By Chris Lang
The Democratic Republic of Congo recently announced the imminent lifting of a ban on new logging permits. The logging moratorium has been in place since 2002. Last week, more than 40 environmental and human rights NGOs wrote to EU governments asking them to intervene. DRC is negotiating a new letter of intent with the Central African Forest Initiative, that could reach US$1 billion by 2030.
The NGO letter (posted in full below) demands that any new agreement with DRC must be conditional on a binding commitment to extend the moratorium. The letter is addressed to the ministers of development, environment, and foreign affairs in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, South Korea, the UK, the European Commission, and all members of CAFI.
In August 2021, NGOs warned of “an impending climate and biodiversity catastrophe” if the moratorium is lifted:
In a statement, Joe Eisen, Executive Director of Rainforest Foundation UK, said,
“We are standing on the precipice of an historic failure to protect one of the world’s great rainforests – and possibly the last still serving as a carbon sink. Any expansion – rather than a scaling back of industrial logging – will inevitably result in an unstoppable ‘cascade of deforestation’, threatening millions of hectares of forest and the communities that depend on it.”
COP26 “will not produce the breakthrough needed”
In less than six weeks’ time, governments will travel to Glasgow for the UN climate meeting, COP26. The Guardian reported today that “key players in the talks have conceded” that COP26 “will not produce the breakthrough needed to fulfil the aspiration of the Paris agreement.”
Of course if we replace the words “fulfil the aspiration of the Paris agreement” with “address the climate crisis”, the same could be said of any of the UN climate meetings that have taken place every year (except last year) since 1995. The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has steadily increased.
For Irene Wabiwa, International Project Leader for the Congo Basin forest in Greenpeace Africa, CAFI’s donors supporting logging in DRC would be the last straw:
“Industrial logging puts Indigenous Peoples and local communities at risk of displacement and swathes of biodiversity under existential threat. If donor governments give unconditional support to logging, that will endanger the forest on an apocalyptic scale. It would remove the last shreds of credibility from COP26.”
Bazaïba: “The moratorium will be lifted”
DRC’s vice prime minister, Eve Bazaïba, told Sky News that the government had “no lessons to learn about our resources from an NGO.” She called the letter “beyond daring for the 21st century”. Bazaïba told Sky News that,
“We will use our resources as we see fit. . . We hope to leave development aid behind and instead aim for win-win partnerships, so our people can benefit from the riches of their nation. The moratorium will be lifted.”
Here’s the NGO letter:
To: The European Commission and the Ministers of the Development, Environment and Foreign Affairs of the Governments of France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, South Korea and the UK
– French Minister of the Ecological Transition, Barbara Pompili
– French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian
– German Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, Svenja
– German Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, Gerd Müller
– German Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs, Heiko Maas
– Netherlands Minister of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy, Stef Blok
– Netherlands Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sigrid Kaag
– Netherlands Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Tom de Bruijn
– Norwegian Minister of Climate and Environment Sveinung Rotevatn
– Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Søreide
– Norwegian Minister of International Development Dag-Inge Ulstein
– South Korean Minister of Environment, Han Jeoung-ae
– South Korean Deputy Minister of Environment (Climate Change Policy Bureau) Ms Siyum Lee
– South Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chung Eui-yong
– UK Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Rt Hon George Eustice MP
– UK First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and
Development Affairs, Rt Hon Liz Truss MP
– UK Secretary of State for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Kwasi Kwarteng
– European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius
– European Commissioner for International Partnerships, Jutta Urpilainen
– European Vice-President for a Stronger Europe in the World, Josep Borrell Fontelles
– Head of the Secretariat of Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI), Berta Pesti
23 September 2021
Re: Imminent threat to the Congo Basin rainforest from the lifting of the DRC moratorium on new logging concessions
We are writing to express our alarm at the imminent lifting of the moratorium on the allocation of new logging concessions in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), following the adoption by the Council of Ministers of a plan proposed by Vice-Prime Minister and Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development Eve Bazaiba.
We call on you, international partners of the DRC government through the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI) and other aid programmes, to act swiftly to stop this grave threat to the world’s second-largest rainforest and its people.
We take this step after several leading international environmental and human rights groups wrote to your in-country representatives on August 26, outlining how opening up some of the world’s last remaining intact tropical forests to industrial logging would be an unmitigated disaster for the climate, biodiversity, rule of law, and human rights of forest communities.
Any lifting of the ban, which could imperil an area of tropical forest the size of France, may also increase the risk of future outbreaks of zoonotic diseases such as Ebola and possibly COVID-19.
