in DR Congo, Norway

Will Norway trigger a “carbon bomb” by supporting industrial logging in the Democratic Republic of Congo?

Rainforest Foundation UK has today written to Norway’s Prime Minister, Erna Solberg, asking her to prevent Norwegian funding for an industrial logging project in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The proposed project would hand over 20 million hectares of forest to timber companies.

Funding for the project would come from Central Africa Forest Initiative (CAFI), which has so far received US$190 million from Norway and US$3 million from France.

The logging proposal comes from the French Development Agency (AFD) and is part of a “Sustainable Forest Management Programme” for DRC. Under the programme, the area of logging concessions could triple, covering at total area of 30 million hectares. That’s one-quarter of DRC’s forests.

The programme would involve the lifting of a moratorium on new logging concessions in DRC that’s been in place for the past 15 years.

A carbon bomb

Rainforest Foundation UK has also produced a briefing about the impacts of logging DRC’s forests: “Logging in Congo’s rainforests: A ‘carbon bomb’ about to be primed by the Government of Norway?

Rainforest Foundation UK calculates the likely greenhouse gas emissions as a result of the logging:

Commercial logging in rainforests causes the immediate emission of carbon dioxide due to destruction of above-ground biomass, including collateral damage to vegetation, logging wastes, and complete clearance of forest for logging roads and trails and log collecting yards. This loss has been estimated to be approximately 30 tonnes of CO2/hectare. On this basis, an additional 20 million hectares of logging concessions would directly cause the release of around 600 million tonnes of CO 2 over the lifetime of the logging concessions. This is equivalent to around 12 years of Norway’s own annual national greenhouse gas emissions.

That’s bad enough. But it gets worse.

The world’s largest tropical peatland

In January 2017, a team of scientists from the UK and the Republic of Congo published a paper in Nature about the world’s largest tropical peatland, the Cuvette Centrale in the Congo Basin. The scientists write that,

The swamps of the Cuvette Centrale are refuges for remaining megafauna populations, including lowland gorillas and forest elephants. Our findings suggest that they are also the world’s most extensive tropical peatland complex and among the most carbon-dense ecosystems on Earth, storing on average 2,186 MgC/ha.

Of the area of forest likely to be handed over to logging companies, about 1.3 million hectares is growing on peat swamp.

Rainforest Foundation UK writes:

Analysis carried out by the Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK) indicates that, as well as releasing ~0.6 billion tonnes (Gt) of carbon dioxide from the direct impact of logging activities, the likely new logging areas would substantially overlap areas of high carbon peatlands, placing an additional 2.8 Gt of carbon – or roughly 10.4 Gt of carbon dioxide – at increased risk of release to the atmosphere if these critical ecosystems are degraded and destroyed. This is equivalent to nearly 200 years of Norway’s current national annual greenhouse gas emissions

An alternatve: Stop illegal logging

In its briefing Rainforest Foundation UK suggests an alternative approach. Under DRC law, forest concessions must have a management plan approved within five years of the issuing of the concessions. Rainforest Foundation UK found that at least 29 of the existing 57 concessions, covering five million hectares, have no valid management plan.

Rather than expanding the area of logging, Norway should work with the government of DRC to close down these illegal logging concessions.

Prime Minister Erna Solberg
The Office of the Prime Minister of Norway
P.O. Box 8001 dep.
(NO-)0030 Oslo

Wednesday, 21 st June 2017

Dear Prime Minister Solberg,


We are writing to bring to your attention, and to ask for your immediate intervention, to prevent what we believe would be a gravely misguided initiative which is being considered for support by your government through its Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI).

Attached is a briefing explaining the issues. However, to summarise, your government is considering providing financial support for a project that will serve to greatly expand large-scale logging in the rainforests of the Democratic Republic of Congo. This will, we believe, place at risk not only globally important ecosystems and the people that live there, but also vast amounts of carbon stored in the soils below the forest. We have estimated the possible carbon stores at risk as being roughly equivalent to 200 years’ worth of Norway’s own annual carbon emissions. Twenty million hectares of rainforest could be affected, damaged and eventually destroyed as a result of the proposed project.

We are asking you personally to intervene as, regrettably, your Minister for Climate and Environment, Vidar Helgesen, has already made it clear that he is in favour of providing Norwegian support to the logging of Congo’s rainforests.

We ask you to state clearly that the government of Norway will not support any project which serves to increase logging in the Congo, and specifically will not fund the abovementioned project in any way, shape or form. We ask that you instruct the minister and his officials to instead develop programmes to support the Congolese government to dismantle the five million hectares of large-scale logging concessions which are currently operating illegally and causing serious damage to the forest.

We thank you for giving your attention to this matter.


Simon Counsell, Executive Director


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