Last week, the third meeting of the Partners of the Global Peatlands Initiative took place in Brazzaville, capital of the Republic of Congo. After the meeting, the United Nations Environment Programme, one of the organisers and funder of the meeting, put out a press release announcing that a “historic agreement” had been signed “to protect the world’s largest tropical peatland”.
“For WWF, partnering with Indigenous Peoples is an essential part of our conservation work.” This sentence comes from WWF’s latest newsletter from its international forest and climate team. The article is written by Jolly Sassa Kiuka and Flory Botamba who work for WWF in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“Conservation efforts in the Congo Basin are mostly failing to protect forests and biodiversity, having serious negative impacts on local populations, and for these reasons are probably unsustainable.”
Since 2009, companies have announced new oil palm plantation projects in the Congo Basin covering a total area of 1.6 million hectares. Projects currently underway cover 500,000 hectares. A new report by Rainforest Foundation UK warns that vast areas of the Congo Basin forests are potentially threatened by the expansion of oil palm plantations.
The debate about the World Bank’s lending on forests is heating up after the Independent Evaluation Group’s review was leaked last week. The IEG report is very critical of the World Bank’s record in the forestry sector, particularly the fact that the Bank’s involvement in forests has failed to address poverty and has not benefited local communities.
The forests in the Congo Basin, the second largest area of tropical forest in the world, are receiving increasing interest. Enormous amounts of carbon are stored in these forests, meaning that REDD proponents are increasingly looking at these forests to “offset” continued pollution in the rich countries.
The Australian carbon trading company Shift2Neutral aims to become “the leading neutraliser of carbon emissions in the world”. The company appeared to come closer realising its aim this week when Reuters reported that Shift2Neutral “signed a deal aimed at protecting tropical forests in the Democratic Republic of Congo as well as boosting renewable energy there”.
The Congo Basin forest is the second largest in the world after the Amazon. It accounts for one quarter of the world’s remaining tropical forest and covers an area of 1.8 million square kilometres. Clearly, whatever comes out of Copenhagen on REDD has to work in the Congo Basin.
From November 18-20, 2008, over 30 indigenous peoples and civil society representatives from throughout the Congo Basin gathered in Kinshasa to discuss forests, climate change, and proposed mechanisms for reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD). We report below on the outcomes.