World's second largest rainforest at risk from lifting of logging moratorium

New licences could soon be issued to logging companies in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), threatening to accelerate the rate of deforestation in the region.

A tropical rainforest more than twice the size of France is at risk of being cut down, following news from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) that the government is planning to re-open its forest to new logging companies. This comes at a time when the governments of Norway, France, Germany, the UK, and the European Union are assessing whether to support a billion-dollar plan proposed by the DRC government to protect the country's 1.55 million square kilometres of forests.

A coalition of environmental and anti-corruption organisations is calling on the DRC to maintain its moratorium on the allocation of new logging licenses, which has been in place since 2002.

"The large-scale logging of DRC's rainforest was and is a disaster," said Irène Betoko of Greenpeace Africa. "It not only harms the country's environment, but also fuels corruption and creates social and economic havoc. We call upon the DRC government to keep the present logging moratorium in place."

Lars Løvold of the Rainforest Foundation Norway (RFN): "At a time when the global community is working together to protect the world's last rainforests, a vital defence against climate change, the DRC government seems to be undermining the commitment to reducing emissions that it presented in Paris."

DRC Environment Minister, Robert Bogeza, outlining his priorities for 2016, stated that measures are being taken to lift the moratorium on the allocation of new logging licenses, citing the financial benefits this could bring: "The moratorium on granting new forestry concessions, decreed in 2002 by Ministerial Decree and reaffirmed in 2005 by Presidential Decree, has caused a huge shortfall in revenues for our country. Measures are underway for the Government to lift it."

However, Joesph Bobia of Réseau Ressources Naturelles (RRN) said: "The argument that logging can significantly contribute to government revenues is completely unfounded. Around a tenth of the DRC's rainforest is already being logged. And yet, in 2014 the country obtained a pitiful USD$8 million in fiscal revenues from the sector – the equivalent of about 12 cents for every Congolese person."
Simon Counsell of the Rainforest Foundation UK said: "The expansion of industrial logging in the Congo's rainforests is likely to have serious long-term negative impacts on the millions of people living in and depending on those forests. We urge the government of DRC to instead promote community-based forest protection and alternatives to logging that will help the country's population prosper."

Reducing Emissions through Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) is an international effort under the UN climate treaties to combat carbon emissions by protecting the world's forests. The DRC's national strategy for REDD has been under negotiation for six years and will be submitted to international donor governments for approval this year.

The moratorium on the allocation of new logging titles was issued by Ministerial decree in 2002, in an attempt to regain control of the country's timber industry, which was riddled with illegal logging and corruption. The DRC accounts for a tenth of the world's remaining tropical rainforests. Many species, such as the bonobo and okapi, are only found in these ecosystems. Some 40 million people in the country rely on these forests for their livelihoods.

A civil society briefing is available to download hereSource:

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