Norwegian government priming a ‘carbon bomb’ in Congo's rainforests?
June 21, 2017
Photo: Norway’s Climate and Environment Minister Vidar Helgesen, left, met with his counterpart in DRC in August 2016. A few weeks after the meeting, minister Robert Bopolo Mbongeza secretly issued two illegal logging concessions covering 4,000 square kilometres. These have still not been cancelled.
The Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK) has today written to Norwegian Prime Minister, Erna Solberg, asking her urgently to intervene to stop her government from funding a project that could seriously damage the world’s second largest rainforest, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and risk the release of billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Under a proposed project set to be funded through Norway’s ‘Central Africa Forest Initiative’ (CAFI) – which is supposedly intended to protect forests – the area of DRC’s rainforest handed out to timber companies could increase by 20 million hectares, an area the size of Britain. The project would require the lifting of a legal ban on the issuing of new logging concessions which has been in place since 2002. Logging in DRC has been promoted by Vidar Helgesen, Norway’s Climate and Environment minister, even though it has widely been reported as rife with illegalities and corruption, the cause of widespread environmental damage and social conflict, and generating almost no benefits for the Congolese economy.
Analysis by RFUK shows that amongst the forest areas likely to be given over to loggers would be more than a million hectares growing on peat swamps, believed to store more than 2,000 tonnes of carbon per hectare. The destruction of similar peat swamp forests in Indonesia has contributed to the country becoming the world’s third largest greenhouse gas emitter. The amount of carbon dioxide at risk of being released from DRC’s peat swamp areas under new logging concessions has been estimated by RFUK as being over 10 billion tonnes, equivalent to nearly 200 years of Norway’s annual national carbon emissions.
New investigations by RFUK, also revealed in a briefing paper published today and sent to Prime Minister Solberg, have identified that of the area already allocated for logging in the DRC, half (five million hectares out of 10 million hectares) is illegal, and should be closed down by the government.
Simon Counsell, Executive Director of RFUK said: “The government of Norway risks putting globally significant stores of carbon at risk through misguided support for so-called sustainable forest management in DRC. Instead of expanding large-scale timber-felling, Norway should work with the Congolese government to shut down the half of the country’s logging areas which the law requires to be closed and returned to the state”.
RFUK’s letter to Prime Minister Solberg is available here . RFUK’s briefing paper ‘Logging in Congo’s rainforests: A “carbon bomb” about to be primed by the Government of Norway?’ is available for download here.
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