Newsletter September 2021

Investing in Climate Adaptation

Sailing east, the mission moored at a total of nine island and atoll communities. Bougainville Island. Photo: Theresa Dearden l UNDP Papua New Guinea

Water is Life

We continue our sea journey across Papua New Guinea to assess the impacts of climate change on remote islands and atolls in the Western Pacific region.

The Building Resilience to Climate Change team, led by the United Nations Development Programme, set sail for the islands of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, and the Province of Milne Bay, to meet the communities who call these islands home.

“The team departed by boat from Rabaul, East New Britain – in the north of Papua New Guinea. Sailing east, the mission moored at a total of nine islands and atolls,” explains BRCC Team Leader, John Poulsen, a sustainability and climate change expert.

Joined by crew from the Climate Change and Development Authority, and Provincial Government officials, this mission would map the daily struggles, especially the freshwater woes and food insecurity, on these small islands.

The islanders are hopeful their voices will soon be heard by world leaders at COP 26.

“The islanders are hopeful their voices will soon be heard by world leaders, and decision makers, on how the climate crisis is affecting their lives and futures,” Poulsen says.

In the words of Antonio Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations: “It is a wake-up call to instill a sense of urgency on the dire state of the climate process ahead of COP26”.

Listen to our podcast “Climate Islands” – Episode 2: Water is Life, to learn more about this journey, and the lives and futures of the islanders.

#UNGA76 Secretary-General's Opening remarks to High-level Dialogue on Energy

It has been 40 years since we last discussed energy at the highest level.

Today, we face a moment of truth.

Close to 760 million people still lack access to electricity.

Some 2.6 billion people lack access to clean cooking solutions.

And how we produce and use energy is the main cause of the climate crisis.

Emissions from energy account for about 75 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions.

So, we have a double imperative – to end energy poverty and to limit climate change.

And we have an answer that will fulfil both imperatives.

Affordable, renewable and sustainable energy for all.

This is the objective of Sustainable Development Goal 7.

Investing in clean, affordable energy for all will improve the well-being of billions of people.

It can create the green jobs that we urgently need for COVID-19 recovery.

It will advance all the Sustainable Development Goals.

And it is the single most important solution to avert climate catastrophe.

Excellencies, dear Friends,

I see four priorities for a sustainable energy future.

Now is the time to take #ClimateAction: On the Road to Glasgow for COP26

“It is time the big carbon emitters of planet earth own up" - PM James Marape. Photo: UN Papua New Guinea

A founding voice of the Coalition of Rainforest Nations, Papua New Guinea has a critical role in global climate negotiations at COP26 - the 26th Convention of Parties to be held in Glasgow, in November 2021.

Home to the world’s third largest rainforests - Papua New Guinea, like other countries in the Coalition, faces a complex dilemma of sustainable development. How to reduce GHG emissions, as part of meeting its Paris Agreement commitments, and stay on a path out of poverty by 2050?

In his address to the United Nations General Assembly, in New York City this month, Prime Minister James Marape explained Papua New Guinea was one of the first countries “to submit our [enhanced] Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) in 2020, outlining our goal to be carbon neutral by 2050." He in particular thanked UNDP for its support of Papua New Guinea's efforts to enhance its NDCs and progress both climate adaptation and mitigation initiatives.

Mr Marape said the Blue Pacific is home to rich marine and terrestrial biodiversity, and where the most vulnerable small island states are exposed to the global threat of climate change.

“It is time the big carbon emitters of planet earth own up and apologise to the small islands states and all other victims of climate change,” said Mr Marape.

In developing nations, access to affordable, clean energy is a precondition to boost economic development and to enhance social livelihood standards. An estimated 85% of Papua New Guineans do not have access to electricity, so it presents a massive challenge for the country. This masks a huge difference between urban and rural areas: access to electricity in urban areas is 63.3%, versus 7.6% in rural areas.

