For a fourth time, the Papua LNG Independent Advisory Panel (IAP) re-convened on June 19, 2023 in Port Moresby, for a 4-day long session, that started with a field trip on June 19 and June 20, 2023, followed by a 2-day long plenary session concluded with a cocktail reception on June 22, 2023.
On June 19, Dr. Nicolas Garnier and Dr. Vojtech Novotny were the two panel members who ventured on the field trip to the Herd logistic Base and to the villages near the PRL-15 area and where TotalEnergies EP PNG (TEP PNG), is operating the Papua LNG project.
Carole Le Gall, the TotalEnergies Senior Vice-President “Sustainability and Climate” took also part of the field trip, together with other TotalEnergies’ staff assigned in Paris, Singapore and Port Moresby.
A glimpse in pictures
Based on the discussions held during the IAP meeting held on 21-22 June, the following key recommendations were formulated and presented after the session:
Recommendations Panel #4
BIODIVERSITY / CONSERVATION / ENVIRONMENT
4-B.1 – Herd Base survey and salvage as a test of scalability for pipeline construction
👉🏾 The Salvage Survey of the vegetation at the Herd Base is progressing well, with critical habitats and plant species mapped.
Plans for salvage of focal plants at a local nursery are appropriate but need to be tested.
Small-scale salvage at Herd Base should be viewed as a test run for the more extensive surveys and salvage that will be required for the construction phase of the pipeline, particularly with respect to scalability to larger spatial scales and greater vegetation species diversity. Attention should be focused on the following:
– Vegetation survey methods and identification of endangered and new species so that critical species
are not overlooked in larger areas of diverse vegetation that need to be surveyed. Specific
protocols should be established on how to survey vegetation and how to compile lists of focal species.
– The protocols for dealing with unidentified species, especially for recognizing and describing potentially new species, including guidelines for securing their DNA evidence and botanical vouchers.
– The survival rates of plants and germination rates of seeds of various species in salvage nurseries, which provide guidance on minimum sample sizes for future salvage.
4-B.2 – Paraecologists as part of the solution for the Papua LNG biodiversity monitoring, salvage, and conservation offsets
👉🏾 The workers from local communities are currently being hired to conduct biodiversity surveys and
provide field support. This employment could form the basis of a more ambitious programme in which
appropriate personnel are selected and trained for more skilled biodiversity surveys, taking advantage of
local people’s familiarity with the rainforest environment.
Their participation in surveys and salvage operations in collaboration with qualified biologists provides an excellent training opportunity. Locally trained personnel could also take on long-term biodiversity monitoring tasks that extend into the production phase.
In particular young staff who are able to work in the field should work with their elders who are
knowledgeable about local biodiversity. This is not only practical for biodiversity monitoring, but also allows for ethnobiological and cultural mapping of local communities.
The approach of recruiting and training indigenous technicians for biological research and monitoring has already been developed in PNG and elsewhere in the tropics. It is known as training paraecologists and parataxonomists for biodiversity research and monitoring and it is ideally suited to the Papua LNG
Paraecologist programmes could be supported in PNG institutions including NGOs and research institutes as a part of capacity building.
4-B.3 – Sustainable funding for conservation offsets
👉🏾 The positive impacts of Papua LNG on biodiversity depend critically on offsets, much of which will be based on rainforest conservation.
A mechanism that pays for the management of such protected areas by indigenous landowners and compensates them for the opportunity costs of conservation (i.e., lost income from alternative uses of the forests that are no longer available, such as logging) is a prerequisite for the sustainable conservation of designated offsets.
This income for conservation must come from Papua LNG. Some locally driven conservation derives an
income from projects in agriculture, tourism, handicrafts, etc., implemented by non-governmental
organisations (NGOs) for the benefit of conservation.
Although these projects may be welcomed by Papua LNG project communities, they cannot substitute for
direct funding of offsets by Papua LNG if these offsets are to be considered sustainable conservation and included in the loss/gain biodiversity balance of Papua LNG.
Developing funding mechanisms for conservation offsets is a long-term goal. However, as this is a difficult task, it needs to be addressed early in the Project as it requires innovative solutions (as opposed to standard approaches to biodiversity surveys, for example, which have been extensively developed and tested in the past ).
Long-term conservation agreements or concessions with local landowners are needed to develop a
strategy and plan for these sustainable funding agreements.
Conservation offsets comprising lowland forest ecosystems similar and adjacent to the Project area
would increase in their conservation value by linking with the neighboring Crater Mt. Wildlife Management Area that includes higher elevation forests. Support for the Crater Mt. WMA should be therefore a part of the conservation offset programme.
