Civil Society in the Congo Basin Sets Out Vision for Climate Change Mitigation and Adaption
March 31, 2021
Civil society organisations in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Republic of Congo (RoC) are calling for much greater inclusion of forest communities and forest governance reforms in their governments’ plans to address the climate crisis.
In the run up to this year’s crucial climate summit in Glasgow this November, countries around the world are due to revise nationally determined contributions (NDCs) to the Paris Accord - a legally binding international treaty that seeks to limit global warming to 1.5° Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
With DRC and RoC holding three quarters of the world’s second largest rainforest and with land use change accounting for the largest source of carbon emissions in both countries, their NDCs will focus heavily on reducing deforestation and degradation. What is less clear is how they will achieve this and what the impacts on forest-dependent communities will be.
In order to support those working on the frontline of the fight against tropical deforestation, a civil society initiative supported by RFUK and funded by UKAID is raising awareness of the countries’ climate plans, soliciting recommendations for what should be included in the NDCs and supporting engagement with policy makers.
In DRC, this process is led by Action pour la Promotion et Protection des Peuples et Espèces Menacées (APEM) in collaboration with the national network Groupe de Travail Climat REDD Renouvé (GTCRR). In RoC, it is Comptoir Juridique Junior (CJJ) in partnership with Observatoire Congolais des Droits de l’Homme (OCDH) and the other members of the Plateforme pour la Gestion Durable des Forêts (PGDF).
Although the context is quite different in DRC and RoC, increasing community and civil society participation, enhancing forest governance, and securing the rights of forest communities are predominant themes in position papers that were developed for both countries.
To improve participation, civil society urges greater transparency in the revision of the NDCs, reinforcing dialogue with different ministries, strengthening existing laws on participation, and obtaining the free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) of communities that will be affected by future developments in forests. Each paper pays special attention to the need for better involvement of Indigenous Peoples and women in such processes.
On governance, the papers both underscore the need to address illegal exploitation and deep-rooted corruption in natural resource management if the countries are to meet their climate pledges. In practical terms, this means transferring greater powers to local communities, equipping them with tools such as ForestLink to monitor and protect their forests and ensuring proper oversight of the NDCs over their five-year timespan.
The position papers also highlight the need for the NDCs to reduce administrative and political barriers for communities to secure rights to their ancestral forests such as through community forests or indigenous and community conserved areas. This is particularly pressing in the carbon-rich Cuvette Centrale peatlands, which span DRC and RoC and house 30 gigatons of carbon, equivalent to 20 years of US greenhouse gas emissions.
"Improving governance in DRC is a prerequisite for the successful implementation of the NDC. A failure in one sector can compromise these efforts. COP26 must inaugurate a new era: the reconciliation between man and nature. We must stop using the planet as if we had another one to spare when we have only one."
- Prince Lungungu, Project Leader and Lawyer for APEM
"Securing the rights of local communities and indigenous peoples is fundamental to achieving sustainable and equitable outcomes. Hence, it is essential that the government take internal measures for mitigation to achieve the objectives of the NDC."
- Lilian Barros, CJJ Permanent Secretary and PGDF Coordinator
News articles related to the initiative:
The position papers do not necessarily reflect the views of RFUK