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New RFUK report reveals the growing extent, and impact, of transport and energy infrastructure development in the Congo Basin

26 October 2021

 

A new study by RFUK has found that infrastructure development is causing huge destruction in world’s second largest rainforest - and international climate programmes are ignoring it. While REDD+ programmes in the Congo Basin have invariably targeted subsistence farming as the main driver of deforestation, they have almost completely overlooked the role of infrastructure development – a factor known to have been a main cause of forest destruction across large parts of the Amazon.

In the first of a mini-series on the impacts of infrastructure projects in the region, the study has found that development projects often overlap internationally-funded forest protection schemes – including REDD+ programmes and other so-called ‘nature-based solutions’ to climate change – and several are already causing serious long-term environmental and social impacts.

 

Policy makers have largely ignored this looming threat, and research from the study shows that in some cases, the financial backers of these climate programmes (such as the World Bank) are also financing the infrastructure projects that will counteract them.

Unreported forest loss between 2016-2019 along the Beni-Kisangani Road of the World Bank Pro-Routes Project, using a 10km bandwith centred along the road. Source: Hansen/UMD/Google/USGS/NASA and Planet Imagery

 

A leaked draft of a purported $1billion forest protection agreement between the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI) – a grouping of international donors including the UK, Norway and Germany – and the DRC, makes no mention of any roads or infrastructure projects. This follows revelations that the DRC environment minister plans to lift the country’s long-standing moratorium on new industrial logging concessions, threatening tens of millions of hectares of forest and forest-dependent communities – a move that has so far been met with mostly silence by CAFI and other policy makers.

In the run up to the climate conference, considered one of our final chances to keep global warming to within 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, huge commitments will be made on REDD+ and nature-based solutions which, in theory, are supposed to reward tropical forest countries for protecting and restoring their forests. However, the eight case studies featured in this report show that, while certain projects may bring some economic benefits, environmental and social impacts are often overwhelmingly higher than necessary due to bad planning, corruption, failure to follow better practice, and simple negligence.

Joe Eisen, RFUK executive director, said While the world’s second largest rainforest is under siege from industrial logging and poorly planned infrastructure development, negotiators at COP26 are talking up yet more inefficient programmes and offset schemes that fail both the climate and local communities. Sustainable development in the Congo means addressing the underlying causes of forest loss, and empowering the millions of people that live in and depend on this great forest.”

To read the full study, see here.

To view a map story of the case study summaries, see here.

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