Will PNG really stop log exports in 2025? Part one – devpolicy.org

In his inaugural address to the brand new Papua New Guinea nationwide parliament on 9 August 2022, Prime Minister James Marape promised, amongst different issues, that his authorities was “dedicated to stopping all spherical log exports by 2025”. This was not precisely a brand new promise. Forests Minister Karl Stack promised to impose a moratorium on spherical log exports again in 1990, however then did not maintain the promise. His successor delayed certification of the brand new Forestry Act for 12 months in order that he might situation an entire swag of recent log export licences earlier than it got here into impact in 1992. In 2009, the Somare Authorities got here up with a long-term plan, referred to as Vision 2050, which boldly declared that spherical log exports can be banned forthwith. Forests Minister Belden Namah was not fairly so daring. His new model of the Nationwide Forestry Improvement Tips, revealed in the identical 12 months, solely stated that each one new timber permits granted from the beginning of 2010 can be for logging operations with “100 per cent processing solely”.
When Marape took the highest job from Peter O’Neill in 2019, with a promise to “take again PNG” from overseas capitalists, Forests Minister Solan Mirisim promptly convened a Nationwide Forestry Summit to debate the methods and means by which logs can be “taken again” from the ships taking them to China and processed in PNG on the market in each the home and worldwide markets. Since then, a succession of ministerial and prime ministerial statements (see, for instance, The Nationwide August 2021, October 2021 and September 2022) have made a wide range of undertakings about what should occur earlier than the 2025 deadline. Logging corporations can be obliged to accomplice with the federal government within the “downstream area”; no new concessions can be granted to corporations with no processing plan; log export permits would solely be granted to landowner corporations; half of the full log harvest must be processed onshore; and no new concessions can be granted till the PNG Forest Authority had performed a assessment of all present concessions.
For greater than 30 years, nationwide debate on this topic has gone spherical in two acquainted circles. On the one hand, forest trade representatives and donor-funded consultants have repeatedly identified {that a} ban on the export of logs from native forests is not going to serve to increase the “downstream area” by something past a small margin, basically as a result of the prices are too nice and demand is just too restricted, so there are not any income to be made. In response to this argument, downstream processing in PNG solely makes financial sense if the uncooked materials is harvested from timber plantations, but it surely has confirmed nearly not possible to increase the world of timber plantations on customary land as a result of the landowners are usually not ready to attend for 20 or 30 years earlier than reaping any profit from the harvest.
However, conservationists and civil society actors have supported a log export ban for causes of their very own. Not as a result of they see a rosy future for the home manufacture of constructing timbers or wood furnishings, however moderately as a result of they regard the logging trade as a menace to biodiversity values, a supply of superfluous greenhouse fuel emissions, and a corrupting affect on the physique politic.
These arguments by no means get resolved as a result of no authorities has ever imposed any precise restrict on spherical log exports. So why ought to we anticipate the Marape Authorities to maintain any of its guarantees, and what’s prone to occur if it both does or doesn’t accomplish that?
It might be simpler to reply these questions if the PNG Forest Authority weren’t such a secretive physique. Forestry officers should have some thought of what number of logs are being processed onshore, and the place this exercise is occurring, as a result of they’re answerable for guaranteeing that native landowners obtain the timber royalties which might be on account of them whether or not the logs are exported or not. Forestry officers should additionally know the variety of concessions being granted annually, the situations connected to them, and the time period earlier than they’re on account of expire. However none of this data is deemed match for public consumption. A lot of the related statistical data should due to this fact be drawn from the annual reports of SGS PNG Ltd, the corporate that has been engaged by the federal government to observe spherical log exports since 1996.
In my Devpol discussion paper, I’ve proven how the latest sample of spherical log exports from various kinds of logging concession should lead us to doubt whether or not the present authorities’s guarantees or threats needs to be taken too severely. Within the subsequent weblog, I summarise my evaluation.
That is the primary weblog in a two-part series. Learn the Devpolicy Dialogue Paper, ‘Papua New Guinea’s forests back in the spotlight’.
Dr Colin Filer is an honorary professor on the Crawford Faculty of Public Coverage, Australian Nationwide College.

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