Congo Basin peatlands: Can Presidents Nguesso, Ondimba and Tshisekedi save the world’s lungs?

By Marie Toulemonde
Posted on Friday, 4 March 2022 16:33

The Congo Basin forest is the world's largest carbon reservoir and is vital in the fight against climate change. It is also under attack from all sides and, despite the urgency, not enough funding is being allocated to carry out the actions needed to save it. Are the region's heads of state in a position to act? Find out more in our infographics.

A jewel of global biodiversity, the Congo Basin forest, which extends over six African countries, is still not receiving enough environmental protection funding. Between 2008 and 2017, this region received only 11% of the climate funding devoted to protecting tropical forests.

The rest is allocated to the Amazon and South Asian forests, whose destruction is the focus of media attention.

Population pressure and industry

Although the Congo Basin had been relatively unaffected by the effects of massive deforestation, it is now on the verge of suffering the same fate. On the one hand, demographic pressure is increasing, pushing populations to nibble away at the forest and its resources to survive.

On the other hand, the forestry, mining, oil and food industries are taking advantage of the gaping holes in national legislation, the lack of control in some regions and the non-transparent awarding of public contracts in others to gain a little more ground every day.

In order to reverse the trend, Central African heads of state have gradually put in place various strategies to protect and enhance this unique ecosystem. Gabon has been involved in this area since 1990, and has obtained $150m in funding over 10 years as part of the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI).

Fine promises

But everyone agrees that funding is sorely lacking, as is knowledge. Only a tiny part of the Congo Basin has been accurately mapped. In fact, British researchers only discovered in 2017 that it is home to the world’s largest tropical peat bog, which is capable of capturing the carbon equivalent of 20 years of US fossil fuel emissions.

At COP26 in Glasgow last November, Presidents Ali Bongo, Félix Tshisekedi and Denis Sassou Nguesso called for solidarity. Although they obtained significant commitments, particularly on the financial front, the international community’s fine promises are still insufficient to meet the scale of the resources needed to preserve what is, nonetheless, one of the crucial levers in the fight against climate change.

 

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