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Republic of Congo: Total undertakes forestry initiative on Batéké Plateau

In depth
This article is part of the dossier: Africa’s natural gas loophole

By Christophe Le Bec
Posted on Thursday, 27 May 2021 09:35

Planting of acacia mangium and auriculiformis on the Batéké Plateau, Congo. © FNC

In a continental first for the Patrick Pouyanné-led energy group, Total is planting a 40,000-hectare forest 200km north of Brazzaville.

This is part 4 of a 4-part series

On top of natural gas and renewable energy, oil majors have a third lever they can harness to see the energy transition through, with carbon-negative solutions (carbon sinks) providing a way to offset emissions from their operations.

In Africa, their efforts are focused on forestry projects, notably as part of the UN REDD+ programme on reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries. The initiative draws on a strict methodology and independent certification agencies like US-based Verra, which manages the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) Program.

This is the first project of its kind on the continent for the French group, which aims to become carbon neutral by 2050.

In 2019, Total created Nature Based Solutions, a business unit dedicated to investing in carbon sinks. Backed by an annual budget of $100m as of 2020, the project seeks to sequester 5m tonnes of carbon dioxide a year by 2030.

A new forest in the Republic of Congo

After teaming up with the French consulting firm Forêt Ressources Management, headed by Bernard Cassagne, Total signed a partnership agreement with the Republic of Congo to plant a new 40,000-hectare forest on the Batéké Plateau. The forest will act as a carbon sink and sequester around 13m tonnes of carbon dioxide over a 20-year period.

The planting of acacia trees on these sandy plateaus located some 200km north of the country’s capital, and near the Lefini and Congo rivers, will create a more bushfire-resistant forest environment and increase biodiversity.

The initiative – funded entirely by Total at an estimated cost of $230m over the life of the project – includes agroforestry practices developed with local communities for agricultural production and sustainable wood energy.

By 2040, responsible forest management will promote the natural regeneration of local species and provide Brazzaville and Kinshasa with lumber and plywood.

Recognised partners

According to Nicolas Terraz, Total E&P’s senior vice president for sub-Saharan Africa, this is the first project of its kind on the continent for the French group, which aims to become carbon neutral by 2050. Its environmental performance will be certified by independent auditors in accordance with the VCS and Climate, Community and Biodiversity (CCB) standards.

“We want to develop these projects with recognised partners, such as FRM, who have a great deal to teach us, while concerting with relevant regions to anchor our commitment in the long term and contribute to local development,” said Adrien Henry, vice president of Total’s Nature Based Solutions business unit, in a news release dated 16 March 2021 that announced the partnership agreement.

Shell’s largest forestry projects are in Asia, primarily in Indonesia, but the company is also involved in reforestation projects in Ghana and Kenya. For its part, Eni is supporting the REDD+ Luangwa Community Forests Project in Zambia, with the goal of sequestering 1.5m tonnes of carbon dioxide. The Italian multinational has pledged to enter into other partnerships in Angola, the Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana and Mozambique in the next few years.

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