Papua New Guinea is among the top 20 countries most vulnerable in the world to the impacts of climate change [1]. Already, the country has experienced an increase in temperature of approximately 0.8-0.9°C, as measured in the difference between average temperature in 1900–1917 and 2000–2017. Temperature is projected to continue to rise, with minimum and maximum temperatures expected to increase considerably faster than average temperatures, potentially amplifying risks to human health and ecosystems [2].

In PNG, inter-annual variation in precipitation can be very high. Annual precipitation in Port Moresby is typically lower than other areas and regularly fluctuates between 700 mm and 1,400 mm. This variation is influenced by El Niño Southern Oscillation, with El Niño events typically associated with below average annual rainfall and drought. No change in precipitation trends has thus far been attributed to historical climate change, although the research into historical climate change in PNG has been very limited. In the future, most climate models project an increase in the average annual precipitation in PNG, however uncertainty remains high [2].

Located in the ‘Pacific ring of fire’ [1], PNG is one of the countries most at risk to natural disasters, ranked 28th out of 191 countries in the 2019 INFORM Risk Index. PNG’s ranking is particularly driven by the country’s lack of coping capacity, for which it ranked as having the 11th lowest coping capacity in the world [2]. PNG is prone to many natural disasters including cyclones, drought, floods and landslides, which are likely to intensify with climate change [3] and likely to disproportionately affect the poorest groups in PNG [2]. Natural disasters have consistently affected many key sectors of the economy such as agriculture, infrastructure and community livelihoods [1].

About 70% of households in PNG remain dependent on subsistence agriculture and therefore, are highly vulnerable to climate-related hazards [2]. Between 2015 and 2016, El Niño caused drought that affected about 700,000 people with destruction of gardens and food and cash crops [1]. Variability in agricultural yields will affect many agricultural regions, particularly the highland regions. Sweet potato, coffee and cocoa are examples of climate-sensitive crops that Papua New Guineans are dependent on for food and livelihood [4]. Multiple studies have suggested that sweet potato yields in PNG may decline by as much as 10% by 2050, as a result of changing climate conditions. Another area for concern includes the potential for greater incidences of crop pests and disease [2].

Flood represents a major risk to PNG, and by 2030, economic damages and the population affected by river flooding are projected to double [2]. According to the country’s Second National Communication to the UNFCCC, inland flooding affects over 22,000 people annually, displacing over 6,000 people and typically resulting in a few deaths. Additionally, it is estimated that annual damage amounts to over USD 8 million. Changes in climatic conditions – both through increased average precipitation and increased extreme rainfall events – will strongly affect the impact of inland floods [4]. According to Willner et al. (2018) [5], the population affected by an extreme river flood could increase by 35,000–56,000 people by 2035–2044 due to climate change. The increased probability of river flooding, as well as coastal flooding, both of which threaten human lives, livelihoods and infrastructure, is likely to degrade water quality spreading salt contamination and water-borne diseases [2]. This will negatively affect the country’s already poor access to clean drinking water [1]. Landslides may also occur directly as a result of flash flooding, particularly when ecosystems and soils are degraded [2].

Most parts of PNG are highly vulnerable to sea level rise, with the majority of socio-economic activities and infrastructure development located in coastal areas or vulnerable areas along rivers or in highlands [4]. The impacts of sea-level rise have already been documented in the country; the Carteret islands were among the first Pacific islands from which environmental refugees were documented, as a result of sea-level rise. Sea-level rise also threatens the integrity of PNG’s coastal resources and biodiversity. Notably, the mangrove forests found along New Guinea’s north coast have been identified as vulnerable to submergence and loss [2].

Further, as outlined in the IPCC’s 5th Assessment Report, Pacific coral reefs face a negative outlook under all climate change scenarios due to ocean acidification and warming [2]. Sea temperature increase and acidification may over time destroy Papua New Guinea’s coral reefs, which between 50,000 and 70,000 coastal inhabitants depend on for their food, livelihoods and shelter [4]. The unfavorable outlook for coral reefs in PNG will also likely have negative impacts on the health of the country’s coastal fisheries [2].