Since most Papua New Guineans live in remote areas, far away from any main grids, energy and power supplies will need to be stand-alone systems. The Government of Papua New Guinea is very committed to strive to meet the Paris Agreement targets, particularly in developing renewable energy supplies. However, transitioning into renewable energy sources pose many challenges due to the remote and wild terrains - and lack of basic infrastructure, including roads or rail transport.

Renewable energy poses many challenges due to remote and wild terrains. Photo: UNDP Papua New Guinea

The United Nations Development Programme is working with the Government of Papua New Guinea to enhance the opportunities to develop renewable energy and power supplies, including in remote areas. This work includes a policy gap analysis and data compilation, guidance on policy, regulations, and implementation through multi-stakeholder consultations.

“Hydro power technology is a real solution for Papua New Guinea meeting its energy needs and to encourage economic development in rural areas. However, for this to happen, proper development policies and associated regulations are required,” said UNDP Resident Representative, and United Nations Resident Coordinator a.i. Mr Dirk Wagener.

“There is an enormous potential for developing affordable, renewable energy to provide electricity in remote areas – enhancing the livelihoods and wellbeing of people in rural Papua New Guinea, depends on it”.

"Enormous potential for renewable energy, enhancing livelihoods in rural Papua New Guinea depends on it” - Dirk Wagener. Photo UNDP Papua New Guinea

Significant investments from the global community are needed to enhance use, and adoption of, renewable energy sources. Papua New Guinea, and other nations, will need to show real commitment to these changes toward more sustainable energy supplies.

Volunteerism: Be responsible to make a change

Martha Wame (L) talks volunteerism with UNDP's Julie Bukikun in Alotau, Milne Bay Province.

My name is Martha Wame, of Milne Bay and Western Province heritage, and Alotau is my home. I feel volunteerism is so important because it makes you appreciate your community and be responsible to make a change.

It makes me happy when six-year-olds in a remote school, in the mountains of Daga, receive junior fiction books that my friends and I distribute. Or to see young women happily carrying a reusable hygiene kit - after distribution to an island in Cloudy Bay, in Central Province.

I have degrees in journalism, and communication, and worked in radio and for faith-based organizations. Previously I was a Verbal Autopsy Field Coordinator for the Bloomberg Data for Health Initiative.

Currently, my day job includes selling esipay (prepaid electricity) and phone vouchers online - as well as coordinating volunteers while manning a desk at the Family Support Centre, in Alotau. I entered voluntary work because I had time and wanted to learn something different while meeting people.

I have volunteered in multiple roles, including the Papua New Guinea- Australia Alumni Association, K20 Multiplication Challenge, Conflict Island Conservation Initiative, Youth With A Mission, and the World Literacy Foundation.

This month, I participated in an interesting workshop conducted by the United Nations Development Programme, in my home-town of Alotau. UNDP is assisting Milne Bay Province, and other provinces, to strengthen the response efforts on gender-based violence. I was intrigued to learn about the provincial, national, and global statistics on gender-based violence and its impact on survivors, families and communities.

I also saw the cost to business when gender-based violence is prevalent and there is a lack of action. It is clear, it is not only a social issue but has an economic impact. As a local entrepreneur, it was important to me to understand this connection as most times we see gender-based violence as a family issue - or social problem - without considering the impact on our livelihood.

What drives me to do what I do is the stories of people who did not get justice for crimes. Many people are afraid to report crimes against humanity - whether it be trafficking or physical assault. We don’t know that there are laws to protect ourselves, and others.

I know how it feels because I felt unsafe in my own home and neighborhood. But our fear should not stop us from healing and allowing others to heal. I am keen to support other volunteers, who work like me, so that we have a community of helpers - and a network to reach out, and discuss, how we can help our province.

Entrepreneurial stars shine at SME Awards!

