A coalition of civil society groups has joined growing international calls for the immediate cancellation of a massive oil and gas auction in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The auction threatens local communities, the global climate, and one of the world’s largest remaining rainforests.
Thirteen of the blocks up for auction overlap with protected areas in the country, including the world-famous Virunga national park. The park is home to increasingly rare mountain gorillas.
The DRC is now one of the critical climate battlegrounds in Africa. Some 90% of the continent’s forests under threat from oil exploitation are in the vast Congo basin, which is second only to the Amazon in size.
This massive forest, which is twice the size of Germany, straddles the DRC and the Republic of Congo. Together with the surrounding peatlands, they store approximately 30 billion tons of carbon. The UN recognizes it as a biodiversity hotspot. However, the area overlaps 150 existing or planned oil and gas exploration fields.
Political pressure is growing on the DRC to reduce the size of the upcoming oil and gas auctions. In October last year, the US climate envoy, John Kerry, asked the DRC to reduce the amount of land at auction. However, the country’s environment minister, Ève Bazaiba, rebutted Kerry, saying, “As much as we need oxygen, we also need bread.”
Now the civil society groups, including NGOs AICED, Dynamique Pole, IDPE, MJPE, and REDD, and international NGOs 350.org, Banktrack, Greenpeace Africa, Oil Change International, and Rainforest Rescue, are calling for the auction to be scrapped.
They say that the news of a secret deal between the country’s Oil Minister Didier Budimbu, Nigerian gambling tycoon Chukwuma Ayodeji Ojuroye, and U.S. consultancy GeoSigmoid, “makes a mockery of Mr. Budimbu’s global communications campaign to promote the auction as transparent.”
One of the two blocks that Mr. Ojuroye reportedly expects to be awarded, block 23, lies in the heart of the peatland-rich Cuvette Centrale, which could set off a “carbon time bomb” if exploited.
The NGO call comes just days after Budimbu tweeted that he had delayed the auction date to between April and October. This includes three of the most controversial blocks: the country’s Cuvette Centrale rainforest and peatlands.
After the auctions were delayed, Tal Harris, a spokesperson for Greenpeace Africa, told Climate Home: “Whatever the reason for the DRC to reschedule its oil auction, the Congolese government should use it to close the chapter on its fossil horror story and offer an alternative story of hope.”
Harris added that instead, investments in “clean, renewable and decentralized” energy solutions could end energy poverty and protect the planet.
The full press release can be viewed here.
What are these groups offering the Congo to replace the lost income?
John Kerry should be offering aid.
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