African first: Gabon paid to protect tropical forests

SETH ONYANGO

GABON has become the first African state to receive payment for protecting its forests, in what could further incentivise other forested nations to double up on conservation efforts

Dense, deep and almost impenetrable, the tropical forests of the Central African region – dubbed the “second lungs of the world” − extend over 200 million hectares.

It is vast and darkly foreboding and defines life for some of the planet’s rarest and most endangered plants and animals.

However, decades of illegal logging and unsustainable farming is shrinking forest cover in key forested countries like the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Burundi.

Nonetheless, conservation efforts are bearing fruits, with Gabon becoming the first African state to receive a financial reward for reducing global carbon emissions, by protecting its rainforests.

In a move expected to bolster the ongoing conservation efforts, the UN-backed Central African Forests Initiative (Cafi) shelled out bagging 17 million US dollars to Gabon as part of a 150 million US dollars deal inked in 2019.

After independent experts verified the tropical state’s results, it came after showing that the country’s carbon emissions in 2016-17 had dropped vis-à-vis the annual figures for 2006-15.

Cafi provides financial incentives to Central African governments to adopt climate-change-conscious economic policies that protect vast forests that cover much of the region.

Forested countries are seen as vital in the fight against climate change because their rainforests suck out most of the world’s carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Gabon enjoys 90 per cent forest cover, constituting 18 per cent of the Congo Basin forest, known as “the second lung of the planet” after the Amazon, in South America.

The Congo Basin comprises Cameroon, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. It covers close to 70 per cent of the forestlands of Africa.

Of the 530 million hectares in the Congo Basin, 300 million are composed of forests: 99 per cent of these are primary or naturally regenerated forests, as opposed to plantations.

According to the environment ministry, Gabonese forests alone absorb a total of 140 million tonnes of CO2 annually, equivalent to removing 30 million cars from circulation throughout the world.

/bird story agency

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