A summit on how to protect the world’s largest forests underway in Gabon will be dominated by the question of who pays for the protection and reforestation of lands that are home to some of the world’s most diverse species and help limit global warming emissions planet .
French President Emmanuel Macron and environment officials and ministers from around the world will attend the One Forest Summit in the capital Libreville this week to discuss maintaining the world’s major rainforests.
But the absence of leaders from key nations such as Presidents Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil and Félix Tshisekedi of Congo are likely to dampen the momentum of the summit.
Macron and his Gabonese counterpart Ali Bongo Ondimba hope the summit will nonetheless encourage solidarity between the world’s three major tropical forests in the Amazon, Congo Basin and Southeast Asia, where some countries say forest protection must be profitable.
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“The finance has not materialized at the scale needed,” Simo Kilepa, Papua New Guinea’s environment minister, said Wednesday evening. “We need to be able to generate revenue from the protection of wild forests.”
The summit in Gabon follows disagreements over money to protect forests at the United Nations biodiversity summit in Montreal last December. Congo has filed a last-minute objection to the now approved framework, urging rich, industrialized nations to pay low-income countries to help protect forests. Congo’s calls were rejected on a legal technicality. The country is sending a small delegation to Gabon.
Major environmental groups led by Global Witness are also mounting pressure on France to exert its influence and rein in major European banks accused of funding deforestation.
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“It is incredibly disheartening to still see French and other EU-based financial institutions continue to pump millions of euros into the decimation of climate-critical forests,” said Giulia Bondi, an experienced EU forest activist at Global Witness. Earlier, Global Witness found that French asset managers hold 966 million euros ($1 billion) in forest-risk bonds and stocks.
A report released on the sidelines of the summit also called for funding to protect nature and safeguard indigenous peoples and local communities. The Global Environment Facility and the International Institute on Environment and Development have suggested that “biodiversity-positive carbon credits,” in which corporations and governments are paid for conservation efforts, could boost ambition.
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In Africa, protected areas and forests continue to face increasing pressure from the conflicting interests of economic infrastructure development needs, environmental protection needs and climate action.
“Biodiversity and climate change are essentially the same problem,” said marine scientist David Obura. “They have to be solved together, and the financial flows to each have to be integrated and made dual.”