A coalition of non-governmental organizations has called on France to end support to industrial logging in the Congo Basin.
Since 1990, logging companies operating in the Congo Basin have received about 120 million euros’ worth of grants and loans from the French Development Agency to establish and implement sustainable logging practices.
This support has failed, NGOs argue. Signatories of the letter include among others the DRC-based Centre for Support of Sustainable Management of Tropical Forests (CAGDFT), Gabon’s Brainforest, Rainforest Foundation UK, Greenpeace, and Global Witness.
“Our investigations show that for the last 20 years, France 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,” says Global Witness Alexandra Pardal.
“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.”
Independent evaluations conducted by the French Development Agency (FDA) evaluation unit confirmed France’s aid to these logging companies has had negligible development benefits.
“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,” argues Global Witness.
France however argues that its interventions in the Congo Basin has been relevant particularly with regard to the target to shift logging methods towards sustainable management.
The Democratic Republic of Congo is the largest country in the Congo Basin and contains 12.5 percent of the world’s remaining tropical rainforest. A ban on allocating new logging concessions has been in place since 2002. In recent years, there has been a fierce debate on whether or not to lift this ban.
NGOs have urged France to oppose the lifting of the moratorium on new logging concessions in the DRC.
Future French engagement in the logging sector in the region should be based on public consultation with civil society, NGOs have proposed.
The current model of “sustainable forest management” has failed. As a result, “French funds made available for tropical rainforests through the COP21, FLEGT and REDD+ processes must not be used to subsidize industrial logging,” the NGOs state.
European logging companies have been active in the Central African forest for decades. In 2015 alone, many reports blamed these companies of illegal logging activities, breaking environmental and social safeguards and funding Central African Republic’s bloody civil war.
Similarly, the Court of Auditors of the European Commission in October published a report admitting that Europe needs to put its house in order to stop illegal timber making its way into European markets.
“The EU should, firstly, put its own house in order and set an example in tackling illegal logging and the trade of illegally harvested timber,” said Karel Pinxten, Member of the Court of Auditors.