This plan comes just as several of you are ramping up commitments to protect the Congo Basin forest involving hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars. Failure to act now would be a serious betrayal of tens of millions of rural Congolese whose rights will be impacted, as well as the Paris climate goals and global efforts to agree on an ambitious post-2020 biodiversity framework. At a time when the world is experiencing increasingly severe climatic events and teeters on the brink of a sixth mass extinction of species, your silence now would send a completely wrong message ahead of negotiations at Glasgow and Kunming.
At the start of a decade the international community has pledged to devote to ecosystem restoration, the DRC is about to kick off an era of ecological degradation on a horrifying scale. Any expansion of industrial logging there would also undermine several initiatives supported by your governments to protect tropical forests, such as the proposed EU law on imported deforestation commodities, as well as the promotion of community forestry in the region.
CAFI and its members must make the signature of any new agreement with the DRC government conditional on a binding commitment to extend the moratorium until such time as:
- The existing logging industry has been demonstrably brought under control through the cancellation of all illegal titles and the publication of beneficial ownership of concessions.
- There has been a transparent and credible assessment of forest governance in DRC against the ProFor/FAO Forest Governance Framework, that an action plan has been put in place to address deficiencies found in this assessment, programmes developed and implemented to fulfil the action plan, and substantial progress has been made against the framework, determined through a later subsequent assessment.
- There is clarification and strengthening of what is required to fulfil the 2005 legal condition for the lifting of the moratorium regarding geographical programming of future concession areas so that it involves participatory and multisectoral land-use planning and is consistent with other CAFI-supported reforms.
Kenneth Nana Amoateng, AbibiNsroma Foundation
Harrison Nnoko Ngaaje, AJESH (AJEMALEBU SELF HELP)
Gustavo Sánchez Valle, AMPB (Alianza Mesoamericana de Pueblos y Bosques)
Blaise Mudodosi, APEM (Actions pour la Promotion et Protection des Peuples et Espèces Menacés)
Wolfgang Kuhlmann, ARA, Germany
Annette Lanjouw, Arcus Foundation
Dr. Angela Meder, Berggorilla & Regenwald Direkthilfe
Almuth Ernsting, Biofuelwatch
Jettie Word, The Borneo Project
Théophile GATA DIKULUKILA, CAGDFT (Centre d’ Appui à la Gestion Durable des Forêts Tropicales)
Sylvain Angerand, Canopée
Tamara Stark, Canopy
Samuel Nguiffo, Centre pour l’Environnement et le Développement (CED)
Peter Lukamba, Congolese Resources Institute (CRI)
Patrick SAIDI HEMEDI, DGPA (Dynamique des Groupes des Peuples Autochtones)
Sam Lawson, Earthsight
Cath Long, Forest Peoples Programme
Evelyn Schönheit & Jupp Trauth, FÖP (Forum Ökologie & Papier)
Friedrich Wulf, Forum Environment and Development
Randy Hayes, Foundation Earth
Ariel Rogers, Friends of Bonobos
Julien MATHE WA MUHIMA, GASHE (Group d’Action pour Sauver l’Homme et son Environnement)
Irène Wabiwa Betoko, Greenpeace Africa
Jo Blackman, Global Witness
Deborah S. Rogers, Initiative for Equality
Maarten Visschers, Leefmilieu
Danielle van Oijen, Milieudefensie
Joshua Castellino, Minority Rights Group International
Melania Canales, Organización de Mujeres Indígenas Andinas y Amazónicas del Perú (ONAMIAP)
Buthelezi Kambale Kakevire, PREPPYG asbl (Association Paysanne pour la Réhabilitation et Protection des Pygmées)
Jan Willem van Gelder, Profundo
Hermann Edelmann, Pro REGENWALD
Tørris Jæger, Rainforest Foundation Norway
Suzanne Pelletier, Rainforest Foundation US
Joe Eisen, Rainforest Foundation UK
Gustavo Sánchez Valle, Red MOCAF (Red Mexicana de Organizaciones Campesinas Forestales)
Cécile Ndjebet, REFACOF (Réseau des Femmes Africaines pour gestion Communautaire des Forêts)
Dr. Rainer Putz, Regenwald-Institut e.V.
François BILOKO, Réseau CREF (Réseau pour la Conservation et la Réhabilitation des Ecosystèmes Forestiers)
Klaus Schenk, Rettet den Regenwald e.V. – Rainforest Rescue
Patrick KIPALU KONGO, Rights and Resources Initiative
Barbara Davies-Quy, Size of Wales
Konrad Rehling, Südwind
Francisco Ferreira (President of the Board), ZERO – Associação Sistema Terrestre Sustentável