UNDP Papua New Guinea, together with the national government, is partnering with James Cook University to account for the importance of biodiversity and ecosystem services in shaping Papua New Guinea’s economic and environmental future. Project Manager Dr Jennifer Gabriel is pleased to be continuing her work with the UNDP and the PNG Conservation Department on planning for protected areas and sustainable livelihoods. The multidisclipinary team, which involves a collaboration between James Cook University, the University of Tasmania and the Australian National University, includes Assoc. Prof. Taha Cheiechi (Project Leader), Dr Michael Wood, Dr Dugald Tinch (UTas) and Assoc. Prof. Colin Filer (ANU).
The partnership will see the team develop a methodology, applicable to the context of PNG, to conduct a national assessment of the ecosystem services generated by the natural environment, identifying the interlinkages with economic sectors and livelihoods. The result of the analysis will demonstrate the value of investing in nature and that it is worth the return on investment for biodiversity protection. UNDP Papua New Guinea Chief Technical Advisor, Dr Andrew Rylance said this is a milestone for the country in terms of valuing the country’s unique biodiversity.
Papua New Guinea is a natural resource-dependent country. About 87 percent of PNG’s population live in rural settlements and are reliant on subsistence agriculture, fishing and hunting (World Bank, 2019). Eight percent live within one kilometer of the sea and are dependent on the ocean for protein and livelihoods (CEPA & Sprep, in press). Unsustainable land-use change and forest degradation from commercial and illegal logging have already led to reducing soil quality, reducing agricultural yields.
The future sustainability of the Papua New Guinea economy is largely dependent on nature. It’s forestry, mining, agriculture, tourism and fisheries sector all benefit directly from an intact and productive natural environment. “The benefits derived from biodiversity and ecosystem services in Papua New Guinea are significant but are systematically undervalued. Part of the reason for this undervaluation is that they have not been assessed. This assessment aims to directly address this gap and contribute to national decision-making on its long-term economic prosperity”, said Dr Rylance. Globally the costs of inaction are clear and alarming. Between 1997 and 2011, the world lost an estimated USD 4-20 trillion per year in ecosystem services owing to land-cover change and USD 6-11 trillion per year from land degradation (OECD, 2020).
Professor Stephen Boyle, Dean, College of Business, Law and Governance said ”This is an important project that can make a real and positive impact on the livelihoods of a significant percentage of the PNG population in both the near and long term”.
The Director of The Cairns Institute at James Cook University, Distinguished Professor Stewart Lockie, is proud to be partnering with UNDP, together with the Government of Papua New Guinea.
Project leader, A/Prof Taha Chaiechi, Australia Director for Center of International Trade and Business in Asia (CITBA) at James Cook University, said, “Determining the economic value of nature is a starting point to protect it. “she added, “Our principal focus will be on developing a PNG-specific framework that demonstrates the importance and contribution of biodiversity services to the country’s economy”.
Featured photograph: by Dr Jennifer Gabriel taken in 2019 at Manginuna (Pomio District) East New Britain, PNG