By CHRIS LANG
In an open letter, scientists have warned about the impacts that logging the forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo would have on the planet’s climate. The scientists are concerned that a proposal to expand logging in DRC’s forests would damage the world’s largest tropical peatland – the Cuvette Centrale peatlands in the central Congo Basin.
The letter is addressed to Norwegian environment minister, Vidar Helgesen. The proposal to log the forests comes from the French Development Agency (AFD) and is part of a so-called “Sustainable Forest Management Programme” for DRC. Under the proposal, the area of logging concessions would triple, from 10 million hectares to 30 million hectares.
The programme would be funded through the US$200 million Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI). Most of the funding for CAFI comes from Norway. In a press release last week, a coalition of NGOs consisting of Rainforest Foundation UK, Greenpeace, Global Witness, Réseau Ressources Naturelles, and Groupe de Travail de Climat REDD Rénové write that,
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 NGO coalition has also put out a briefing about the logging proposal, available here.
Last week, the Norwegian government put out a statement responding to Rainforest Foundation UK’s criticism of the logging proposals. But rather than addressing the concerns, Norway accuses Rainforest Foundation UK of misleading the public about “the international community’s efforts to preserve Congo’s forests”.
In its statement, the Norwegian government writes that,
Our approach must entail a response to the following: How can DRC, a poor nation abundant with natural resources, meet its growing demand for timber, food and charcoal in a sustainable manner, short of importing expensive wood from Europe? A solution must be comprehensive and include efforts against illegal logging while simultaneously promoting sustainable forestry.
But Jo Blackman, a campaigner at Global Witness, says,
“The Norwegian and French governments are deluded if they think they can save rainforests by cutting down trees. The proposed project should be rejected as it would result in vastly increased carbon emissions.”