13 July 2021, Kinshasa – Greenpeace Africa, the Rainforest Foundation UK and the Rainforest Foundation Norway are alarmed over a plan announced by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) Environment Minister Eve Bazaiba to lift a ban on new industrial logging concessions in the world’s second largest tropical forest.
The national moratorium, which has stood since 2002 in the face of widespread chaos in the logging industry, has been consistently violated. Lifting it would, however, trigger a mass sell-off of the national territory, jeopardize local communities and exacerbate the climate and biodiversity crises.
The adoption of the plan by the Council of Ministers last Friday follows a month of deafening silence from the Environment Ministry about the illegal award last year of 1.4 million hectares of so-called “conservation” concessions to mining interests. In all, Ms. Bazaiba’s predecessor Claude Nyamugabo awarded over four million hectares of illegal concessions – an area four times the size of Kinshasa.
Irène Wabiwa Betoko,
Greenpeace Africa Congo Basin forest campaign leader, said: “The Minister’s attempt to dress up the lifting of the ban as a ‘good governance’ measure isn’t fooling anyone. It’s a cynical plan that will simply turn over more of DRC’s territory to foreign companies eager to trash the rainforest, opening a new lucrative highway for loggers.”
“With the ongoing chaos in the forest sector and the absence of land-use planning, this measure is a threat to both people and nature. Instead of green lighting new paths of destruction, the DRC needs a blueprint for permanent protection of the forest, including management by the communities who live in it and depend on it”, continued Ms. Betoko.
The move comes as DRC is preparing to submit its revised nationally determined contribution (NDC) to the Paris climate accord and is engaged in negotiations with the international community over a USD1 billion financial package to protect its forest.
Joe Eisen, executive director of the Rainforest Foundation UK, added: “In the face of the growing climate emergency and chronic problems with existing logging titles in DRC, this announcement is simply incompatible with international commitments to protect this vital resource for future generations. The focus must surely be on scaling back the industry, not expanding it.”
For Kévin Sasia, Country Director of Rainforest Foundation Norway in the DRC, “Announcing the lifting of the moratorium as an objective in itself, without specifying either the outlines or the modalities, is an approach that surprises. The lifting of the moratorium will necessarily entail major challenges and risks, which must be anticipated and guarded against in the interests of DRC’s sustainable development, the preservation of its intact forests, and the well-being of its populations. In particular, the carrying out of land-use planning consistent with the country’s ambitions and objectives in terms of climate and sustainable development must be an absolute prerequisite. At present, lifting the moratorium is unthinkable.”
A lifting of the moratorium would contradict the commitment by President Felix Tshisekedi to reduce DRC’s greenhouse gas emissions by 17% and to restore its forest cover to 63.5% by 2030. The three organisations join in calling President Tshisekedi to strengthen the 2005 Presidential decree extending the moratorium.
The Congo Basin forest:
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