Felix Tshisekedi and Boris Johnson next to each other at a table, each signing papers, at Cop26

The Democratic Republic of the Congo begins the auction of oil and gas permits in the habitat of the endangered gorilla | Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Democratic Republic of Congo has announced it will auction oil and gas permits for the endangered gorilla habitat and the world’s largest tropical peatland next week. The sale raises concerns about the credibility of a Forest Protection Deal Signed with state Boris Johnson at Cop26.

on MondayThe Minister of Hydrocarbons, Didier Bodembo, said the Democratic Republic of the Congo is expanding an auction of oil drilling areas to include two sites that overlap Virunga National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site home to the last remaining mountain gorillas on Earth.

The planned sale already included permits in the tropical peatlands of Cuvette Centrale in the northwest of the country, which store the equivalent of Three years of global emissions from fossil fuels.

Congo Basin is Only major rainforests absorb more carbon than they emit Experts have described it as The worst place in the world to explore fossil fuels.

Environmental groups have urged leading fossil fuel companies not to participate in the auction and said President Felix Tshisekedi, who signed a $500m (£417.6m) deal to protect the forest with Boris Johnson on the first day of Cop26 last year, should cancel the contract. a discount. The rainforests of the Congo Basin extend to six countries and Regulates precipitation as far away as Egypt.

Map showing the location of the sales sites

Speaking to the Guardian, Podembo acknowledged there were environmental concerns, but defended his country’s right to exploit its natural resources. He said the proceeds from oil and gas projects are essential to protect the Congo Basin forests and to the country’s economic development.

“We have a primary responsibility to the Congolese taxpayers, who often live in extremely precarious and poor conditions, and aspire to the social and economic well-being that oil exploitation is likely to provide,” he said.

Earlier this week, Bodembo He told the Financial Times, Hollywood actors Ben Affleck and Leonardo DiCaprio have “rided their high horse” and helped stop Virunga’s oil and gas drilling after 2014 Documentary on NetflixThis time, he said, the DRC will not be stopped.

President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and President of the African Union Felix Tshisekedi with Boris Johnson at Cop26 on November 2, 2021. Photo: Alberto Bezzali/AFP/Getty Images

The sale, scheduled for July 28-29, has raised concerns about the credibility of the letter of intent signed by Boris Johnson on behalf of the Central African Forest Initiative (Cafi) for a 10-year agreement. Includes goals To protect high-value forests and peatlands with 12 donor countries.

Lord Goldsmith, the UK’s international environment minister, said the UK government was “extremely concerned” about plans to drill for oil at Cuvette Central.

“We strongly believe that local people need to benefit directly from their forests, and their degradation is not doing this. We will continue to work with the Democratic Republic of the Congo to find solutions to protect this vital ecosystem, ensuring that commitments to reform the mining and oil and gas sector are met.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is one of the poorest countries in the world, with nearly three-quarters of its 60 million people living on less than $1.90 a day in 2018, according to world bank. The country’s per capita emissions were 141 times lower than that of the United Kingdom in 2019, and is responsible for 3% of all historical global emissions, except for those under colonial rule, according to the carbon brief.

Irene Wabiwa, International Project Lead for the Congo Forest Campaign at Greenpeace AfricaThe auction, he said, ridiculed the efforts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to position itself as a solution country to the climate crisis.

A portrait of a man far away under a thick canopy of trees in Virunga National Park
Part of the gorilla strip in Virunga National Park, which is under threat from the “ever-growing scramble for oil and gas”. Photo: Brent Stirton/Getty Images

“The new and ever-increasing colonial scramble for oil and gas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which now threatens Virunga National Park, as well as water sources, peatlands and protected areas, is a curious example of the unbroken obsession with monetizing nature,” she said.

Simon Lewis, a professor of global change science at University College London and a global expert on peatlands in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said the Congo Basin was the worst place in the world to drill for oil and gas.

“Opening these forests to develop oil will lead to hunting, deforestation, oil pollution, carbon emissions and social conflict. The oil auction is an auction to start a wildlife, health, climate and human rights disaster.

“Oil development risks social unrest, as we saw in the Niger Delta. The conflict in the center of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, just a river cruise from Kinshasa, could threaten the stability of the government and the entire country. Given that the 1998-2003 Congo war and its consequences killed more than 5 million people, Everything possible should be done to avoid conflict in the Congo. The auction should be cancelled.”

Kavey said he could not comment at this point.

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