In 2018, PNG submitted its First Biennial Update Report (BUR) to the UNFCCC [6], which included a GHG Inventory for the period 2000-2015. According to the country’s GHG inventory, GHG emissions had increased from -14,179 GgCO2 eq in 2000, to 15,193 Gg CO2 eq in 2015 [6], a net increase of close to 30,000 Gg CO2 eq [7]. PNG, therefore, went from a net sink in 2000 to a net source in 2015 [6]. PNG’s emissions are primarily driven by the AFOLU and Energy sectors, which accounted for 89% of reported net emissions in 2015 [7].

Total emissions from the energy sector in 2015 were 11,806 Gg CO2 eq, an increase of 88.2% from 2000 [7]. In 2015, Energy Industries accounted for 35% of emissions, followed by fugitive emissions of natural gas (27%) and Transport (17%) [6].

Within the AFOLU sector, Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry sector (LULUCF) is the biggest contributor to GHG emissions in PNG accounting for net emissions of 1,717 Gg CO2 eq in 2015 compared to -21, 636 Gg CO2 eq in 2000, which is a total decrease of removals amounting to 23,370 Gg CO2 eq [7].


Key policies and governance approach

PNG established the Climate Change and Development Authority (CCDA), under its national Climate Change Management Act 2015 (CCMA), with the primary role of facilitating and developing appropriate policies and a regulatory framework to address climate change in the country. The CCMA is currently under review to ensure that it can effectively respond to the needs of and PNG’s obligations under the Paris Agreement [8].

The Government of PNG (GoPNG) has shown its commitment to fulfilling its obligations under the UNFCCC, including through the mainstreaming of climate change in its development policies, such as Vision 2050, the National Strategy for Responsible Sustainable Development (StaRS), the National Development Strategic Plan 2010-2030, and the Medium Term Development Plan III [8].

In addition, PNG was one of the first countries in the world to submit its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), and recently (2020) submitted its second NDC to the UNFCCC [9]. PNG’s NDC in 2016 was prepared in line with national strategies and plans, and its commitments were adduced from the National Climate Compatible Development Management Policy (NCCDMP) which aspires for the country to become carbon neutral by 2050 [8].

The enhanced NDC (2020) focuses on targets and actions within two sectors, specifically the LULUCF sector and Energy Industries subsector, while noting opportunities for action within the transport subsector. It also presents a commitment to enhance ambition in the way that PNG collects and manages data within them and across all emitting sectors to allow for further refinement and enhancement of ambition within future updates. Within the Energy sector, PNG is committing to a headline target of carbon neutrality within the energy industries sub-sector by 2030 [7]. In the Land Use Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) sector, by 2030, PNG is committing to a reduction in annual emission from deforestation and forest degradation, due to agriculture expansion and commercial logging of 10,000 Gg CO2 eq compared to 2015 level [7]. Specific to the forestry sector, PNG also developed the National REDD+ Strategy [8].

Adaptation is a high priority in PNG. PNG’s commitment to adaptation for 2020-2030 will focus on four priority development sectors - agriculture, health, transport, and infrastructure. The National Adaptation Plan which is due for completion in 2021 will align with the enhanced NDC [8].



In recent years, PNG has made positive progress in addressing climate change, including through the review and formulation of policies, strategies, and plans that aim at combating climate change effects in the country. Additionally, the government has invested an average of K11million on an annual basis from 2016-2019 to undertake climate change related programs/projects. However, despite these efforts, the policies, strategies and plans at the national level have not yet cascaded into sub-national development planning, and commitment from sub-national governments on climate change is lacking [1].

There is also lack of data on GHG emissions for the monitoring and evaluating of implementation of mitigation actions across the energy and forestry sectors. In the absence of such critical data, it becomes challenging to evaluate to what extent climate policies are being achieved. Despite these data gaps, there is opportunity for the country to accelerate project-based actions in the forestry sector (under REDD+) to collect and develop baseline data to feed into the review of the NDC [1].

