AU Urged to Address ‘Threat of Congo Forest Logging Driving Extreme Weather across Africa’

ADDIS ABABA – Industrial logging in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) may severely disturb rainfall patterns across sub-Saharan Africa and bring about more extreme weather, including intense droughts and flash floods, claims Greenpeace in a letter sent to the African Union.

Greenpeace wrote the letter to the AU on Friday as the DRC plans to lift a 19-year moratorium on the industrial logging concessions.

In the letter, Greenpeace Africa has called for an urgent discussion of the consequences that plans made in Kinshasa would have for Congolese and African people in general.

The Congo Basin forest is estimated to contribute more than half of the annual precipitation in Sub-Saharan Africa, which Greenpeace said, is already facing a plethora of droughts and extreme heat waves.

DR Congo, a home to 60% of the world’s second largest rainforest, unveiled the plan to lift the moratorium on new logging concessions last July.

The plane came a year after its former Environment Minister Claude Nyamugabo awarded six concessions to Congolese firm Tradelink SARL, covering a total of 1.38 million hectares.

At his cabinet meeting last week, President of DRC Felix Tshisekedi called for an audit of DRC’s vast forest concessions and suspended all “questionable contracts” until the audit is concluded.

However, the decision to lift a 19-year moratorium on the industrial logging concessions is expected to go ahead as planned as it was already approved by Tshisekedi’s  Cabinet in July.

Apart from lifting the moratorium, the central African country plans to create a regulator for its carbon market and reconcile data between agencies involved in the environmental sector.

The move would help Congo improve governance of the environment, said Eve Bazaiba, DRC’s environment minister.

‘Consequences will be felt everywhere

In Friday’s letter, Greenpeace expressed its worries that the imminent decision could open up millions of hectares of forests to industrial logging.

Renewed industrial logging in the DRC poses a risk “to Indigenous People, local communities and biodiversity, as well as the whole of sub-Saharan Africa,” writes Greenpeace Africa’s Program Director, Melita Steele, to the AU Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, Josefa Leonel Correia Sacko.

“Deciding on whether to protect or destroy the rainforest may be within the DRC’s sovereignty, but the consequences of its actions will be felt everywhere from Nairobi to Dakar, from Pretoria to Abjua,” writes Steele on behalf of Greenpeace Africa.

Steele said the decision to lift the moratorium undermines the AU’ 2063 Agenda and its Sustainable Forest Management Framework (SFMF), promising that “Africa will have zero deforestation and forest degradation and its forests will be protected, sustainably managed and restored through collaborative, cross-sectoral and transformative efforts to ensure the prosperity, food security and resilience of its people.”

Serge Ngwato, Greenpeace Africa forest campaigner in Kinshasa: “We cannot expect Africa’s claim for climate funds to be taken seriously, when our own actions make the climate crisis worse.”

“Renewing industrial logging would pose additional risk both to us Congolese and to our neighbors – the moratorium must be extended, while management rights over the forest must be granted to its Indigenous and local communities,” Ngwato added.