earth Sky and other companies been paid? – to Consolidated Revenue, to OCC, or to an array of individuals?
  18. If the funds have not been paid to Consolidated Revenue, where are they and how are they being accounted?
  19. What authority does OCC have to raise or to spend these funds?
  20. Why is the Somare Government promoting, approving and receiving money from these deals, when it has not put in place any regulatory policy or legislation for carbon trading?

Prime Minister, whoever wrote your statement needs a rapid short course on the structure and operations of Public Finance. All income payable to the State must come to Consolidated Revenue. I was not suggesting that direct landowner or other non-government income should come to Consolidated Revenue. I was saying that any money payable to the Office of Climate Change should come to Consolidated Revenue.

I have made the same point about IPBC in the past. All dividends payable to the State from Bank of South Pacific, Oil Search, commercial statutory authorities such as Telikom, PNG Ports or Air Niugini should be paid to Consolidated Revenue, NOT to IPBC.

Prime Minister, the nation awaits answers to these questions.

Rt. Hon Sir Mekere Morauta, KCMG MP

Leader of Opposition & Member for Moresby North-West

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8 thoughts on “Questions for PM on Carbon Trading

  1. Wait till the answers come out. I am having this sneaky feeling that, the Prime Minister jumped had the gun in engaging this many companies.

    Certainly the Planning Minister cannot go ahead and engage these many foreign companies on his own accord.

    The buck stops at Chief Somare’s office.

    Another stench from rotten fishy deals eh??

  2. From todays Sydney Morning Herald. This just what we have been saying for months now.

    Dave Sag and Kirk Roberts admit producing fake certificates to dupe landowners.

    PNG’s $100m carbon trading scandal
    September 4 2009

    Australian firm linked to PNG’s $100m carbon trading scandal
    MARIAN WILKINSON AND BEN CUBBY
    SMH

    AN AUSTRALIAN company has been swept up in a $100 million carbon trading scandal in Papua New Guinea after claims fake carbon certificates were given to landowners to help persuade them to sign over the rights to their forests.

    The scandal threatens to undermine efforts by the Climate Change Minister, Penny Wong, to win support at the United Nations climate talks in Copenhagen for a global carbon trading scheme to include forests in the likes of PNG and Indonesia. She declined yesterday to answer questions on whether the scandal had been raised at UN climate talks last month or whether she had discussed the matter with the PNG Prime Minister, Michael Somare, or his officials.

    An investigation has begun and the head of PNG’s Office of Climate Change, Theo Yasause, has been removed.

    Dave Sag, the chief executive of the company involved, Carbon Planet, admitted yesterday that his PNG partner, Kirk Roberts, had used mocked-up carbon certificates signed by Mr Yasause as ”props” when negotiating with landowners. But he denied media reports in PNG the certificates were stolen or were intended to mislead.

    He said the documents, which purport to represent a million tonnes of ”voluntary carbon credits” issued by the UN under the Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation – or REDD scheme – were created by PNG officials simply to explain the scheme. ”Those certificates are worthless. No one who knows anything about carbon would take them in any way seriously,” Mr Sag said. ”They ended up in Kirk’s hands because they would have been produced as a prop to be taken out and waved in front of people in order to provide some physicality to what is essentially an ephemeral thing.”

    Carbon Planet, which has acquired a publicly listed company, told investors recently it had $100 million in potential REDD projects in PNG. Mr Sag said this figure was ”estimates based on contracts we have in place”. But as the scandal escalated, PNG’s acting climate change director, Wari Iamo, warned landowners on Monday against signing carbon trading agreements over their forests. Dr Iamo said PNG had no laws or policy that covered carbon trading.

    The talks in Copenhagen in December will decide whether the REDD scheme will get official recognition. The scheme, backed by Australia, is designed to allow developing countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by saving forests from logging. In exchange, landowners would earn ”carbon credits” they could trade with greenhouse polluting industries for money.

    But since discussion over the scheme began, scores of carbon traders, Carbon Planet among them, have been active in PNG and Indonesia trying to sign landowners. Tim King, from the Wilderness Society, said there had been ”a tsunami of carbon traders spreading across PNG. Carbon finance and REDD have triggered a ‘gold rush’ mentality.”

    Environmental groups are increasingly concerned UN negotiations have failed to address the vexed issued of corruption and landowners’ rights.

  3. Another articles from SMH about Kirk Roberts

    THE Australian at the heart of Papua New Guinea’s carbon trading rush is the entrepreneur and colourful racing identity Kirk Roberts, who has persuaded many tribal groups to sign their rainforests up for future use as carbon credits.

