DEVELOPING a national policy for sustainable palm oil production and establishing a multi-stakeholder palm oil platform are key recommendations of a report recently released by Papua New Guinea’s Climate Change Development Authority (CCDA).

Commissioned by the CCDA together with the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) Readiness project, the report considered ways to strengthen production of key agricultural commodities while also ensuring preservation of PNG’s valuable forests.

The study, Sustainable Agricultural Commodities Assessment in Papua New Guinea, was presented at a workshop to seek input from all relevant stakeholders from the private sector, government agencies, development partners and civil society.

The report said any policy or multi-stakeholder platform established to guide sustainable palm oil expansion must help strengthen coordination in the sector and help to both develop and oversee policy implementation.

It comes at a time when PNG is planning to increase production of agricultural products like coffee, cacao and palm oil in coming years.

Discussions highlighted the global trend towards increased demand for agricultural commodities produced in a more environmentally sustainable way.

In an announcement, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) said that if PNG wanted to take advantage of these international market changes it was important that environmental sustainability be included in the country’s future plans to scale up commercial agriculture.

A part of that was the development of the REDD+ scheme, the UNDP said, a system designed to discourage groups from felling trees locally by allowing them to sell the net carbon emissions reduction that the trees produce to third parties.

In other words, companies pay for the carbon abatement created by groups abandoning planned forestry projects.

Work will continue on developing a national REDD+ strategy throughout 2016 as part of CCDA’s efforts to integrate climate change mitigation and adaptation actions with national development priorities.

Stakeholders in Kimbe, West New Britain, received additional training for the scheme in April – with 37 participants from government, civil society groups and the private sector attending the workshop.

Together with the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility REDD+ readiness project and United Nations Development Program, the event trained stakeholders to enhance their understanding of the REDD+ program and to learn about the potential role of REDD+ in promoting sustainable development.

Led by members of the REDD+ support team from the UN-REDD/UNDP regional hub in Bangkok Joel Scriven and Timothy Boyle, the training covered issues including the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation, the key steps for designing REDD+ policies and measures as well as important planning considerations for the implementation of REDD+.

Participants visited Stettin Bay Lumber Company logging sites and New Britain Palm Oil plantations and biogas plant, which the UNDP said gave participants an opportunity to see first-hand the practices that act as drivers of deforestation but that can also contribute to sustainable conservation and management of forests in Papua New Guinea.

Since PNG intends to have a draft national REDD+ strategy by the end of 2016, the next REDD+ Expert Training event in August 2016 will encourage full participation of relevant stakeholders in formulation of this strategy.