Paul Pavol in his village Mu in the Pomio District PNG
Paul Pavol, an activist fighting logging and palm oil development on his land in Papua New Guinea. His story featured in our 2017 report Stained Trade. Copyright: Fábio Erdos/Panos

Papua New Guinea

The Pacific island of New Guinea is home to the world’s third largest rainforest. Approximately half of it is in Papua New Guinea (PNG) where forests have traditional sustained indigenous communities. But land has been annexed by timber and palm oil companies, backed by global finance, with grave results for local people and the climate.

While lesser known than the Amazon or the Congo Basin, the vast rainforests in PNG play a crucial role in storing carbon and regulating the world’s climate.  They also directly support the livelihoods of the country’s rural population.

Although almost all land in PNG is legally controlled by indigenous groups, agricultural projects including palm oil have co-opted millions of hectares of land and forests, with grave results for community lives and livelihoods.  We have for many years investigated what is one of the largest land grabs in modern history as well as the rampant trade in illegal logging

As our investigations including 2018’s A Major Liability have shown, timber sourced from Papua New Guinea is mostly destined for China. This is the world’s largest bilateral trade in tropical logs, worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Through our advocacy work, we have been calling for regulation in China to keep illegal timber from entering its borders. 

Papua New Guinea is a key focus of our work to protect climate critical forests by campaigning for those who are financing forest destruction to think again and take responsibility. In our 2019 report Money to Burn, for instance, we revealed the financial actors who had funded a company operating palm oil plantations whose creation has destroyed more than 20,000 hectares of forest in PNG.  Our 2020 report, Bending the Truth illustrated how a complex web of companies enabled by global financial institutions - and a lack of regulation in regional powers such as China - destroyed forests in a PNG biodiversity hotspot.

Only with action from governments, business and investors supporting Papua New Guinea’s communities can its forests be protected for the people and biodiversity that depend on them, and our global climate.

Bending the Truth

Purported rubber plantation on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island is a highly likely front for illegal logging
Maxland (PNG) Limited 'rubber plantation', Manus Island, PNG

A Major Liability

As China continues to import huge volumes of timber from Papua New Guinea, its continued failure to regulate against illegally produced wood is putting its own reputation at risk.