Congo Government Publishes Scathing Report on Logging Industry | Land Portal
Author(s): 
Antony Sguazzin and Michael J Kavanagh
Language of the news reported: 
English
  • Audit says ministry gave illegal permits, didn’t collect taxes

  • Publication is step to unlocking $500 million in climate funds

The Democratic Republic of Congo published a scathing government audit report on the state of its forest and logging concessions, a first step in unlocking as much as $500 million in funding to support its climate-change commitments under the Central African Forest Initiative. 

The Inspector General report, which is dated May 2021, alleges that between 2014 and 2020 Congo’s environmental ministry illegally allocated logging permits and defied a moratorium on new concessions in place since 2002. Millions of dollars in fees, taxes, and royalties related to the permits have either not been paid or not made it to the public treasury, the report says.  

The publication of the report was the first “milestone” in a letter of intent with the Central African Forest Initiative under which Congo is scheduled to get the money over five years to help preserve forests and reverse their loss. Congo holds the biggest share of the forest in the Congo Basin, which lags behind only the Amazon in terms of the area covered by rain-forest. 

Rain forests act as so-called carbon sinks, where vegetation absorbs carbon emissions thereby slowing global warming.

The agreement, held up as a defining moment at the COP26 climate talks in Scotland last year, initially stipulated that the audit be published by the end of 2021. That deadline was then moved to the end of February, and CAFI has since expressed its concern.

The government auditors called for further investigation into the country’s forestry management “with a view to terminating all titles under which the exploitation of forest concessions is done without the knowledge of and to the detriment of the state.” It also recommended the suspension of all new attribution of forestry concessions “until the total cleaning up of the sector.” 

CAFI is a partnership created in 2015 between a coalition of European countries, the EU, South Korea, and the U.K. as well as the six Congo Basin countries with the aim of curbing the loss of forest in the region. 

U.K. ambassador to Congo Emily Maltman praised the publication of the audit report on Twitter Friday, saying her government would continue to support Congo’s commitments made under CAFI and at the COP26 climate summit.

Among those promises was more transparency in the management of its forests, which are shrinking by nearly half a million hectares each year, the UN says. 

“The audit reveals a circus of illegalities, corruption and crimes against the environment,” Greenpeace Africa said in response to questions. The organization “demands a legal investigation of all officials responsible for plundering the rain-forest.”

Congo’s environmental ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Besides the publication of an audit and all forestry contracts, Congo also committed to placing 30% of its area under protection status and restoring 8 million hectares (19.8 million acres) of degraded land and forests. The mineral-rich country will also halt mining and hydrocarbon extraction in protected areas if it leads to deforestation, according to the letter. 

 

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