RFUK, Greenpeace and Congolese civil society groups are calling on the DRC Government to revoke three million hectares of illegal logging concessions or risk wrecking its image on the international climate stage.
Last week it emerged that in June 2020 the Environment Minister Claude Nyamugabo had reallocated four logging titles covering 770,000 hectares to Groups Services, a company linked to a minister of former Bandundu province where three of the concessions are located. Today the area falls in the jurisdiction of Mai Ndombe province, one of the world’s highest profile REDD+ programmes that research published by RFUK and APEM showed is already failing to curb deforestation or bring sufficient benefits to the local population.
This followed another nine awards elsewhere in the country to two Chinese companies in January 2020 totalling more than two million hectares. The Congolese civil society network GTCRR has found all of these concessions, covering an area the size of Wales, are in breach of the 2002 national logging moratorium as well as several other provisions in the Forest Code, and have taken the unprecedented step of filing an appeal against the minister’s actions in the country’s administrative court.
Repeated attempts to reform the logging industry in DRC have failed to address deep-rooted corruption and malpractice. Many of the country’s existing concessions are illegal having failed to obtain a government-approved management plan within the maximum 5-year limit.
These latest developments come as the Congolese Hydrocarbons Minister Rubens Mikindo on 29 January announced the auction of 19 oil blocks across the country, several of which overlap with the carbon-rich peatlands in the west of the country.
This deterioration in forest governance raises concerns about the government’s commitment to its international climate commitments. The logging allocations appear to be in breach of both a $55 million agreement for the sale of emissions reductions credits from the Mai Ndombe programme to the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) and the $250 million Letter of Intent with the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI) to support implementation of the national REDD+ Investment Plan.
CAFI initially suspended payments to DRC in 2018 following similar breaches of the moratorium but later resumed funding. Neither CAFI nor the World Bank has yet to take a public position on these latest developments.
This comes at a critical period in global efforts to tackle the climate change and biodiversity loss with DRC due to submit it revised Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to the Paris Climate Accord this year and with negotiations underway on a new Letter of Intent with CAFI that could reach $1 billion by 2030.