Papua New Guinea is the world’s 3rd largest island country, after Indonesia and Madagascar with over 800 indigenous languages spoken, and vast natural resources, including gold, oil, and natural gas. Like the rest of the world, this diverse country is also threatened by climate change. The scar of a deadly earthquake that stuck Turkey and Syria is still fresh in our minds. At the time of writing, more than 8000 people have been lost to the disaster.

Similarly, PNG is also a victim of disasters including earthquakes, floods and landslides. For instance, a magnitude 7.5 earthquake struck the Highlands region, causing widespread damage and killing over 100 people. Two tropical cyclones hit the country within a matter of weeks, causing widespread damage and leaving thousands of people homeless. Geographically, the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) also causes irregular weather patterns and can lead to droughts and food shortages. Climate change is expected to exacerbate the frequency and severity of these climate disasters in the future. These events highlight the need for preparedness and response measures to mitigate the impact of natural disasters in Papua New Guinea.

The Papua New Guinea Biodiversity and Climate Fund (PNGBF) is a national fund established to support the country’s efforts to conserve its biodiversity and address the impacts of climate change. The PNGBF aims to support community-based conservation initiatives, improve sustainable land management, and promote low-carbon development. The fund is managed by the National Research Institute (NRI) in partnership with the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) and other stakeholders.

One of the key objectives of the PNGBF is to promote the sustainable use of natural resources, particularly in rural communities. The fund provides support for initiatives such as reforestation and agro-forestry, which can help to mitigate the impacts of climate change, conserve biodiversity, and improve the livelihoods of local communities. Additionally, the PNGBF works to build capacity and promote greater understanding of climate change and biodiversity issues among decision-makers and stakeholders in the country.

As one of the 17 megadiverse countries, PNG has 7% of the world’s biodiversity in less than 1% of the world’s land. It also has 2.4 million km2 of ocean including 7,000 sq km of coral reefs and 4,200 sq km of diverse mangrove forests. Before the initiative, the PNG didn’t have a strategy for coordination between different department and stakeholders. The Papua New Guinea Biodiversity and Climate Fund plays an important role in supporting the country’s efforts to conserve its rich natural heritage and address the challenges posed by climate change.

Notably, the PNGBF solves an important shortcoming in the country’s fight against climate change. It is intended to solve the issue of lack of funding for biodiversity conservation and climate mitigation and adaption. PNG has an annual funding gap of US $9million for protected areas and conservation and a similar gap for climate mitigation and adaption.

The fund will provide five key grants in areas such as ‘Area-Based Conservation Management (PAs, and OECMs)’, ‘Climate mitigation and adaptation’, ‘Alternative sustainable resilient livelihoods’, ‘Applied research to improve knowledge’, ‘understanding and awareness’ and ‘Training and capacity building’. The fund will receive external support as well. The policy document states, “With initial funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF-6) and UNDP, the Fund’s initial grant-making (2022-2026) will focus on financial support to priority protected areas to allow them to effectively meet their conservation objectives. These will include protected areas managed by PNG’s Conservation and Environmental Protection Authority as well as those managed and operated by NGOs and communities.”

Notably, the PNGBF will become a legally independent institution by mid-2026. In 2022, it helped identify the highest priority Protected Areas for conservation, In 2023, it will fund the development of 10new management plans and seek proposals for further management and business plans for PAs. Similar process will be completed in 2024. In 2025 and 2026, it will assess priorities for planning financing while garnering additional support for management plan implementation. The funding needs in 2023 is projected to be US5million, $10million in 2024, $1million grant in further years, and also involves a capital campaign to raise endowment with a capital of $25million by 2028 end.

During the launch of the event, the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Resident Representative to Papua New Guinea, Mr. Dirk Wagener said, “Papua New Guineans are the custodians of the country’s exceptional natural wealth. Its natural environment is the foundation upon which its economic prosperity depends. However, the impacts of climate change are intensifying, threatening the most vulnerable. The Fund can play a catalytic role in attracting financial resources to strengthen the country’s resilience to climate impacts.”

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