The government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has now reinstated logging concessions totaling several thousands of square kilometers located in forest regions that cover peatlands containing massive amounts of stored carbon, a spokesperson has revealed.
Some of those reading this may remember that, owing to complaints from environmentalists, the concessions in question were cancelled back in 2016 by the former environment minister.
The reinstatement is seemingly part of a broader push by the current government to ignore “outside criticism” — related to which, the country’s oil minister recently stated publicly that the country could develop any oil reserves that it wants to (following news that the president had approved oil exploration inside the largest tropical rainforest reserve in Africa).
So why am I covering this for CleanTechnica? Because the forests in question (where the logging concessions were reinstated) are the only thing keeping numerous billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide stored in the peat there from being released into the atmosphere.
To explain — as deforestation accelerates in the regions in question, the peat will be more and more exposed to the elements, and more and more carbon will be released into the atmosphere as a result (of drying, of fires, exploitation, etc.).
This isn’t a problem, though — according to the Democratic Republic of Congo’s environment ministry — because the peatlands are located in areas that are “geographically unexploitable.”
If that was truly the case, though, then why not put those areas off limits?
What this all means in practice — to provide a bit of broader context here — is that yet another large source of greenhouse gases is now being prepped for release/exploitation.
Now this isn’t surprising, of course, as deforestation rates are still climbing throughout much of the world, and efforts to date to limit them have been largely symbolic or non-effective. You see, everything from the cheap palm oil that it’s in practically every processed food item on the shelves of your local grocery store, to the cheap beef from Brazil that composes your fast food burger, to various vegetable and fruit produce, is available on the global level because of deforestation.
If mass deforestation wasn’t taking place, then there would be far less in the way of cheap processed food, out-of-season fruits and vegetables, and cheap meat available to those in the wealthier parts of the world. Not to mention exotic woods for the interior accenting of luxury cars, furniture, floors, musical instruments, etc.
Reuters provides more:
“Environmental groups also said Environment Minister Amy Ambatobe’s decision to grant 6,500 square km (2,510 square miles) in concessions earlier this month to 2 Chinese-owned companies violates a 2002 moratorium Congo imposed on new industrial logging titles. The ministry said in response that its actions did not violate the moratorium since the concessions in questions had already been exploited.
“The Congo Basin is the world’s second largest rainforest and over half of its 500 million hectares lies within Congo’s borders. The forest is home to rare species including forest elephants and dwarf chimpanzees.”
As noted by many observers, what these announcements amount to in practice is a statement from the government of Congo that any and all resources will be developed — regardless of associated greenhouse gas emissions, or environmental destruction. There’s no longer even any pretense that there will be a curtailment.
The extinction of forest elephants, and various other types of now highly endangered species will follow in short order (within decades), as will the release of vast amounts of greenhouse gases from the forests and peatlands of the Congo Basin.
This might all seem a bit remote from discussions of renewable energy technology and electric cars to some people, but the reality is that without a wholesale end to mass deforestation and fossil fuel reliance, no technological transitions will ever amount to much.
So what’s the solution to this predicament? I’m not so sure that there is one so long as a market remains for various types of high-value wood products such as those being logged in Congo. If effective change was to occur, it would likely have to occur on the demand side, as governments in places like the Democratic Republic of the Congo are essentially just in it for the money at this point (which from a strictly immediate and materialistic sense is in the best interests of those living in Congo). So long as the population in the country keeps growing there will be people there looking to exploit the natural resources for monetary gain.
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