African nation seeks $1 billion to save its rainforest
The Democratic Republic of Congo is seeking a billion dollars for a plan to protect up to 9 million hectares of rainforests, reports the Financial Times.
In a presentation given at the Houses of Parliament on Tuesday, DR Congo Minister of Environment Bavon N'sa Mputu Elima said his country needed foreign assistance to protect forests. He cited Indonesia as a precedent for such an approach.
"We have more forests than Indonesia and they got $1 billion," he was quoted as saying, referring to a 2010 agreement Indonesia signed with Norway that would pay the nation up to a billion dollars if it successfully reduces deforestation from a specified level. Indonesia lost almost 10 million more hectares of forest than DRC since 2000, according to data from Global Forest Watch.
"The DRC accepts its responsibility to protect its forests for the benefit of humanity," the Minister said. "But as a developing country we require a partnership with industrialized nations to provide the financial support needed by the program."
Deforestation in DRC has been on a downward trend since the early 1990's but environmentalists fear that growing stability and associated investment could drive an increase in forest clearing and degradation from industrial logging, oil palm expansion, and mining. DRC is therefore seeking payments under the U.N.-endorsed REDD+ program, which aims to provide performance-based compensation for reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation. Money from the program would go into a green development program that funds livelihoods and activities that help maintain forest cover.
Wildlife Works, a U.S.-based company that operates a REDD+ project in Kenya, has been helping the Congolese government design the program.
"The program is unlike anything attempted before and will utilize the UN's REDD+ mechanism to protect nearly 9M hectares of primary tropical rainforest, in a 12M-hectare landscape, almost the size of England," said the company in a statement. "The program area is home to approximately 1.8M people and to many magnificent endangered species, including the forest elephant and the bonobo, the great ape known as the closest relative to humans that lives only in the DRC."
The Congo Basin and surrounding region has the second largest extent of rainforest after the Amazon.
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DRC image via Shutterstock.