UNDP Deputy Resident Representative, Edward Vrkic, with the ‘Best Social Enterprise Initiative’ award winners eDidiman, an ecommerce platform for Bougainville farmers. Photo: Seru Kepa l UNDP Papua New Guinea

The United Nations Development Programme and United Nations Capital Development Fund proudly recognised two of the country’s rising stars of business at Papua New Guinea’s 2021 Small- Medium Enterprise (SME) Awards, in Port Moresby.

The Ela Motors "SME of the Year Award" went home with the winner of UNCDF’s ‘Best Agriculture Cooperative Society’, BOU Resources Development of Milne Bay province. And UNDP ‘Best Social Enterprise Initiative’ was awarded to eDidiman, an ecommerce platform supporting Bougainville farmers to reach a national marketplace.

“UNDP was proud to sponsor the 'Best Social Enterprise Initiative' as it exemplifies the values and mission of UNDP in Papua New Guinea – as well as aligning to the Government’s Vision 2050, and national strategy for responsible sustainable development,” said UNDP Deputy Resident Representative, Mr Edward Vrkic, presenting the award to proud Bougainvillean and founder of eDidiman, Mr Jordan Becks.

An online Buy and Sell Marketplace that ‘Keeps Autonomous Region of Bougainville Farmers in Business in a COVID-19 era’ - eDidiman is based in Buka, on the island of Bougainville, and connects smallholder farmers to a national marketplace, using their mobile phones.

UNCDF Country Lead, Mr. Jagdeep Dahiya announcing the winner of Best Agriculture Cooperative Society said the award shines a spotlight on the essential role of cooperatives in rural development and agricultural value chains, especially for export crops like cocoa and coffee. Cooperatives are important mechanisms in fostering social and economic development in Papua New Guinea.

UNCDF award shines a light on agriculture cooperatives, and export crops like cocoa. Photo: Theresa Dearden l UNDP Papua New Guinea.

“This award is not only dedicated to all the farmers, or entrepreneurs, in the country but importantly to those that make it their business to strive and make a change in rural Papua New Guinea. And so, this is for all of us in rural Papua New Guinea,” said top winner, BOU Chairman Mr. Noah Taugaloidi.

The Annual SME Awards to recognize and celebrate outstanding SMEs of Papua New Guinea was established in 2020 by the PNG SME Magazine. Congratulating all runners up, UNDP’s Mr Vrkic commended their passion and contributions to "the rapid growth of Papua New Guinea’s unique business landscape, and the sustainable development of the Asia-Pacific region."

Disaster Management Act under review

"We need to ensure lessons learnt are incorporated into new arrangements for disaster management" - Colonel Carl Wrakonei. Photo: UNDP Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea's National Disaster Director, Colonel Carl Wrakonei has highlighted the importance of reviewing the Disaster Management Act of 1984, which is now 37 years old.

“We need to ensure that lessons learnt from some of the disasters such as the Highlands Earthquake 2018, Manam and Kadavor island volcanic eruptions - and even the current COVID-19 pandemic - are incorporated into the new legislative arrangements for disaster management in the country.

A workshop to review disaster management in the country can "allow provincial disaster coordinators to provide their views, based on their experiences, on how we can collectively work towards changing and renewing the Act,” said Colonel Wrakonei.

Colonel Wrakonei said Government and stakeholders must begin a consultative review process “to ensure its legislative frameworks respond to both present and future needs in the domain of disaster risks management.”

Participants are encouraged to share their views of the Act, note the challenges they currently face, make recommendations on what needs to be included in the Act and what needs to be amended so provincial disaster coordinators can respond to emergencies effectively and efficiently.

Issues highlighted by participants as being important topics of discussion during the workshop is the lack of dedicated funding, or mechanisms to easily access funding in emergencies, and the lack of clear coordination mechanisms under the current legal framework. The existing Act also does not address coordination of international assistance nor does it provide mechanisms for disaster victims who are exploited or become targets for criminal activities.

