Brazzaville hosts Summit to protect tropical forests

A general view shows the water conditions of the Piraiba river before a summit of Amazon rainforest nations, in Belem, Para state, Brazil August 6, 2023. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of the Congo, hosted a summit from October 26 to 28 that brought together African leaders to cover the frameworks for better protection of the major tropical forest basins on the planet, namely the Amazon, Congo, and Borneo-Mekong basins, hence the name of the gathering – the Summit of the Three Basins.

These basins account for about 80% of the world’s forest cover and roughly three-quarters of its biodiversity. Over 3,000 people attended the summit, from government representatives to international organisations, NGOs, civil society, scientists, researchers, environmentalists, and indigenous populations. Also, heads of state from Africa were present including the Congo, DR Congo, Burundi, Central African Republic, Comoros, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Sao Tome and Principe, were present. However, no leaders from the Amazon or Borneo attended, Colombia and Venezuela being represented by their Foreign Affairs Ministers.

The primary objectives of the summit were to form a global coalition to hasten the energy transition and enhance collaboration among these ecological powerhouses, seen as the major ecological lungs of the world. The participants affirmed their commitment to establish a roadmap for cooperation among the three basins.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, French President Emmanuel Macron, and former Brazilian President Lula da Silva joined the discussions via video conference, praising the initiative. The President of the Republic of Congo, Denis Sassou Nguesso, stressed the summit’s focus on creating a governance framework, aiming for a global alliance among the three basins.

Meanwhile, a global report reveals that significant portions of tropical forests within these regions face ongoing threats from the expansion of fossil fuel, mining, and extractive industries. The report, titled “The Three Basins Threat Report: Fossil Fuel, Mining, and Industrial Expansion Threats to Forests and Communities,” compiled by Earth Insight and various non-profit organisations, highlights the challenges confronting the remaining tropical forest basins worldwide.

All the three areas are grappling with substantial forest loss, progressively moving towards an imminent breakdown of their ecosystems, which in turn imperils global climate stability, biodiversity, and the livelihoods of numerous indigenous groups and local communities. Roughly 20% of intact tropical forests within these basins are now part of active or potential oil and gas concessions. In the Amazon basin, nearly 13% of undisturbed tropical forests overlap with existing or planned oil and gas blocks, and over 33% intersect with active and inactive mining concessions. In the Congo basin, over 39% of undisturbed Tropical Moist Forests intersect with oil and gas blocks, while nearly 27% overlap with mining concessions.

Southeast Asia faces similar challenges, with approximately 20% of undisturbed Tropical Moist Forests lying within oil and gas blocks designated for production or exploration. Indonesia, specifically, sees 53% of its natural forests vulnerable to various extractive concessions granted by the government. Half of the nickel mining concessions overlap with natural forests, with a potential fivefold risk of deforestation if these permits expand to cover the entire deposit area.

The expansions of these industries impact over 200 million people, including a substantial number of indigenous and local communities.

The first Summit of the Three Basins took place in Brazzaville in 2011 and resulted in the Declaration of the Summit of the Three Tropical Forest Basins, recognising the necessity of establishing a platform to encourage cooperation among the countries in these three basins. However, little was achieved in the last 12 years.

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