During his official visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on 9 August 2022, the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, recognised the urgent need to preserve the Congo Basin forest. He announced the establishment of a joint DRC/US task force to protect the tropical forest and peatlands of the Congo Basin.
US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Christophe Lutundula, announced the creation of a formal working group to protect the forests and peatlands of the Congo Basin. This was on 9 August 2022, following their meeting in Kinshasa, the capital of the DRC.
Speaking alongside his Congolese counterpart, Blinken said that Kinshasa can help protect the earth’s atmosphere by ensuring that mining and fossil fuel extraction projects only take place after a rigorous environmental impact assessment. With more than 50% of the Congo Basin forests (the second largest tropical forest on the planet), the DRC, which has a key role to play in protecting Africa’s forests, is however embroiled in an oil project, which is deemed to be forest-hostile.
“Country solution” to the climate crisis?
The working group announced by the DRC and the United States of America has caused several conservation organisations to call their bluff. The project comes at a time when the DRC is considering a plan to auction off 26 oil blocks and 3 gas blocks. A decision that would condemn the country and its rich biodiversity to irreversible environmental destruction.
“No new fossil fuel project is compatible with a 1.5 degree world. You cannot extract oil from peatlands and protected areas and claim to be a solution country,” said Irene Wabiwa Betoko, the International Congo Basin Forest Project Manager at Greenpeace Africa.
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In a joint statement issued on 10 August 2022, Greenpeace Africa and Greenpeace USA call for the protection of forests and peatlands and an end to oil and gas expansion in the DRC.