OpEd by Jean Luc Stalon, Resident Representative of UNDP Cameroon
Today, as the United Nations is preparing for the UN Climate Action Summit that will take place on 23 September 2019, leaders of the world are expected to bring updated plans to boost climate action.
Forests are critical to stabilize climate and regulate ecosystems, protect biodiversity, play an integral part in the carbon cycle, support livelihoods, and can help drive sustainable growth. UNDP Cameroon spotlightsthe Congo Basin Forest that needs urgent attention. The health of the Congo Basin Forest is deteriorating more rapidly than ever, with the loss of an area as big as Bangladesh over the past 15 years.
The Congo Basin is home to the second-largest rainforest on the planet. It covers close to 70% of the forestlands of Africa and stretches across six countries – Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Central African Republic (CAR), Equatorial Guinea, Republic of the Congo (RoC) and Gabon. Beyond sustaining livelihoods for 80 million people living across the Basin, the rainforest also plays a critical role in regulating climate patterns across other parts of the continent.
At current rates of deforestation, University of Maryland researchers suggest that by 2100, the forest will be razed. The dominant force behind rising deforestation is commercial farming, slash-and-burn agriculture, harvesting of fuelwood and the opening of forest zones for infrastructure development.
While the Basin countries strive for emergence, they are heavily reliant on development of infrastructure and industry growth that may bring about further destruction of forestlands.
In a bid to meet the ever growing demand of forest products and resources at international level such as wood, palm oil, rubber and other elements harnessed by industrial logging and extensive agriculture, this will only further deplete Africa’s biggest carbon sink.
Yet, the continued disappearance of these forest landscapes exacerbates insecurity of water and food supplies for some of the continent’s most vulnerable populations. Deforestation is eroding the very foundations of economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life throughout Africa and well beyond.
The need for coordination at the regional level is pressing. While it is urgent to prevent further depletion of the forest, financial mobilization has fallen short of needs and expectations. Adverse effects of emergence strategies on the forestlands must be mitigated with strategic and coordinated actions undertaken by development partners, including the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
In an effort to preserve the Congo Basin Forest, COMIFAC (Cental African Forests Commission) is essential in ensuring political will from governments. The commission is key in shaping the climate change response in the Basin and has consistently taken into consideration local communities and ecosystems of the concerned countries. As advocated by the COMIFAC, objectives of REDD+ should be integrated in the broader national agendas for development. It is a necessary condition to ensure wide implementation and acceptance at all levels of society.
The UNDP Country Office, characterized by strong institutional linkages and increased coordination, collaborates with the COMIFAC to propel the deforestation agenda and the climate change response in general. Through a $100 million proposal to the Green Climate Fund, UNDP strives to improve forest governance by further engaging in the REDD+ initiative. Assisting 10 COMIFAC members will support Central African countries to meet their economic and development objectives while at the same time taking into account their environmental commitments.