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Norwegian and French governments threaten world’s second largest tropical rainforest

13 July 2017

A joint statement by The Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK), Greenpeace, Global Witness, Réseau Ressources Naturelles (RRN) and Groupe de Travail de Climat REDD Rénové (GTCRR)

An area of rainforest the size of Italy is at risk of being cut down by loggers in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), if a Norwegian-funded project to expand industrial logging in the country is approved in Kinshasa next Tuesday (July 18).

The project – to be run by the French Development Agency (AFD) – would lift a ban on the allocation of new logging concessions in DRC in place since 2002, subsidise logging companies, and could triple the area allocated to loggers from 10 million to 30 million hectares. It would be funded under the Norwegian-led Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI), a USD200 million programme which is supposed to protect the Congo Basin rainforest.

As well as destroying forest which is the home to many unique species of wildlife such a bonobos, and damaging the livelihoods of people dependent on the forest, if implemented, the project could cause 610,000,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, almost as much as the international aviation sector released in 2015. The new logging concessions could also cover areas of peat swamp storing an estimated 2.8 billion tonnes of carbon, equating to approximately 10.4 billion tonnes of potential CO2 emissions if the peat swamps are damaged or destroyed.

Officials from the DRC, Norwegian and French governments will meet on July 17 and 18 in Kinshasa to review and approve the proposal, already in its second draft.  

A coalition of organisations including Réseau Ressources Naturelles, Groupe de Travail de Climat REDD Rénové, Global Witness, Rainforest Foundation Norway, Rainforest Foundation UK, and Greenpeace has written to Norwegian Climate and Environment Minister Vidar Helgesen, as well as CAFI board members, calling on them to reject the proposal. The coalition also wrote to the AFD, requesting it to withdraw its proposal.

“The Norwegian and French governments are deluded if they think they can save rainforests by cutting down trees,” said Jo Blackman, Campaigner at Global Witness. “The proposed project should be rejected as it would result in vastly increased carbon emissions.”

Multiple reports show that DRC’s logging sector is a hotbed of illegalities, which is concentrating wealth in the hands of a small elite while much of the population lives in poverty. According to the AFD’s own proposal, “corruption, poor management, lack of institutional capacity and poor levels of governance” pervades the logging sector.

For example, currently more than half of concessions are operating without management plans, and according to DRC law should be shut down and returned to the state.

“CAFI needs to work with Congolese authorities to shut down the millions of hectares of logging concessions which are illegal instead of promoting expansion of a logging sector that is so clearly already out of control,” said Irène Wabiwa, Campaigner at Greenpeace.

Recently Norwegian Minister of climate and environment, Vidar Helgesen threatened to cut Norway’s funding for Brazil’s rainforests due to a weakening of forest protection laws and worsening deforestation.

“Norway is guilty of stunning inconsistency in its approach to saving the world’s tropical forests, making the appearance of leaning hard on Brazil, whilst simultaneously encouraging impunity for serious breaches of the forestry laws in the Congo, even whilst it is lining up tens of millions of dollars in new ‘forest aid’,” according to Simon Counsell, at Rainforest Foundation UK.

“By refusing to insist that Congo’s illegal concessions are shut down, it is encouraging impunity for law-breaking and bad forest governance. Norway should now state that its funding for DRC’s forestry projects will be halted until all illegal logging concessions have been cancelled, and the AFD proposal rejected outright.”

**A joint briefing by our coaltion is available to read here.

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