UNDP's Humanitarian Coordinator Specialist, Mr Richard Higgins, briefed participants on the current practices in place for coordinating international humanitarian assistance for disaster response. “The Disaster Management Team, which is co-chaired by the National Disaster Centre (NDC) Director and the UN Resident Coordinator, is our forum for strategically coordinating international assistance to support the Government when crises or emergencies happen. But, we are also constantly preparing for future disasters, so that we can step in to fill the gaps and support the Government.”

The workshop will cover the NDC Act review and discuss recommendations from the provinces on how to bring the Act into the 21st century. It is among many Acts the Government currently plans to update, and so the timing is right to ensure that whatever is proposed is harmonious with other laws and provides the national, provincial and local governments a suitable framework within which to prepare for, respond to, and mitigate the impact of future disasters.

The review process will continue to the New Guinea Island and Southern regions. The United Nations Development Programme is providing technical assistance for the review of the Act.

A Continental Shift

“I worked on natural resources management, biodiversity, climate change and disaster risk management for many years in Indonesia, India, Thailand, Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America” - John Poulsen

Mr. Poulsen and team play a major role at UNDP to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, to the benefit of vulnerable communities in the islands of Papua New Guinea. Photo: John Poulsen l UNDP Papua New Guinea

John Poulsen is the Team Leader and Chief Technical Advisor of the UNDP - Building Resilience to Climate Change project, in Papua New Guinea.

His work can be very remote, with weeks or months of travel to far-flung small islands in Morobe, Manus, East New Britain and Milne Bay provinces, as well as the Autonomous Region of Bougainville in the Western Pacific region.

Born in Denmark in a local and “thrifty” farming area in the agricultural heartland, John’s hometown is now a regional sports and business hub, and host to Northern Europe’s largest convention centre.

After high school Mr. Poulsen worked on a farm, before pursuing an undergraduate and Master’s degree in biology and applied ecology, focused on agroecological issues such as impacts of pesticides on biodiversity. He also examined landscape scale impacts of land use change during studies in Denmark and the United Kingdom.

On to the United States to attain his PhD at the University of Maine, John’s research explored the continental scale impacts of pesticides on biodiversity, impacts of scale and changes in land use and climate on agricultural ecosystems, in the Midwestern Great Plains.

John travelled and worked in a range of sectors around the world, including research and policy with intergovernmental organisations – the Center for International Forestry Research, International Union for Conservation of Nature, and United Nations agencies – as well as strategic sustainability for natural resources companies.

“During the post-tsunami period in Aceh, Indonesia, I served as the Environmental Recovery Coordinator with the Office of the UN Recovery Coordinator for Aceh and Nias, and with IUCN on the Mangroves for the Future Initiative.”

“I have lived abroad much of my life. This has been a privilege."

Meanwhile, in Papua New Guinea, Mr. Poulsen and his team play a major role in supporting UNDP’s work towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

“At the core, UNDP’s partnership with government agencies helps to steer the country towards a sustainable development trajectory to balance various pressures - from the need for economic development to benefit the vast majority of poor communities, while also adapting to the increasing climate change impacts and disaster risks,” said Mr. Poulsen.

The responsibility to lead a team comes with a demanding workload, but there is room for leisure. In his free time Mr. Poulsen enjoys playing tennis, swimming and being around nature as often as possible.

On a mission: Building Resilience to Climate Change, in 2021. Photo: UNDP Papua New Guinea

“My main humble drive or motivation is, ultimately, to contribute to more sustainable and integrated management of natural resources and enhancing the livelihoods of vulnerable communities”.


The Climate Crisis is Right Before Our Eyes

"Tens of thousands of people in Papua New Guinea - who live on islands and in coastal communities - are already feeling the adverse effects of climate change" - UN Resident Coordinator a.i. Mr Dirk Wagener

Join the islanders of Papua New Guinea, in their villages - for a snapshot of their lives in this Western Pacific paradise, before climate changed the future.

Watch highlights and soundtrack to UNDP documentary 'Where Do We Go Now?' ( Bai Yumi Go We Nau) to learn why we need #ClimateAction now.


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UNDP Papua New Guinea