What we do: protecting ancient forests
Logging is the single biggest threat to the Congo Basin rainforest. At the moment, logging companies working mostly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are busy cutting down trees over 50 million hectares of rainforest, or an area the size of France.
Bandundu province, DRC
Aerial photograph of the Bandundu province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. © Greenpeace / Kate Davison
Rainforests provide shelter and food for the people living near them; they also help the rest of us breathe by providing oxygen.
But every two seconds we destroy the equivalent of an entire soccer field in our greed to get timber to make books, furniture, houses or even toilet paper.
And every time we destroy an intact tropical forest, we devastate the communities that depend on it, change the climate and cause the extinction of many species of wildlife.
Here in Africa, 40 million people depend on the Congo Basin rainforest. They’re fed by it, housed by it, clothed by it and even healed by it. The rain forest is also home for 270 species of mammals, including the endangered gorilla, the chimpanzee and the bonobo, as well as 39 unique species of animals that are only found here.
It’s the second largest rainforest on Earth, after the Amazon, and is a vital weapon in fighting climate change.
The Democratic Republic of Congo holds more than eight percent of the world’s carbon stocks – it’s the fourth largest foreign carbon reservoir in the world. And we’re destroying it.
The Congo Basin rainforest
Logging is the single biggest threat to the Congo Basin rainforest. At the moment, logging companies working mostly in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are busy cutting down trees over 50 million hectares of rainforest, or an area the size of France. A third of this is actually designated as a priority conservation area. Another third is home to afrormosia, the endangered tree species. Throughout the entire region are people who depend on the forests to survive.
The government, supported by international donors and the World Bank, is actually encouraging industrial logging to turn back poverty and develop these areas. All they’re doing is selling the birthright of the people who live there, who are already being forced to survive on less than a dollar a day.
Greenpeace has investigated the logging operations in the Congo Basin and exposed the most unscrupulous and corrupt operators. These companies are guilty of bribing public servants, not paying taxes and bending the system to avoid getting caught. One of the worst offenders is the Danzer Group, a German Swiss operation, which has been cheating the people of the DRC out of millions by evading taxes.
In 2008, if Danzer had actually paid its tax bill of nearly 8 million Euros ($10 million), the government could have vaccinated 700 000 of its children. Instead Danzer, and other groups like it, got the natural wealth of the Congolese for the barter of bags of salt, soap, coffee, beer and sugar. A century ago they would have thrown in a handful of worthless beads to sweeten the deal.
As for corporate social investment, like building schools and clinics for the local communities, there is nothing worth the name. It either doesn’t happen or that which is built is just lip-service to the bare minimum.
Click for the solutions to deforestation
Helping to fight climate change
Forests are the most important tool in keeping climate change to a minimum because they are a huge carbon reserve, turning carbon back into oxygen and letting the world breathe. But if the logging in the DRC continues unchecked, the country will have lost almost half its rainforest by 2050. The area north of the Congo River will actually be totally deforested.
To put this another way, this will release 34,4 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide. That’s equal to the total emissions in the United Kingdom for the last 60 years.
The economics are simple: the forests are worth more as carbon stores than their wood is worth in whatever shape or form in European markets. Emissions from deforestation amount to 20 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. If we stop it and protect our forests through a globally funded system, we will not only create sustainable jobs for the people who live there, we’ll also help the world to breathe as we protect the climate.
Find out more about Forests for Climate
The war isn’t lost, but there's no time to lose if we’re going to save the rainforests.
Greenpeace is calling for:
- Zero deforestation in the world's intact tropical forests by 2020
- The adoption of the Forests for Climate project, where it makes more money to save them than destroy them
- The destruction of the international market for illegal timber, and
- The lobbying of the DRC government to get local communities involved in protecting their forests with the backing and protection of the government as part of an integrated national land use plan.