The Fund, which has already garnered pledges of US$216 million, was launched in the presence of the Fund’s Co-Chairs, Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai, and former Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin ; along with representatives of international development partners, civil society, private sector and top management of the AfDB Group led by its President, Donald Kaberuka.
"Together we are pledging to work to secure the future of one of the world’s last remaining ancient forests. Preserving our forests is vital if we are going to reduce global emissions and tackle climate change.
"I look forward to working with leaders and groups in the Congo region and from around the world, to preserve these forests and sustain the people’s livelihoods," Mr. Brown said.
For his part, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of Norway described climate change as one of the world’s current defining challenges, pointing out that the global community will have to find ways to dramatically reduce total emissions over a short period of time.
“Reducing deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries is a main priority for Norway’s climate policy, alongside investing in new technologies such as carbon capture and storage. We believe that The Congo Basin Forest Fund is a good example of a mechanism by which developed countries can help shoulder the financial burden of developing countries making significant emissions reductions. Therefore, Norway is pledging £50 million (US$ 100 million) to limiting emissions from deforestation in the Congo Basin," Mr. Stoltenberg emphasized.
Speaking during the launch, AfDB President Donald Kaberuka expressed the Bank Group’s appreciation of the lead role played by the British and Canadian Prime Ministers, leaders and governments of the Congo Basin as well as the co-Chairs of the Fund and assured them of the institutions support by hosting the Fund.
“Our shared intention is to slow the deforestation of the Congo Basin ; but at the same time, provide the people and the institutions the capacity to manage and find a livelihood. If we succeed, and we must, the people of the Congo Basin will have made a major contribution to humanity...” said Mr. Donald Kaberuka.
Mr. Kaberuka reiterated the unflinching commitment to the project demonstrated by development partners and the Bank Group’s acceptance to host the fund on behalf of, and in partnership with the 10-member States of the Central African Forests Commission (COMIFAC), comprising Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Central African Republic, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Sao Tome and Principe, Rwanda as well as the UK and Norway.
“We assume this role with the determination to make it a success. We have a long standing experience in this type of activity. Today, we have a US$300 million portfolio in forest management projects. In total, we have financed US$710 million in about 21 countries. We are committed to doing more to protect our forests, our rivers, and lakes such as Lake Victoria and Lake Chad,” he added.
More than 50 million people live in the Congo Basin forest region, which covers about two million square kilometres, and is home to 10,000 species of plants, 1,000 species of birds and 400 species of mammals.
For her part, Ms Maathai said the forests were also very important for maintaining rainfall and water supplies in the region, narrating her own childhood experience in Kenya when a stream that people relied on for fresh water dried up because of intensive agriculture.
"Africa has to make very tough choices and she has to feed herself. But it’s very important we do not sacrifice indigenous forests for biofuels or any other alternatives," she said. Africa is also a water-scarce continent and agriculture is still very dependent on rainfall. Encroachment on these forests would be counterproductive," She emphasized.
Supporting these views, former Canadian Prime Minister, Paul Martin, said they would be working closely with all the African governments involved.
"Nobody disputes the negative costs of cutting down the forest and that they are hurting themselves by doing it. We have to demonstrate that there are better alternatives, such as sustainable agriculture and reforestation, even in the short term, for their people."
The UN estimates that 66 per cent of the rainforest will be gone by 2040 if the destruction is not halted.
One of the first steps to arrest the deforestation of the Congo Basin will be the use of state-of-the-art satellite technology to map, with precision the extent of the damage caused by deforestation. ( With AFDB Press release).
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