Congo signs landmark $200 mln deal to protect forests
DAKAR, April 22 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - T he Democratic Republic of Congo on Friday signed a landmark $200 million deal with donors to tackle deforestation and reduce carbon emissions as part of a wider plan to protect the tropical forests of the Congo Basin.
Congo, home to the world's second-largest rainforest after the Amazon, is the first country to sign an agreement with the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI), launched in September 2015 by six African nations and European donor countries.
The initiative, which also covers Central African Republic, Cameroon, Congo Republic, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, aims to restart protection efforts in the Congo Basin, which has become a target for the expansion of palm oil plantations as available land in Indonesia dwindles.
Protecting forests is widely seen as one of the cheapest and most effective ways to reduce the emissions driving global warming. Loss and degradation of forests account for about 15 percent of emissions each year, conservation groups say.
The project requires countries to create national investment plans to address the pressures driving deforestation, and aims to slow illegal logging and burning of forests that are vital to millions of people and endangered animals such as gorillas.
It is backed by funding from the European Union, Norway, Britain, France and Germany, and will receive technical advice from Brazil.
Norway's Minister of Climate and Environment Vidar Helgesen said the agreement should be thought of "as a compass".
"It sets the ambitious direction that DRC will take in order to avoid the kind of industrial deforestation that we have witnessed in other parts of the world," he said in a statement.
Forests in the Congo Basin cover about two million sq km (0.8 million sq miles) - about the size of Mexico - but are shrinking by 5,600 sq km a year. Continued...