Kinshasa, 10 May 2018 – Good morning to you all and thank you very much for taking the time to meet with me today. It is a pleasure to be in the DRC and I feel blessed to have spent time in the giant forest of the Congo Basin. I am in awe of its dense evergreen beauty, the magnificent Congo river, the Peatlands and its people.
As Greenpeace Africa Executive Director, I visited the Equateur Province and the peatlands, at the invitation of the Governor Bobo Boloko who was elected on December 21st, 2017. In his inaugural speech in front of provincial parliamentarians which was relayed in the press, the Governor declared that: he will provide a green economy for the people of the Equateur Province”. He is also planning: the installation of two hybrid photovoltaic power plants to improve water supply and electricity in Mbandaka”.
I am just back having spent a number of days in the forests peat swamps. These forests of the Congos harbour the most extensive tropical peatland complex, estimated at 14 million hectares, which is larger than the size of England. During my visit, I spent time in two significant villages: Lokolama in Bikoro territory and Mweko in Bolomba territory via Ikelemba River – that according to our scientific research, stores the densest peat. In fact, the peatland in the Congo Basin is estimated to store 30 billion tons of carbon which is the equivalent of three years of fossil fuel emission by the USA.
Greenpeace Africa wants to laud the scientists, Simon Lewis, Greta Dargie and Bart Crezee from the University of Leeds as well as Dr. Corneille Ewango, who led this monumental discovery of the peatlands. We also want to applaud those who continue to work to enable us to have the correct scientific facts that are the basis of our call for the protection of the peatlands. Keeping these peat swamps undisturbed is key for the world’s climate stability.
The President of the Provincial Parliament has promised to table a peatland protection legislature, and we urge the Provincial government to work closely with local scientists in designing the protection of the peatlands. We have to be extremely vigilant because we are aware, as we are putting all our resources towards the protection of the peatlands, there are others putting all of their resources to get logging licenses in the areas that need protection.
To this end, we have asked the Governor of Equateur Province to declare the peatlands a protected area and publicly denounce any logging in the area as well as seek to immediately cancel all illegal logging licenses without a management plan! Greenpeace appeals to the National Government to partner with national NGOs to put in place an effective mechanism to stop these illegal logging activities.
We hope local and indigenous communities living around the peatlands will take ownership of this world phenomenal and together with the Provincial government, work towards protection mechanisms for a lasting sustainable solution. These communities are key allies in the protection of the Congo Basin forest and Greenpeace Africa believes that community forestry is part of the solution to protect these sensitive areas.
Protecting the Congo Basin peatlands is critical to maintain climate stability and prevent runaway climate change. If the peatlands are drained for logging or agriculture, the carbon that has accumulated over 10,000 years will be released as CO2 into the atmosphere, exacerbating climate change. In addition, once drained, peatlands become vulnerable to fire. The burning of peatlands also releases CO2 into the atmosphere rapidly and damages the capacity of the peatland ecosystem to recover and absorb more carbon again.
We thus call upon the international community and donors organisations to include peatlands protection in the future negotiations on climate. This should involve funding for research, the adoption of effective measures for their protection and the implementation of several development projects which reflects ecological balance and protect community rights.