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A Tribute to Sir Michael Somare – Founding Father of Papua New Guinea

Grand Chief Sir Michael’s passing – one year ago- remains a monumental loss to the world. The Coalition for Rainforest Nations salutes our national patriot, environmental visionary, champion of the rainforest and citizen of the World.

Papua New Guinea’s ‘founding father’ and four-time prime minister, Sir Michael was universally acclaimed as a global environmentalist through his commitment to the advancement of tropical rainforest conservation.

Grand Chief Sir Michael was internationally respected for his wisdom. A master communicator, Sir Michael advocated consensus and peaceful initiatives. Indeed, he is credited for peacefully laying the foundation for our transition to a major economic and cultural icon in the Pacific and East Asia.

“Sir Michael was a leader amongst leaders. He inspired other world leaders, including Princes, Presidents, Prime Ministers, billionaires. But his focus was always to advance those ‘back in the village.’ The Paris Agreement would not include the REDD+ Mechanism but for Grand Chief’s vision. Sir Michael was a wonderful friend, mentor and father figure.” Kevin Conrad, Executive Director, Coalition for Rainforest Nations.

In 2004, during a speech at Columbia University in New York, Sir Michael called upon the world to unify and halt worldwide tropical deforestation. The result was his founding of our organization, Coalition for Rainforest Nations, an international non-profit entity and a recognized United Nations Negotiating Group, based in New York.

Sir Michael shepherded through incredible environmental achievements for the next decade to help REDD+ become the global solution to ending rainforest deforestation That would never have happened without the Grand Chief’s ability to pick up the phone to call world leaders in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas.

Thanks to all his work, the Coalition for Rainforest Nations capitalized on the momentum within the UNFCCC and in 2015, REDD+ was enshrined as Article 5 in the Paris Climate Agreement.

“That only the forestry sector enjoys recognition as a unique article within the Paris Agreement is a lasting credit to the vision of Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare and his everlasting legacy of Sana.” Emilio Sempris, Former Minister of Environment for Panama.

The REDD+ Mechanism is designed to provide a financial value to forest-based communities for the carbon absorbed and stored in their tropical rainforests – offering incentives for all rainforest countries to halt deforestation and reverse the climate emergency.

Sir Michael was a committed environmentalist and recognized across the world as a pioneering leader of rainforest nations in their efforts to find sustainable solutions to stop deforestation. In fact, his prescient vision was reflected decades earlier in Article 4 of our Constitution.

PNG’s success reducing emissions over the past five years on a national level is a remarkable testament to Sir Michael’s vision. Now the Government must transparently deliver benefits to PNG’s communities who are willing to conserve their forest resources, be included in the global carbon budget, and help to reverse climate change under the Paris Agreement.

As a result of Sir Michael and PNG’s leadership, corporations and citizens around the world will be able to achieve their net-zero carbon goals by supporting our communities’ efforts to preserve their rainforests.

Let our reflections empower his legacy forward to reward rainforest nations for all the conservation efforts that they are doing for the planet. Sir Michael was very proud of the REDD+ Mechanism. We will humbly carry his legacy forward globally.

God bless!

Kevin Conrad
Executive Director, Coalition for Rainforest Nations


Sir Michael and HRH Prince Charles in London discussing the Prince’s Rainforest Project