Central African countries – which emit relatively few greenhouse gases on a global scale – have committed to conserve, protect, and restore the health and integrity of the Earth’s ecosystems under the principle of common but differentiated responsibility. But their mitigation commitments under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) do not translate to effective engagement at national level, according to Chapter 7 of the Congo Basin Forests – State of the Forests 2021 report produced by the Central Africa Forest Observatory (OFAC). Specifically, inadequacy in reporting is constraining the sub-region’s governments from accessing critical funding streams that are intended for developing countries like them.
Of the mandatory regulatory commitments, 9 out of the 10 countries of the Central African Forest Commission (COMIFAC) – Burundi, Cameroon, Congo, Gabon, Central African Republic, DR Congo, Rwanda, Sao Tome & Principe, and Chad – have submitted at least two national reports, but no biennial update report. They have also submitted reports on the first phase of their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the Paris Agreement on climate change, and by March 2022 all had submitted updates, except for Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. These NDCs represent a total reduction of 455.4 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent planned in conditional and unconditional form, with a need of over USD 117 billion for a commitment period that runs to 2030. While COMIFAC designed a regional implementation plan for the commitments in 2016, this has yet to be implemented.
COMIFAC countries have also taken part in the National Action Program for Adaption (NAPA) preparation exercise, which has enabled them to identify their urgent and immediate needs to adapt to current threats linked to climate change. In least-developed countries, NAPA constitutes the basis to create National Adaptation Plans (NAPs), and the Green Climate Fund provides USD 3 million per developing country to prepare these. With COMIFAC’s facilitation, Central African Republic and Equatorial Guinea are currently preparing project documents to access this fund.
COMIFAC’s member states have also committed to the Climate Technology Center and Network, the implementation arm of UNFCCC’s technology mechanism which assists developing countries to deploy environmentally-sound technologies for low-carbon and climate-resilient development. COMIFAC has facilitated the appointment of Designated National Entities for all its members and has helped prepared Technology Needs Assessments for four countries in the sub-region. So far, only Rwanda has received a full grant for one activity under this fund, while DR Congo has received about 20 percent of the funds for its planned activity.
The researchers observed that the nomination and selection of Congo Basin experts on Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report writing teams has been very limited. Created in 1988 and now in its sixth assessment cycle, the panel has included just four experts from the Central African sub-region over its lifespan – none of which has been women.
COMIFAC countries have also engaged in voluntary commitments and taken part in initiatives to make the world a better place climate-wise, such as the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF). This facility assists countries set up building blocks to implement REDD+ (the UN programme to reduce forest emissions and enhance forest carbon stocks), and drives results-based payments to countries that have made progress through REDD+ readiness and/or implementation and have achieved verifiable emission reductions. So far, five COMIFAC countries have fully engaged with the FCPF’s REDD+ Readiness Fund, while three have gone further by engaging with its Carbon Fund, with Cameroon and Congo expressing their wish to receive payments against measurable emission reductions in the forestry and land use sectors.
Another area of action is the Central African Forest Initiative, which brings together six Central African countries with high forest cover – DR Congo, Congo, Gabon, Central African Republic, Cameroon, and Equatorial Guinea – and a group of donors. Launched in 2015, the initiative – which aims to help put Central Africa’s forests at the heart of the global climate agenda – has seen three letters of intent signed with DR Congo, Gabon, and Congo to date. So far, USD 465 million have been committed for the three countries, with preparatory grants also allocated to Cameroon, Central African Republic, and Equatorial Guinea to develop their Initial National Communication under the initiative.
Beyond the commitments that are directly connected to climate mitigation, Central African countries have also been mobilized around other initiatives that strengthen climate action. One such initiative is the EU’s Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) action plan – a scheme to ensure that it imports only legally-harvested timber. “Although climate change is not the main objective of the FLEGT action plan, interventions aimed at better regulating illegal and unsustainable logging in Central African countries are likely to contribute to adaptation and mitigation of climate problems,” said Denis Jean Sonwa, a senior scientist at CIFOR-ICRAF and one of the authors of the report. He said that the FLEGT approach also emphasizes good governance, an important ingredient to mitigating climate change. So far, six Congo Basin countries have signed FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreements and are now at various stages of negotiation or implementation, but none have yet been issued a FLEGT certificate.
Also, through the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR100), seven COMIFAC countries have committed to restoring 30.9 million hectares across Central Africa, with Rwanda and Burundi each aiming to restore more than 70 percent of their respective territories. The countries have also embarked on initiatives such as the SDGs, the RAMSAR Convention, and the Forest Investment Program.
But while the countries are not meeting the requirements of the UNFCCC, they are not able to grasp the full potential offered by the Convention, particularly in terms of access to the necessary – and available – funding. As such, the researchers think it’s time for the sub-region to up its game.
This article is also available in [French].
The research has been supported by the European Commission through the RIOFAC project.
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