Valuation of Natural Resources in Papua New Guinea

Sarwat Chowdhury, Country Economist, Papua New Guinea

August 30, 2022
PNG Aerial View

Papua New Guinea's economy is highly dependent on nature, and its forestry, mining, agriculture, tourism, and fisheries sectors would benefit directly from sustainable natural resources management..

Photo by Asso Myron on Unsplash

Between 1997 and 2011, the planet lost an estimated USD 4-20 trillion per year in ecosystem services due to land-cover change, as well as USD 6-11 trillion per year from land degradation. Protecting Papua New Guinea's rich natural resources can be a helpful step in halting such degradation. The country is blessed with over 7% of the planet’s total biodiversity, concentrated in less than 1% of the world's land. Hence, accounting for biodiversity and ecosystem services for economic and environmental sustainability represents a critical priority in this country. However, managing Papua New Guinea's immense biodiversity and wealth of natural resources in a sustainable manner and with good governance is challenging, given the remoteness of the communities disseminated across this biodiverse country.

The benefits of biodiversity and ecosystem services in Papua New Guinea are significant but systematically undervalued. Enhancing the use of data in decision-making processes can help address this gap and contribute to public decision-making oriented towards achieving long-term and inclusive economic prosperity.

At UNDP's country office last year, we rebranded the economics team as the Inclusive Green Economy and Policy team. We aim to be a synergizing arm, linking our prosperity work to the people and planet parts of the country office. 

By utilizing digital technology, the Natural Resource Management (NRM) Hub in Papua New Guinea aims to host a range of support tools designed to help policymakers, civil society organizations, and other stakeholders make informed decisions on NRM and sustainable livelihood options. The resulting toolkit, the PNG NRM Hub, was launched recently to provide easy access to best practices and information on NRM. Over 60 stakeholders were consulted to enable the data collection, validation, and development of the tools used in the NRM Hub. The resulting NRM Hub comprises technical infrastructure (cloud-based IT infrastructure and open access user-friendly knowledge repository) and soft services, such as the tailored inclusion of national, local, and global databases, as well as capacity building with the focal points in the government and with CSOs.

Specifically, the following activities/components have been implemented so far in the frame of the NRM Hub:

i) Biodiversity and Climate Geoportal training at a Protected Areas Forum 2022: the training covered a portal built using GeoNode – an open-source, web-based platform for developing geospatial information systems. Also, a GeoTracker will allow the country's academics, policymakers, CSOs, and communities to access, share, and analyze the region's NRM data to inform policy decisions.

ii) Lukim Gather Beta phase 2 released on Google Play, May 2022: a mobile application that collects environment and social data from protected area communities. Its design enables local people to record and report conservation and NRM data.

iii) Bougainville Natural Resource Portal tested in 2021-2022: a one-stop portal where policymakers and technical teams can access environmental maps/datasets to agree on informed policies and investments for managing the abundant natural resources of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.  

The Inclusive Green Economy & Policy team is looking to support the government of the Autonomous Region to develop a forward-looking economic valuation of Bougainville's rich biodiversity and natural resources, including the value of preserving the pristine ecosystem. The tools and ensuing data from the NRM Hub will be helpful in our green economic valuation of the region.

As we face a triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution, accessing data to make informed planning decisions, especially on natural resources, is critical. Papua New Guinea's economy is highly dependent on nature, and its forestry, mining, agriculture, tourism, and fisheries sectors would benefit directly from a sustainable NRM. Projects such as the NRM Hub have the potential to help value the contribution of biodiversity to the country's economy and livelihoods-a win for both the planet and its people.