RFUK together with Rainforest Rescue, Greenpeace Africa, 350.org and other African civil society groups have launched a petition calling on President Felix Tschisekedi to cancel the upcoming July 28-29 auction of oil exploration rights to some of DRC’s most sensitive tropical forests.
The planned auction of 16 oil blocks across the country is a deeply concerning threat, as they cover some of the last remaining intact forests on earth that are home to thousands of local and indigenous communities. At least three of them overlap the Cuvette Centrale peatlands, one of the world’s largest carbon sinks estimated to store 30 billion tonnes of carbon - equivalent to one years’ worth of global emissions. Nine oil blocks overlap protected areas.
In addition to the direct impacts, oil drilling in these remote forest areas would bring road and transport infrastructure that would trigger an irreversible cascade of deforestation as illegal loggers and settlers move in.
DRC’s development needs are unlikely to be served by selling off the territory to multinational oil companies. The country’s only active oil concession, managed by the Anglo-French firm Perenco in Kongo Central province, has reportedly led to severe environmental and health impacts as well as the expropriation of local people.
The necessary governance conditions to ensure that oil revenues would be used for the public good do not currently exist. Instead, a pre-electoral sell-off could fuel elite capture, rent-seeking, clientelism, and corruption.
The plan would undermine several positive commitments the DRC has made in its nationally determined contribution (NDC) to the Paris Climate Accord. It would also hinder much needed land use planning and tenure reforms in the country as well as the development of community forests and implementation of DRC’s upcoming Indigenous Peoples law.
Instead of pursuing this plan, we urge the DRC government and its international partners to keep fossil fuels in the ground and trees standing, and to work towards a low-carbon future by harnessing its vast potential in renewable energies.