Congo's forests are in the crosshairs of oil and gas

Congo's forests are in the crosshairs of oil and gas

November 10, 2022 - New maps and report show the Congo Basin is the epicenter of oil and gas expansion threats to tropical forests in Africa, and likely the world.

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, EGYPT, NOVEMBER 10, 2022 – According to a new report, Congo in the Crosshairs, oil and gas expansion in the Congo Basin is a rapidly accelerating existential threat to the global climate, and to the world’s second largest rainforest – along with the tens of millions of people who live there. A comprehensive mapping and analysis of oil and gas blocks in Africa and within the Congo Basin show that:

  • Despite the need to end oil and gas expansion globally, the area of land allocated to oil and gas production on the African continent is set to quadruple.
  • Oil and gas exploration blocks overlap 30% of dense tropical forests in Africa, of which 90% are in the Congo Basin.
  • In the Congo Basin, over 180 million hectares of dense tropical forests still remain and over 35% of these critical forests, or 64 million hectares (an area nearly twice the size of Germany), now overlap with existing or planned oil and gas blocks.
  • Over 150 distinct ethnic groups call the Congo Basin home and over 35 million people, or 20% of populated places in Congo Basin countries,3 are now in existing or designated oil and gas blocks.
  • A close examination of oil development that has already occurred in the DRC and also in Nigeria reveals disastrous impacts on the health, livelihoods and human rights of local communities and is a cautionary tale for the Congo Basin.
  • There is still time for African nations and the international community to chart a different path that advances economic well-being while protecting critical forests and the communities that depend on Key investments include unlocking the continent’s vast potential in renewables and scaling up direct support to forest communities and other frontline forest defenders.

The current exploitation plans for oil and gas in DRC’s forests would have major implications for global efforts to limit global warming to within the threshold of 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. Yet DRC’s international partners have so far fallen short on addressing the threat to this vital carbon sink. There is still time for African nations and the international community to change course, but meaningful action must be taken now if there’s any hope of protecting critical forests and the communities that depend on them.

Congo in the Crosshairs is being released during COP 27 – the international gathering of world leaders designed to address the climate crisis. It offers a stark reality check regarding the threat that oil and gas expansion plans pose to the continent’s critical forests and Indigenous and local communities.

The report also presents a range of solutions including:

  • Transition away from oil and gas by unlocking the abundant potential of renewable energy in the region, promoting investments in distributed energy sources (small-scale hydro, wind, solar).4
  • Invest in transparent, well-regulated, sustainable and equitable supply chains for minerals that will fuel the renewable energy transition (e.g. cobalt and lithium), ensuring that processing facilities and other value chains remain in the Congo Basin countries.
  • Mobilise significant technical and financial support from the G20 economies, including via a carbon windfall tax to support climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts and by leveraging debt held by foreign governments, banks, and other creditors conditioned on keeping fossil fuels in the ground, trees standing and expanding Indigenous and local community forest and land rights.
  • Create and implement National Adaptation Plans in order to pursue Loss and Damage resources through international financial mechanisms designed to ensure industrialised economies pay their dues to countries bearing the brunt of climate change related costs.
  • Ramp up financial support for the protection of forests and peatlands and expand direct support to Congolese civil society organisations, indigenous peoples and other local communities on the frontlines of tropical deforestation so that they may control their own development.5

Congo Basin Organizations Endorsing Report:

Actions pour la Promotion et la Protection des peuples et des espèces menacés (APEM), Réseau pour la conservation et la réhabilitation des écosystèmes forestiers (Réseau CREF), Association Paysanne pour la Réhabilitation et protection des Pygmées (PREPPYG), Groupe d’Action pour Sauver l’Homme et son Environnement (GASHE), Centre d’appui à la gestion durable des forêts tropicales (CAGDFT), GeoFirst Development, Ecosystèmes et Développement (EcoDev), Comptoir Juridique Junior (CJJ), Dynamique des Groupes des Peuples Autochtones (DGPA), Forêts et Développement Rural (FODER)

About Rainforest Foundation UK

The Rainforest Foundation UK is dedicated to a human rights centered approach to tackling deforestation. Together with its local partners, it supports forest communities to gain land rights, challenge destructive industries, manage their forests and protect their environment. Globally, it campaigns to influence national and international laws and policies that protect rainforests and their inhabitants. Since its inception more than 30 years ago, the Rainforest Foundation family has supported indigenous and other local communities to protect 84 million hectares of forest worldwide. 

About Earth Insight

Earth Insight is a new research organization that focuses on mapping critical threats to ecosystems and the Indigenous people and local communities that call these places home. Through global and regional mapping and research and capacity building efforts, Earth Insight is advancing new levels of understanding and supporting movement efforts to preserve our shared natural heritage for a stable climate and future.

Media contacts:

Rainforest Foundation UK: Joe Eisen, Executive Director, and Jak Wagnon, Communications Coordinator,

Earth Insight: Tyson Miller, Executive Director:

At COP 27: Ana Osuna Orozco, Rainforest Foundation UK Head of Programmes:

Media interviews with Congolese partners available upon request via Jak or Ana.

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