    Opponents call him the kingpin of the ”carbon cowboys” who have flooded into Port Moresby in the past few years.

    ”It’s no secret that I am one of the most important foreigners in PNG,” Mr Roberts told the Herald.

    The pioneer carbon trader boasts an unusual curriculum vitae, which includes a period as a professional showjumper and a licensed horse trainer who was fined for doping a racehorse and instructing a vet to withhold veterinary records.

    He also speaks fondly of his time making improvements to the cockfighting industry in the Philippines.

    Mr Roberts, who runs his carbon operations through a company called Nupan, claims to have the power of attorney over 90 forestry deals, giving him control over land potentially worth tens of millions of dollars as carbon sinks in the fight against climate change.

    The PNG Opposition Leader and leading non-government groups are concerned that tribespeople might have signed deals they do not understand.

    Mr Roberts refused to discuss how those deals were done. ”The whole thing has been checked over by international verifiers,” he said.

    Asked for detail, he said: ”That information will all come out when the projects are complete. I’m not going to talk about verification now.

    ”Why would I do that? It’s not for people to write stories about at the moment.”

    He blames the byzantine world of environmental politics in Papua New Guinea for allegations that some landholders were coerced into signing up their land for future use as carbon sinks.

    ”When you’re dealing with Muslim logging companies and people living in the bush that are quite ignorant and uneducated, you’re always going to get these kind of stories,” he said.

    ”It’s only a small thing. There’s lots of good things to write about.”

    Mr Roberts admitted there had been problems with one landholder who, he said, had also signed a contract with a logging company.

    But a tribal representative the Herald spoke to, who cannot be named, said he had been coerced into signing a memorandum of understanding that gave Nupan power of attorney over his land. Initially he refused. ”I didn’t know anything about the certificates, that was my first time in hearing about the certificates,” the tribesman said.

    The tribal representative claimed he eventually signed the memorandum in the face of Nupan’s persistence. ”I couldn’t do anything … So I just went ahead and signed it. Then later I complained to my lawyer.”

    Mr Roberts said he was unaware of any disputes with tribal groups. ”They come to me looking to get into carbon trading, not the other way round,” he said. ”I can’t go into any details of how it’s done – this is commercial-in-confidence.”

    PNG’s Department of Environment and Conservation warned landholders this week that they should wait until transparent benchmarks for carbon trading were worked out at United Nations climate change talks in Copenhagen in December.

    ”The Government strongly advises landholders not to enter into any agreements with private companies relating to carbon until the rules for carbon trading have been agreed by the global community,” said Wari Iamo, the new head of the Office of Climate Change.

    Mr Roberts is one of many carbon traders attempting to unlock the value of PNG’s rainforests but non-government groups believe the unregulated industry will benefit only the companies gaining control of the rights to generate carbon credits, at the expense of the indigenous people.

    ”None of the carbon traders operating in PNG are able to demonstrate that they have an effective methodology to ensure that landowners give free and informed consent to the complicated legal contracts they are being induced to sign,” said a spokesman for the Wilderness Society, Tim King.

    ”I am not aware of a single landowner group that really understands what they are participating in, the restrictions that will be placed over their land, the potential value of their forests or how they will benefit.”

    Mr Roberts said he was tired of trying to bat away these claims, as well as stories about his colourful past.

    ”With the racehorses, I had one misdemeanour where I got fined, where I gave a horse hydrocortisone … most other trainers would know that this is pretty common.

    ”Then I told a vet that I was working with at the time to withhold veterinary records. That’s all,” he said, in reference to a decision in 2002 by Racing NSW to disqualify him from the sport for six months.

    Soon after his racing troubles, Mr Roberts moved to the Philippines and became involved in cockfighting

    ”Chicken fighting is the national sport in the Philippines. We play football in Australia, they do chook fighting over there,” he said.

    ”I made millions of pesos. It was pretty simple really. All it was was a matter of feeding the birds right and keeping their cages in the right spot and so on. I just wanted to pass this knowledge on to the villagers.

    ”Anyway, I ended up making millions of pesos from this and I gave it all back to the church. These people were poor and I wanted to give something back to the country.”

    His interest in the potential of carbon trading to make money and address climate change also went back decades, he said.

    ”My father was an environmentalist and he was very, very clever. He was studying carbon trading.

    ”He said to me years and years ago that people would pay a lot of money for the air they breathe and the water they drink.”

  4. Thanks Peter for the articles, all I can say is that this whole thing’s gone crazy, its exactly the same as the money-rain craze, the Bank of Mekemui craze, the Vanilla beans craze and now this.

    What does Penny Wong have to say about all this?

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