Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea (PNG) is a Pacific, tropical and mountainous island nation lying on the Eastern half of New Guinea Island. PNG is a country of exceptional ethnic and biological diversity. The population of approximately 8.5 million people speaks more than 840 distinct languages. The country is home to hundreds of endemic species over its 462,840 sq km mass.

The indigenous population of PNG is one of the most heterogeneous in the world; several thousand separate communities and tribal groups live spread out over the country. Eighty percent of this population lives a traditional, rural subsistence lifestyle that is supported by the biological richness and diversity of the forests, inland waters and coastal seas. Eighty-five percent of the country‘s labour force is absorbed by the agricultural sector. Major agricultural produce include coffee, cocoa, copra, palm kernels, tea, sugar, rubber, sweet potatoes, fruit, vegetables, vanilla, shellfish, poultry and pork. In terms of the importance of different sectors to GDP, the agricultural sector accounts for 32.6 percent of the GDP, with industries and the service sector accounting for 36.8 percent and 30.6 percent, respectively. Mineral deposits, including copper, gold, and oil account for nearly two-thirds of export earnings.

Climate change is one of 11cross-cutting policies of the Papua New Guinea Development Strategic Plan 2010-2030. The goal statement is ‘Adapt to the domestic impacts of climate change and contribute to global efforts to abate greenhouse gas emissions.’ The key strategic objectives that PNG want to address under this goal by 2030 include:

  • Having adequate resources available to address risk transfer and adaptation initiative;
  • Increase investments in clean energy and contribute to reducing greenhouse gases;
  • Having well-resourced climate change research that improves understanding of the implications of climate change for PNG;
  • Engaging effectively in global climate change negotiations. This would also give PNG the opportunity to highlight the value of natural and plantation forests for the storage of carbon and the value of investing in clean energy reserves.

The country has also set goals for natural disaster management. As part of a community of tropical islands located along a fault line, PNG regularly faces the risk of cyclones, tsunamis, volcanoes and other natural disasters such as drought. These events occur from time to time and can be devastating in their effects on communities, on the economy and on the environment.

Between 1997 and 2002, 4.1 million people were affected by a total of 63 major calamities. There were 22 major landslides and floods that affected half a million people at an estimated cost of almost 15 million PNG kina. Over that same period, almost 3.2 million people suffered from drought and frost events at an estimated cost of K85 million. Tsunami events are another concern. The Aitape/Sissano tsunami alone claimed 3,210 lives and cost K31 million. Volcanic eruptions and earthquakes are also a threat in some regions. For instance, Rabaul volcano erupted in 1994 and has since been emitting ash fall all over the town and neighbouring communities. This is imposing an enormous economic burden including health costs and relocation costs.