Empty pledges to plant more trees will not save the Congo Basin

Empty pledges to plant more trees will not save the Congo Basin

The International Day of Forests was established ten years ago by the United Nations General Assembly. Since then, the day has served as a forum for governments to express their affection for forests and to underline the crucial role that forests can and should play in the fight against climate change. This year was no different.

Only a few weeks after this year’s celebration, the third section of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report was released. The study, which drew on the expertise of thousands of scientists, not only showed that the world still has a long way to go in terms of avoiding climate collapse, but it also highlighted the importance of forest preservation. It did, however, issue a strong caution against viewing reforestation as a panacea for all of the problems caused by the climate disaster.

The study concluded that “growing forests and conserving soils will not alleviate the problem.” “Planting trees will not be enough to compensate for ongoing fossil fuel emissions.”

Yes, you are accurate. It is impossible to plant our way out of the climate calamity. If newly planted trees survive, it will take generations for them to absorb carbon at the same rate as current rainforests. Replanting has no effect in slowing the loss of biodiversity.

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If we’re serious about preventing climate breakdown, we should stop idolizing politicians who make annual tree-planting pledges on International Day of Forests and instead focus on preventing deforestation, particularly by figuring out how to lift regions and communities out of poverty without destroying forests and biodiversity.

As the continent is most likely to be affected by climate-related extreme weather events, water scarcity, coastline erosion, internal migration, and war, Africa requires quick and significant action – not just empty promises of new trees.

Unfortunately, not nearly enough is being done to protect Africa’s important rainforests.

The Congo basin rainforest, which includes Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon, is on pace to disappear totally by 2100 due to significant deforestation. Around 600,000 hectares (1.5 million acres) of primary forest were lost in the Congo Basin alone in 2020.

Despite a slew of pretentious announcements, pledges, and agreements to replant and conserve the land, the region’s governments are doing little to avert tragedy.

Cameroon’s government revised its National Determined Contribution (NDC) in October 2021, pledging to reduce emissions by 35% and protect 30% of its forests by 2030. However, it also stated that it plans to log an additional 400,000 hectares (1 million acres) of forest and approve other projects that would harm forests in the name of economic regeneration (such as the Camvert project which aims to build a huge palm oil plantation in the south region of Cameroon, destroying about 60,000 hectares of pristine forest in the process).

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At COP26 in Glasgow, President Felix Tshisekedi of the neighboring DRC and Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom, who was representing the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI), approved an ambitious $500 million accord to conserve the Congo Basin rainforest. Later, Johnson and US Vice President Joe Biden sat for photos with Tshisekedi to express their support for the Congo Basin rainforest protection initiatives.

However, during their public relations efforts, the leaders chose to ignore the DRC’s decision to lift a 20-year-old ban on new logging concessions – a ban intended to keep the forest from devolving into a circus of illegalities, corruption, and environmental crimes – in their haste to secure the deal before COP26.

Similar hypocrisy exists in the Republic of Congo and Gabon. In the sake of generating jobs, increasing output, and lifting communities out of poverty, governments in these nations frequently allow forests to be “legally” destroyed through logging and other initiatives.

Of course, whether trees are taken “legally” or not makes no difference to Indigenous people whose livelihoods have been destroyed by deforestation and biodiversity loss. Regardless of whether a forest was buried under an “international agreement” or not, the carbon stored in its biomass gets released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.

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Central African governments, as well as Western donors, prefer to claim that deforestation can at the very least help people escape poverty. Science, on the other hand, is unaffected by political rhetoric. Climate change will push 32-132 million people into extreme poverty in the next decade, according to the most recent IPCC assessment. Food security, as well as the incidence of heat-related mortality, heart disease, and mental health disorders, would be compromised as a result of global warming.

Before the next celebration of love for trees, including the next round of discussions on the biodiversity convention set for June in Nairobi, our leaders must consider other options for actually lifting communities out of poverty. To begin, they should increase the use of clean technology to enable universal energy access and transition to ecological agriculture to avoid harming our planet’s food systems.

Countries can now grow their economies while reducing pollution. The only way to accomplish sustainable development and poverty reduction in Central Africa is to stop deforestation and implement an equitable climate policy.

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