Climate catastrophe looms as DRC oil plan poses new threat to Cuvette Centrale peatlands

April 29, 2022

The DRC government has adopted a plan to open up one of the world’s largest carbon sinks to oil drilling only months after it signed a $500 million forest protection agreement with the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI) at COP26.

Last week, the DRC Council of Ministers adopted a plan to tender 16 new oil blocks, several of which overlap with the Cuvette Centrale - the world’s most extensive tropical peatland complex that spans the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo. This ecosystem, which is home to hundreds of thousands of forest-dependent people, stores an estimated 30 gigatonnes of carbon - equivalent to twelve years' worth of Europe's carbon emissions.

map story published today shows that despite featuring prominently in both countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the Paris Climate Accord, roughly 80 percent of the peatlands is covered in oil and gas, logging and agricultural concessions. This latest development highlights flaws in the  CAFI agreements signed with the two countries that do not prevent drilling in the peatlands, but merely call for ‘appropriate’ prevention or mitigation measures. In DRC, the Letter of Intent also lays the ground for a possible lifting of the country’s moratorium on new logging concessions, many of which could be established on the peatlands due to the close proximity to the Congo River and trade routes.

The map story sets out an alternative vision for the region based on recognition of indigenous peoples and local community land and resources rights and links to a joint DRC and Congolese civil society declaration that provides recommendations for policy makers to this end.

Access the map story here.

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