There is also a sound social foundation for this connection since the lands of Pawaiian people extend
from the high mountain areas in the Crater Mts. to the lowlands that are a part of the Papua LNG. In
particular, the Pawaiian Sustainable Development Association unifies 17 villages interested in
conservation, sustainable livelihoods and agriculture, within the areas from Haia to Wabo Villages,
representing thus a potentially suitable partner.
4-B.4 – Inspiring national policy for conservation offsets
👉🏾 The proposed Papua LNG’s offset policy is aligned with TotalEnergies’ net biodiversity gain commitment and the International Finance Corporation’s performance standards.
At the same time, efforts have been made to simplify some of the requirements and approaches for
application to the PNG context. Success for moving forward with that policy will depend on support from
the private sector, and Total Energies, given its commitments, may be in a very good place to help
support the process.
It would be useful to work with the PNG government, particularly CEPA and the PNG Office of Climate
Change, to apply these approaches, which are more ambitious than current PNG practice, to national
policy applicable to other commercial projects. At the moment UNDP is spearheading the development of
the policy, working closely with CEPA.
Advocating for a no net loss/net gain policy would help create a level playing field for investors and how
they deal with their biodiversity and social impacts, but also hopefully reduce the risk that areas
designated as offsets are impacted by future development decisions.
The experience of Total Energies can be very useful in teaching and explaining how no net loss/net gain
programs can be applied and contribute to long-term conservation outcomes.
4-B.5 – Extending the concept of conservation offsets to Papua LNG activities and natural gas production
👉🏾 The location of the Papua LNG project is exceptionally well-suited for significant biodiversity
offsets, and potentially carbon offsets, through rainforest protection.
This situation results from a combination of the following factors:  large areas of primary lowland
forest in the vicinity of Papua LNG,  low population density in these forest areas,  indigenous
communities that are generally open to conservation, and  the past history of logging and demonstrated accessibility of rainforest in this area to future commercial developments implies that effective rainforest conservation can be classified as avoided logging, and  proximity to the Crater Mt. Wildlife Management Area, which protects adjacent upland forests, increasing the value of any lowland
protection achieved through offsets.
These opportunities not only provide Papua LNG with a plausible plan to achieve a net gain in biodiversity for the Project, but they also open additional opportunities for offsets beyond compensating for forest loss caused by the Project. These offsets could relate to the carbon footprint of some of the Papua LNG activities and/or to some natural gas production (generating carbon-free natural gas for
4-S.1 – Schools and Adult Literacy Training
👉🏾 To issue a publication for the Schools and Adult Literacy Training that covers: TotalEnergies (its history, its activities…), the gas extraction (uses, techniques, impact…) and the social & environmental context in PNG, especially on the Purari river. Documents to complement the communication materials from the EIS Roadshows (with photos on all the topics).
4-S.2 – Development societal program implemented by NGOs
👉🏾 To put on hold actions w/ societal NGOs until a proper assessment is done and a clearer strategy is drafted. The only ones that need to be kept (and restored) are the ones developing the adult literacy.
4-S.3 – Development in Wabo
– To resume the Adult Literacy Training program.
– To finalize the arrival of a double classroom and fix the miscellaneous in the Aid post.
– To increase the presence of Police with the reinforcement of the Police mandate at the “White House” in the first stage.
Immediate actions are recommended by the panelists
4-S.4 – Public services in Poroi-2:
👉🏾 To assess the implication of the Chimbu administration (e.g., education).
4-S.5 – Panelists’ stay in the village:
👉🏾 The “pilot” project in Wabo (with Dr. Nicolas Garnier’s stay from June 06 to June 12) is a success.
The panelists recommend:
- to extend the experiment to other villages; Dr. Vojtech Novotny commits to stay in Poroi-2 (Q1
- to have a panelist staying in the Kavava village (in the Orokolo area, South of the PER).
1 Schmiedel, U., Araya, Y., Bortoloto, I. M., Boeckenhoff, L., Hallwachs, W., Janzen, D., Kolipaka, S. S., Novotny, V., Palm, M., Parfondry, & M., Smanis, A. & Toko, P. 2016. The role of paraecologists and parataxonomists in leading citizen science into the biodiversity-rich world. Conservation Biology 30, 506-519
2 Novotny, V. (2010) Rainforest conservation in a tribal world: why forest dwellers prefer loggers to conservationists. Biotropica, 42, 546-549. DOI 10.1111/j.1744-7429.2010.00658.x