7 December 2015

Congo-Kinshasa: France Hosts Climate Change Talks While Pumping Millions Into Logging Rainforests

press release

As France brokers talks on a global deal to cut carbon emissions at the Paris climate summit, Global Witness reveals how the French Development Agency (FDA) has invested over 120 million euros in logging companies that are dismantling the world's second largest rainforest.

"At COP21 the French Development Agency is promoting itself as a major investor in climate-friendly projects, including forest protection," said Alexandra Pardal of Global Witness. (1) "But our investigations show that for the last 20 years it has invested millions to support the Congo Basin's logging industry, which is linked to forest destruction, illegal logging, tax avoidance and complicity with violence against local populations."

In a statement issued today by non-governmental organisations and scientists - including Global Witness, Greenpeace, Rainforest Foundation UK, OCEAN DRC and Brainforest Gabon - are calling on France to end its support of industrial logging in the Congo Basin, recognising that almost 12% of global greenhouse emissions come from forest destruction.

A 2015 Global Witness exposé showed that the FDA had supported logging companies which broke environmental and social safeguards and helped bankroll the Central African Republic's bloody conflict by dealing with armed groups guilty of mass murder. (2) In 2014 an EU-funded audit showed that no logging company operating in Cameroon could be considered legal. (3) In Democratic Republic of Congo, 90% of forest taxes failed to reach public coffers in 2012 because of tax avoidance by logging companies. (4)

The FDA - a public development agency and bank - justifies its grants and loans to large-scale logging companies by claiming that they are used for technical support to help minimise the environmental impact of logging and for the economic development of forest-rich yet cash-poor countries.

"If we are serious about saving the world's second largest rainforest then we shouldn't entrust it to industrial logging companies," said Pardal. "The French Development Agency's own evaluation report shows that their investments have had negligible development benefits in the Congo Basin and cannot guarantee that logging is environmentally sustainable." (5)

European logging companies have been active in the Congo Basin since the colonial era. Industrial loggers now control 44 million hectares of forest in Central Africa - around a quarter of the total rainforest.

"It is farcical to suggest that logging can be environmentally sound. Every tree that is felled drags eight others down with it. Once cut, primary forest takes between six and eight centuries to recover," said Pardal. "The French Development Agency's investment policy is clearly tailored to France's own economic interests - it is failing Africa and undermining France's own climate goals.

If we are expected to take France's COP leadership seriously, the government must commit to divesting from industrial logging, a business that is at stark odds with a healthy climate and a sustainable future."

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