PNG project owner acknowledges logging at REDD project

3 Feb 2023

Quantum Commodity Intelligence - Carbon project developer New Ireland Hardwood Timber (NIHT) has acknowledged that some unwanted deforestation occurred in 2022 at its Topaiyo REDD project in Papua New Guinea, meaning it will cut the number of carbon credits issued by the scheme.

Stephen Strauss, CEO of the company, told Quantum ahead of the broadcast of a documentary on the project in Australia that locals have logged forests and sold the timber to a Malaysian company.

He added the practice has ended following an intervention by NIHT in the last few months.

"Our team closed down two illegal logging operations in November and December, one was in Central New Ireland, part of the grouped project and one in the project activity instance (PAI)," Strauss told Quantum.

The company says the logging will be reported to certifier Verra and will likely result in the loss of around 300,000 credits out of annual avoided emissions of 2.3 million, and thus lower revenue for the project and local stakeholders.

Traditionally all land in PNG is owned by communal groups, usually referred to as clans.

Knowledge of the boundaries of clan land are passed orally from one generation to the next and disputes can often be settled amicably.

In the 1970s, the government allowed for the creation of Incorporated Land Groups (ILG) where appointed officers are allowed to represent the interests of a clan.

Since then, ILGs have been used to develop mining, palm oil, forest logging concessions and, recently, carbon projects.

Strauss says a local chief allowed the logging to take place without informing NIHT.

Media 'expose'

Australian media ABC is reportedly preparing a show on the Topaiyo project, which will describe logging in the project area, part of a series of reports by global media outlets on the carbon offset industry.

But the country's Climate Change Development Authority (CCDA) says it has not been interviewed by ABC while NIHT has accused the channel of wanting to create a "blockbuster headline".

Quantum has not seen the show and is not aware of its exact content and ABC had not responded to a request to comment at press time.

"The carbon market is a very challenging industry, doing business in Papua New Guinea is extremely challenging... that includes the subtleties of how it works in both cases as they combine in our project," says Strauss.

REDD projects are typically situated in areas prone to heavy deforestation, often because of good access to roads and other infrastructure, meaning that logging has sometimes been inevitable even with the incentive provided by carbon credits.

Last year, Brazilian developer Biofílica decided to terminate its Maísa avoided deforestation project (VCS1329) in the Amazon as one of the project partners chopped down some of the trees.

PNG is one of the most forested countries on earth and has seen deforestation increase in recent years.

Topaiyo (VCS2293) is the only active project in the country, but several more are in preparation.

Earlier this week, the CCDA confirmed it will finalise its REDD+ guidelines by the end of March, which could allow the carbon farming industry to expand.