Carbon Fraud & Criminal Networks in REDD+ projects in Papua New Guinea

Mr Babida David Sepmat Gavara-Nanu1
1Flinders University, Sturt,, Australia

The United Nations backed scheme, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation & forest Degradation (“REDD+”) is at risk of being infiltrated by organised criminal syndicates (Global Witness, 2011).  As with all carbon trading platforms, lack of regulation and complex implementing mechanisms means that illicit networks and corrupt individuals, can breach loopholes in the schemes and misappropriate the enormous funds funnelled into those schemes.  Financing for carbon markets in developing countries is complex and therefore, open to abuse.  It has been suggested that to address this potential abuse, governments must have the will to seriously address climate change and be transparent in all aspects of utilising project funds (Michaelowa 2012).  However, most REDD+ implementing countries have governments with poor governance records, plagued with rampant corruption.  These factors make these countries conducive for organised crime groups to flourish and possibly venture into REDD+ schemes.  Determining the possibility of REDD+ schemes being abused by organised criminal groups, formed the basis for a doctoral research project which commenced in 2015 and focuses on Papua New Guinea (“PNG”).  The data collected so far, through interviews with police, local landowners and regulatory officers, indicates that the risk is unlikely to come from organised criminal networks from within or outside PNG.  Rather, the biggest risk of carbon fraud is likely to come from those bodies entrusted with administering REDD+ financing and from government interference.   The presentation will canvas results of semi-structured interviews with key informants and explore methods that might assist in preventing carbon fraud in REDD+ in PNG.


The Presenter is a doctoral student at the Law School of Flinders University, South Australia.  His supervisors are Professor Willem de Lint and Dr. Russell Brewer.  He is on an Australia Awards scholarship that commenced in 2015 and will be completing his thesis by mid-2019.  He is from Papua New Guinea, admitted to the Bar in that jurisdiction with over 18 years’ practice.  His research interests concern transnational crime, organised criminal networks and regional security.  His other interests revolve around the Sydney Swans and the Parramatta Eels.



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