PNG is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, including floods, droughts, coastal erosion and inundation, soil salinisation, and coral reef degradation. Climate change is also exacerbating development challenges and social issues in PNG, particularly access to affordable and reliable services and poverty rates .
Poverty is overwhelmingly concentrated in rural areas, and there are wide geographical disparities, with isolated small island populations being amongst the poorest. Subsistence and smallholder agricultural practices provide an income for over 80% of PNG’s population, and climate change is already putting these livelihoods at risk .
Agriculture and forestry are essential sectors in Papua New Guinea, making the country’s economy highly exposed to climate change , . However, at the same time, these sectors are driving deforestation and forest degradation in the country . While deforestation has considerable impacts on the local environment in Papua New Guinea, the country’s forests are also of global significance. They represent the third largest tract of intact tropical forest and thereby one of the world’s largest carbon storages. As a result, any decline in PNG’s forest area has significant repercussions on global GHG emissions .
Key policies and governance approach
In Papua New Guinea, adapting to and mitigating the effects of climate change remains a high priority. Efforts in this direction are guided and supported by existing policies and strategies, such as the Vision 2050 Plan, National Strategy for Responsible Sustainable Development for PNG, PNG Climate Change Management Act, and the National Climate Compatible Development Management Policy, among others .
The National Strategy for Responsible Sustainable Development (StaRS) sets the foundation for a paradigm shift from an economy dominated by the non-renewable sector to a more diversified and sustainable economy . The Strategy introduces three enabling dimensions for the country’s transition to inclusive green growth, which are (i) a national green growth plan to create enabling conditions; (ii) green growth mainstreaming mechanisms to ensure opportunities are explored through existing economic activities, and (iii) green growth policy instruments to tap specific opportunities within spatial and resource systems .
In addition, the MTDP III (2018-2022), now in its third iteration, fine-tuned priorities with an increased emphasis on sustainability and responsible approaches regarding development. It also takes steps to address climate change and make a concerted effort toward sustainable resource management. MTDP III, moreover, states that the energy sector should shift to renewable energy sources .
Through PNG’s Enhanced NDC, the country is targeting a transition in its energy mix in the energy industries sub-sector for the share of installed capacity of renewables from 30% in 2015 to 78% in 2030 for on-grid connection managed by PNG Power Limited. Key strategies linked to achieving the NDC’s targets within the energy sector include the National Energy Policy 2017 – 2027, the National Electrification Roll-Out Plan, PNG Power 15 Year Power Development Plan and MTDP III .
SUCCESSES AND REMAINING CHALLENGES
There are ample opportunities for green growth in Papua New Guinea, in support of the country’s efforts to mitigate its contribution to and adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change. However, in order to achieve the country’s aspirations, a number of challenges need to be addressed by the Government.
Currently, there is considerable uncertainty in existing policies and regulation, particularly regarding the electricity sector. Contradictions within and between policies exist and where regulations are in place, it is often unclear whether and to what extent they are being implemented. Unclear mandates of government and regulatory agencies, as well as uncoordinated and ad-hoc development of policies, all lead to inconsistency between existing policies, legislation, and regulation. Such inconsistency creates considerable uncertainty for businesses and works as a strong disincentive for private investment. To support a larger role for private sector initiatives, the Government should strengthen policy coherence and provide regulatory certainty.
The Government should also strengthen data collection as a fundamental requirement to design well-informed policies. In Papua New Guinea, there is considerable uncertainty in basic data that propagates through the analysis of numerous issues across different sectors. The lack of timely and reliable data impedes the development of relevant policies to address the issues within these sectors and prevents the monitoring and evaluation of the effectiveness of existing policies, projects, and other interventions.
Good governance is also required in the country. Addressing challenges related to governance will require a long-term effort and strong political commitment at the highest levels of government. Corruption undermines economic development by creating an environment where accountability is lacking, resources are wasted, and trust between and within different entities is low. In order to reduce corruption and strengthen good governance, clear roles and responsibilities should be assigned to individual authorities, reducing uncertainty and increasing accountability .
Initiatives and Development Plans
In 2019, CCDA and the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) published the Green Growth Potential Assessment of Papua New Guinea . The report outlines ample opportunities for green growth in PNG, which will support the country’s efforts to cope with climate change. The four main priorities are (i) increasing PNG’s resilience toward the adverse impacts of climate change, given the country’s high vulnerability; (ii) deploying renewable energy as an opportunity to increase the country’s low electrification rate; (iii) improving agricultural productivity, due to the high importance of agriculture for the country’s mostly rural population, as well as food security; and (iv) conserving the country’s extensive forests, due to their global significance for carbon storage, the role they play in sustainable agriculture, their provision of ecosystem services, and their economic potential .
Additionally, in 2021, the World Bank approved a US$100 million (PGK 352 million equivalent) operation to support Papua New Guinea in its response to COVID-19, and to lay important foundations for a sustainable recovery. With Papua New Guinea’s economy entering the COVID-19 crisis with limited resilience to external shocks, the pandemic has led to a sharp economic contraction, higher unemployment and considerably more Papua New Guineans falling into poverty, particularly women and young people. “The Papua New Guinea Crisis Response and Sustainable Recovery Development Policy Operation” has the aim to strengthen PNG’s health system, support livelihoods of vulnerable households and small businesses; and lay vital foundations for a more sustainable economic recovery .
Goals and Ambitions
The National Strategy for Responsible Sustainable Development (StaRS) is the policy shift in long term planning to guide the actions of current and future governments to position PNG towards attaining the following goals :
- Being a leader in the promotion and establishment of the responsible sustainable development paradigm.
- Be a prosperous middle-income country by 2030.
- Be among the top 50 countries on the Human Development Index by 2050.
- To support the deployment of renewable energy, it is recommended that PNG designates areas for off-grid electrification, given the high costs of grid extension to remote areas. A focus on solar energy is suggested, with solar home systems showing clear advantages compared to mini-grids.
- Support the private sector by introducing consistent legislation and providing regulatory certainty for the (off-grid) electrification, facilitating access to finance for private sector players, and strengthening quality control of off-grid renewables equipment sold in Papua New Guinea.
- Strengthen the capacity to collect, compile, verify, and disseminate data relevant to the energy sector in order to conduct reliable analyses to develop relevant policies, monitor their impacts, and evaluate their effectiveness.
- Improve the sustainability of the agriculture and forestry sectors. In line with the energy sector, it is recommended for the Government of PNG to strengthen the administration’s capacity to collect, monitor, and verify agriculture and forestry data.
- Assessing Papua New Guinea’s forest stock is also essential to support the country’s efforts toward obtaining carbon payments for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the context of REDD+.
- Monitor and enforce compliance with regulations on commercial logging and commercial agriculture. The Government could also obligate the industry to adhere to internationally recognized certification schemes and sanction non-compliance.
- Provide support to communities to adopt sustainable agricultural practices.
- Support the sustainable production of fuel wood and the use of clean cooking technologies.
- Strengthen efforts toward good governance and address the issue of corruption.
 GGGI (2019). [Online]. Available: https://gggi.org/papua-new-guinea-publishes-green-growth-potential-assessment/.
 The World Bank (2021). [Online]. Available: https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2021/06/28/sustainable-economic-recovery-the-focus-for-world-bank-support-to-papua-new-guinea.