- During a recent visit to Papua New Guinea, French President Emmanuel Macron spent time with both fossil fuel executives and conservationists.
- Macron attended a presentation on the Managalas Conservation Area, which is supported by France as well as other European countries, and praised Indigenous peoples’ protection of the forest.
- During Macron’s visit, French firm TotalEnergies voted to undertake construction of a $10 billion liquefied natural gas project that will release an estimated 220 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.
“There is no Planet B,” French President Emmanuel Macron declared to an audience of officials and Indigenous landowners at a conservation event in Papua New Guinea on July 28.
Macron’s appearance at the event came immediately after his attendance at a dinner with politicians and fossil fuel executives.
The president was visiting Papua New Guinea to sign bilateral agreements to enhance cultural and economic ties with the Pacific country. On the same day as his speech to conservationists, the French oil and gas company TotalEnergies voted to undertake construction of a liquefied natural gas project it’s developing in the country.
TotalEnergies is the operator and majority owner of the project, a joint venture with ExxonMobil, Australia-based Santos, and PNG’s state-owned Kumul Petroleum Holdings Limited (KPHL). According to its proponents, the project aims to supply Asian countries with LNG as they transition away from coal, leading to Macron branding gas as a “transition fuel.”
Macron’s itinerary also included a presentation on the Managalas Conservation Area, a project initially created by Indigenous leaders decades ago, and which has received funding from France and the EU.
When asked how much of TotalEnergies’ profits from the $10 billion LNG project will be reinvested in the sustainable development and conservation of Papua New Guinea, Macron said: “I am not the CEO of TotalEnergies. What I can tell you is that this is the beginning of this project.”
The project will run for 20 years and release an estimated 220 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, raising the total emissions of Papua New Guinea’s industrial sector by 7%. Peter Bosip, executive director of the Centre for Environmental Law & Community Rights (CELCOR), called the project a “carbon bomb” and criticized the French president for validating projects that threaten the Paris Agreement.
“Macron should not be promoting the lies of ‘carbon neutral’ programs by fossil fuel companies,” he said.
Multiple sources suggested that TotalEnergies expects to “offset” some of the emissions from the project with carbon credits from the Managalas Plateau, but the price and amount available have yet to be confirmed. Neither these sources nor their press office would confirm for the record. TotalEnergies offers customers “carbon offset certificates” as part of a sustainability plan the company says will allow it to reach carbon neutrality by 2050, even as it ramps up its production of fossil fuels.
In a press conference during Macron’s visit, Prime Minister James Marape told journalists he considers Papua New Guinea to be carbon negative, and that the nation’s forests will offset the emissions from projects by the private sector.
“Managalas forest has been standing since time immemorial. It will continue to stand, but climate change is not going to be addressed,” Bosip said. “It’s best to keep fossil fuels in the ground rather than saying the carbon credit project in Managalas will actually help.”
‘Brother to brother’
Macron’s messaging throughout his tour around the Indo-Pacific was “anti-neoimperialism,” warning against “old hegemonies” and offering “a third way” for countries caught between two world superpowers. Yet when the governor of Oro province, Gary Juffa, who has spearheaded the expansion of the Managalas conservation project, delivered a speech describing crippling international debt as hindering developing nations from acting on climate change, the French president didn’t respond to those comments.
Juffa told Mongabay that world leaders must view debt as “shackles” holding developing nations back in the fight against the climate crisis. “They should be canceling our debt. They’re the ones that have polluted the world,” he said.
Speaking directly after the governor, Macron said France wants to collaborate with developing nations to build a better world as equals, “brother to brother.” He lauded the Indigenous community’s protection of their forests, saying the forests are France’s priority, too, because the world can’t survive without them. He also said sustainable development should not mean these communities are prevented from reaping the economic benefits from their own resources.
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