3 Nov 2016

West Papua resources fray discussed alongside climate

10:11 am on 3 November 2016

A conference getting underway in Sydney today looks to address two major areas of concern to people in the Pacific region in the same sitting.

'At the Intersection: Pacific Climate Change and Resource Exploitation in West Papua' runs for two days, hosted by Western Sydney University and the University of Sydney's West Papua Project.

Deforestation is rife across New Guinea.

Deforestation is rife across New Guinea. Photo: RNZI / Johnny Blades

The keynote speaker is Vanuatu's Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Ralph Regenvanu. Others attending include climate change scientists and West Papuan analysts.

The conference has been organised by Dr Cammi Webb-Gannon from Western Sydney University who said climate change and pernicious resource extraction in West Papua had a deep connection.

She said there was a need to find common strands of the two problems, and how it might it be useful to address them together.

"The Indonesian colonisation of West Papua is what has led to this gross resource exploitation, and the flow-on effects of human rights violations and environmental destruction in West Papua. So the two are very related," she explained.

"They've never been discussed in tandem, but that's the point of this conference, to do so."

Dr Webb-Gannon said there were various critical issues that required attention.

She noted how the impacts of climate change throughout the Pacific Islands region highlight the importance of preserving West Papua's rainforests from rampant logging and forest clearance.

"We want to question in this conference whether if we can halt or even stop some of the resource exploitation - whether that's mining at Freeeport, gas mining along the coast of West Papua or even looking at reducing the land clearing in Merauke - then maybe this can help slow down Pacific climate change which is also quite alarming."

The conference will utilise Open Space Technology to elicit creative strategies and policy advice from expert participants.

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