Mr. Dirk Wagener
In this week of World Environment Day, 5 June 2021 – with the global launch of the 2021-2030 Decade on Ecosystem Restoration – Papua New Guinea will see a celebration of events to begin this new decade of action to restore the natural environment.
Our planet is facing a climate and biodiversity emergency. Biodiversity is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history – and the rate of species extinctions is accelerating, with grave impacts on people around the world now likely.
Over the last 50 years, global populations of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians, and reptiles plunged by 70%. The impact of this loss could be devastating to future generations. Nature is our safety net and provider of our livelihoods. The natural environment produces so-called ecosystem services that are the very basis of human survival: clean air, water, food, and the health of our body and mind.
The impacts of climatic changes and environmental degradation are already being felt by the 87 percent of Papua New Guineans who live in rural areas - who rely on subsistence agriculture, fishing, and hunting. Unsustainable land-use change and forest degradation from commercial and illegal logging is resulting in reduced soil quality that reduces agricultural yields, as well as further contributing to carbon emissions.
The future sustainability of Papua New Guinea’s economy is largely dependent on nature. Its forestry, mining, agriculture, tourism, and fisheries sectors all benefit directly from an intact and productive natural environment. Non-renewable economic activities are, by definition, not a sustainable pathway. PNG demonstrates significant potential to become a world leader in renewable energy and green economy – and in economic activities in the fisheries and agricultural sectors that work in partnership with healthy ecosystems in the natural environment.
Successful examples already exist in the country. UNDP’s work, in partnership with the Government, supports value-adding for economic activities such as coffee and cocoa production and fisheries management in a way that enhances the protection of high conservation value areas, which at the same time support livelihoods. This increases food security and income generation for many communities, particularly for women. UNDP’s forestry management initiatives are enhancing forest carbon stocks, developing new financial mechanisms to reduce deforestation and maintain the precious, vast tropical rainforests that cover approximately 75% of the country at present.
This week, the country is hosting a series of events in the lead up to World Environment Day on 5th June. This World Environment Day will kick off the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration - a global mission to revive billions of hectares, from forests to farmlands, from the top of mountains to the depths of the seas.
Ecosystem restoration means preventing, halting, and reversing damage to natural ecosystems – from exploiting nature to healing and restoring ecosystems. Only with healthy ecosystems can we enhance people’s livelihoods, fight climate change, and stop the collapse of biodiversity that would lead to a collapse of humanity as we know it.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is supporting the Government of Papua New Guinea to host two critical events that directly tackle biodiversity and climate action.
On 2-3 June, the Conservation and Environment Protection Authority (CEPA) will host the first National Protected Area Forum. This event will bring together conservation stakeholders to prioritise key actions to secure PNG’s unique biodiversity and ensure that conservation and community livelihoods work in partnership to strengthen protected areas.
The results of the Forum will lead into a high-level Environment and Climate Emergency Summit on 4 June – co-hosted by the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Climate Change, NCDC, and UNDP. The Summit will discuss and solidify Papua New Guinea’s commitments towards environmental protection and climate action. It will highlight how new conservation and climate compatible business models can drive PNG’s long-term economic prosperity, while supporting livelihoods and protecting the environment the same time. It is not about trees or development, as humanity can only thrive if we protect and conserve the natural resources and biodiversity we ultimately depend on. The Government will take the results and momentum into the global United Nations Biodiversity and Climate negotiations later this year, representative of this nation’s ambitions and actions - a call to action to support PNG’s future.
World Environment Day in Papua New Guinea celebrates these achievements and kick starts the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, with our new Generation Restoration working together to build forward better!