As a Small Island Developing State, Papua New Guinea is faced with many challenges in the implementation of mitigation and adaptation actions, including limitation of resources [8]. This situation will likely worsen with COVID-19 [1]. For instance, competing pressure on government budgets may draw away funds committed through the NDC to the energy sector for infrastructure development and institutional strengthening. As the central government faces ongoing budgetary pressure, PNG will need private sector and international donor community support [10]. In addition to financial support, PNG will also require support in technology and capacity building [8].

To date, PNG has accessed climate funding from bilateral and multilateral sources. In 2019, CCDA, with the Department of National Planning and Monitoring and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, carried out an assessment aimed at strengthening climate finance coordination and accessibility in PNG. This identified several challenges the country faces, including the lack of a systematic or coordinated approach to access international climate change funding, limited understanding of climate finance and processes by central government agencies, and challenges navigating the reporting requirements of various climate funds. One step taken towards overcoming these challenges when accessing international climate finance was the announcement that PNG will be one of eight countries in the Pacific with an in-country Climate Finance Access Network (CFAN) advisor [10].  


Initiatives and Development Plans

Several major energy programs are already being implemented, including the PNG Electrification Programme, Pawarim Komuniti – PNG Off-grid Electrification Program, Town Electrification National Program (TEP) and the Rural On-grid Electrification Program (ROGEP) [8].

The Asian Development Bank is helping Papua New Guinea improve its capacity to assess and incorporate climate change risks in its development investment program through the ‘Building Resilience to Climate Change (BRCC) in Papua New Guinea’ project [11]. The project has three outputs: (i) climate change and vulnerability assessments carried out and adaptation plans developed for target communities, (ii) sustainable fishery ecosystems and food security investments piloted in nine vulnerable island and atoll communities, and (iii) enabling framework for climate resilient infrastructure established and communications network extended [12].


[1], [8], [10]

  • Ensure ongoing alignment with climate and development policy and plans.
  • Future work and leadership by the Government can be supported by more completely accounting for its CO2 emissions for land-use and land use change (LULUC) activities (forestry and agriculture), and the transport and energy sectors.
  • One opportunity is to accelerate project-based actions in the forestry sector (under REDD+) to collect and develop baseline data to feed into the review of the NDC.
  • A strategic framework is to be developed to improve the data collection approach to enable the reporting on the status of climate change impacts and response with appropriate intervention programs/projects.
  • It is important for PNG to develop a business case to tap into the Climate Financing Modalities.
  • Highlight renewable energy projects through the Climate Finance Access Network as the first step to attracting climate finance.
  • Electricity generation from renewable resources to reduce GHG emissions will not only create additional employment but also additional co-benefits like cleaner air quality.

[1] Department of National Planning and Monitoring (2020). PAPUA NEW GUINEA’S VOLUNTARY NATIONAL REVIEW 2020 Progress of Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals.

[2] Climate Risk Profile: Papua New Guinea (2021): The World Bank Group.

[3] UNDRR (2019). Disaster Risk Reduction in Papua New Guinea: Status Report 2019. Bangkok, Thailand, United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific.

[4] Papua New Guinea (2014). Papua New Guinea Second National Communication To the Under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

[5] Willner, S., Levermann, A., Zhao, F., Frieler, K. (2018). Adaptation required to preserve future high-end river flood risk at present levels. Science Advances: 4:1. URL:

[6] Climate Change and Development Authority (CCDA) (2018). Papua New Guinea First Biennial Update Report to the United Nations Framework on Climate Change.

[7] Government of Papua New Guinea (2020). Papua New Guinea’s Enhanced Nationally Determined Contribution 2020: The Summary.

[8] Climate Change and Development Authority (2020). Papua New Guinea’s Enhanced Nationally Determined Contribution 2020.

[9] European Commission (2021). PAPUA NEW GUINEA Multi-annual Indicative Programme 2021-2027.

[10] Climate Change and Development Authority (2021). Papua New Guinea NDC Implementation Roadmap Electricity Sector.

[11] ADB (2021). [Online]. Available:

[12] ADB (2021). PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Building Resilience to Climate Change (BRCC) in Papua New Guinea.