Press release / 14 Jul 2017

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

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. (1)

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. (2)

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. (3)

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. (4) According to the AFD’s own proposal, “corruption, poor management, lack of institutional capacity and poor levels of governance” pervades the logging sector. (5)

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. (6)

“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.  (7)

“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."

Contacts:

Jules Caron, Campaigner, Global Witness, UK: +44 7739 324 962

Hilde Stroot, Greenpeace, International Project Leader: +31 652062975

Simon Counsell, Rainforest Foundation UK +44 7949 559 969

/ ENDS

Contacts

Jules Caron

[email protected]

+44 744 440 0794

General/out of hours media enquiries

[email protected]

+44 (0) 7912517127

Notes to editor:

  1. The CAFI plans are part of an international effort called REDD+ to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by reducing deforestation and forest degradation in tropical forests. By 2020 a total of US $200 million is expected to be disbursed in DRC as part of these efforts, US $190 million of which comes from Norway.
  2. Logging in Congo’s Rainforests: A “Carbon Bomb” About to be Primed by the Government of Norway? Rainforest Foundation UK, 2017.
  3. The intention to triple the area allocated to logging companies was in an earlier version of the AFD proposal ‘Programme de Gestion Durable des Forêts de la REDD+ RDC’, version 27-03-2017, Annexe 6, pp. 133 et 142. The annex was removed from the revised programme (30-06-2017), but it is still referenced in pages 28 and 36 of the current proposal. Key activities – including lifting the moratorium on new logging concessions – are slated to begin starting 2018.
  4. Exporting Impunity: How Congo’s rainforest is illegally logged for international markets, Global Witness, 2015.
  5. “La corruption, la mauvaise gestion, les capacités institutionnelles insuffisantes et le faible niveau de gouvernance ont contribué à des résultats médiocres dans les secteurs des ressources naturelles (minières et forestières).” AFD, Programme de Gestion Durable des Forêts de la REDD+ RDC, version 30-06-2017, p. 100.
  6. Research by the Rainforest Foundation UK published recently shows that 29 of DRC’s 57 legally allocated concessions, covering 5 million hectares of forest, are now illegal due to the absence of a management plan. See: Logging in Congo’s Rainforests: A “Carbon Bomb” About to be Primed by the Government of Norway?, Rainforest Foundation UK, 2017.
  7. Letter to Brazilian Minister of Environment José Sarney Filho, from Norwegian Minister of Climate and Environment Vidar Helgesen, 22 june 2017.

Recent press releases