At Gabon talks, a debate over who pays to save the world’s forests

MOMBASA, Kenya (AP) — A summit in Gabon on how to protect the world’s largest forests will be dominated by the question of who pays to protect and reforestation land that is home to some of the world’s most diverse species and contribute to limiting global warming emissions.

French President Emmanuel Macron and officials and environment ministers from around the world will attend this week’s One Forest Summit in the capital Brazzaville to talk about preserving the world’s largest rainforests.

But the absence of leaders from key countries such as President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil and Félix Tshisekedi of Congo is likely to dampen the summit’s momentum.

Macron and his Gabonese counterpart Ali Bongo Ondimba hope the summit will nevertheless encourage solidarity between the world’s three largest tropical forests in the Amazon, the Congo Basin and Southeast Asia, where some countries say protecting the forests must be profitable.

“The funding has not been achieved on the necessary scale,” said Papua New Guinea’s environment minister Simo Kilepa on Wednesday night. “We need to be able to generate income from protecting wild forests.”

The Gabon summit follows disagreements over money to protect forests at the United Nations Biodiversity Summit in Montreal last December. Congo objected to the now-approved framework at the last minute, urging wealthy, industrialized countries to pay lower-income countries to help protect forests. Congo’s calls were rejected due to legal technicalities. The country is sending a limited delegation to Gabon.

Major environmental groups led by Global Witness are also pressuring France to exert its influence and rein in the major European banks accused of financing deforestation.

“It is incredibly disheartening to still see French and other EU-based financial institutions continue to pump millions of euros into the decimation of climate-critical forests,” said Giulia Bondi, a senior campaigner for EU forests at Global Witness. Earlier, Global Witness discovered that France’s asset managers hold 966 million euros ($1 billion) in bonds and equities with forest risks.

A report released on the sidelines of the summit also called for funding for the protection of nature and the protection of indigenous peoples and local communities. The Global Environment Facility and the International Institute for Environment and Development suggested that “biodiversity-positive carbon credits,” where companies and governments are paid for conservation efforts, could boost ambitions.

In Africa, protected areas and forests continue to come under increasing pressure from the conflicting interests of economic infrastructure development needs, environmental protection demands and climate action.

“Biodiversity and climate change are essentially one and the same problem,” says marine scientist David Obura. “They must be resolved together and the financial flows to each must be integrated and made twofold.”


The Associated Press’ climate and environmental coverage is supported by several private foundations. Read more about AP’s climate initiative here. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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