Europe launches bid to protect Congo rainforest

Norway first to fund UN initiative to slow tree-cutting and boost incomes in crucial carbon sink

Commercial logging and farming expansion has made the Congo rainforest one of the world's most endangered ecosystems (Flickr/ rizzr)

Commercial logging and farming expansion has made the Congo rainforest one of the world’s most endangered ecosystems (Flickr/ rizzr)

By Alex Pashley

The threatened jungles of Central Africa were given a boost on Wednesday as foreign donors said they would muster new cash to slow deforestation.

Six countries in the second-largest rainforest on Earth are to receive funds for sustainable development, invigorating global conservation efforts months before a key climate summit.

The Central Africa Forest Initiative (CAFI) will help governments including the DRC, Cameroon and Gabon to set up investment plans to maintain the biodiverse forest and boost incomes.

Keeping carbon-sucking trees in the ground avoids greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to climate change.

“Achieving sustainable economic and social development is a prerequisite for combating deforestation in Central Africa,” said Norway’s environment minister, Tine Sundtoft.

“These vast and unique rainforests are of great value to the region, the world and to our common future and survival.”

The mandrill (Mandrillus sphinx) is a primate of the Old World monkey (Cercopithecidae) family,[4] closely related to the baboons and even more closely to the drill. It is found in southern Cameroon, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, and Congo. Mandrills mostly live in tropical rainforests and forest-savanna mosaics. They live in groups called hordes. Mandrills have an omnivorous diet consisting mostly of fruits and insects. (Flikcr/ Evangelio Gonzalez)

The mandrill is among the wide range of animals living in the Congo Basin (Flikcr/ Evangelio Gonzalez)

Norway was the first to pledge, offering $47 million a year through 2020 to the UN-led fund.

France, Germany, the UK and the EU joined the initiative, while Brazil said it would lend its forestry expertise.

“It will bridge a huge funding gap and concentrate financial assistance in a region that thus far has not benefited from the same amount of funding as other forested regions,” said Helen Clark at the United Nations Development Programme, which is managing the fund.

European governments have previously committed cash for REDD+ projects, where countries receive credits from carbon dioxide sequestered from their forests.

But Climate Home reported in May there were not enough certified projects available for investors’ cash.

The latest initiative is intended to build momentum ahead of a Paris climate summit, said French development minister Annick Girardin.

“We cannot succeed at COP21 without large-scale action to protect forests in the world, in Africa but also in Latin America and Asia.

“Addressing the challenge of financing for REDD+, CAFI seeks to provide a lasting solutions to the protection of forests in the Congo Basin.”

Read more on: Africa | Forests