Written by: Kimberly White

Gabon and Norway have entered into a historic agreement to preserve Gabon’s rainforests. The partnership between the two nations provides Gabon with an incentive to reduce deforestation and combat the climate crisis. As part of the 10-year agreement, Norway will pay $150 million to Gabon based on past performance and future results. 

The carbon floor price is set at $10 per ton and will be paid upon verification of results from 2016 through 2025. 

Announced during the UN Climate Action Summit in New York last week, the agreement is part of the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI). CAFI is a collaborative partnership between Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon; with the support of a coalition of donors: the European Union, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, South Korea, and the United Kingdom.

“I am very pleased with this results-based partnership through CAFI, which includes a historic carbon floor price to further encourage Gabon to continue to preserve its rainforest. This is a major breakthrough for REDD+ in Africa,” said Ola Elvestuen, Norway’s Minister of Climate and Environment. “It properly takes into account Gabon’s special status as a country with high forest cover and low deforestation. Gabon is 88% covered with forests, and I hope our partnership can help them reach their goal to maintain 98% of that for the future.”

The agreement marks the first time an African country will be rewarded in a 10-year deal for both reducing its greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and degradation and absorptions of carbon dioxide by natural forests. 

While Gabon is one of the smallest countries in Africa, it has been a leader in forest preservation over the years. With relatively low rates of deforestation, the nation has maintained nearly 90% of its forests. In the early 2000s, under the leadership of President Omar Bongo, Gabon created 13 national parks to preserve its forests. According to CAFI, Gabon has made significant advances in sustainable management of its timber resources outside the parks, which has had a positive result for forest elephants in the Congo Basin forests.  

Smaller than other African elephants, the elusive forest elephant is a flagship resident of the Congo Basin. They can communicate with each other across great distances by making a sound so low people are unable to hear it. Their elusiveness makes them a difficult species to conserve as not much is known about their habits, patterns, and movements. While Gabon has only 12% of the Congo Basin forests, it is home to more than 60% of the surviving African forest elephant population. 

African forest elephants
Credit: Richard Ruggiero/USFWS (CC BY 2.0)

“We have to raise the value of the Gabonese rain forests in order to ensure that conservation and sustainable exploitation can be used as tools to improve the living standards of the Gabonese people by creating jobs and livelihoods, whilst also sustaining natural capital, and to preserve our natural treasures and biodiverse ecosystems” stated Lee White, Gabon’s Minister of Forest, Seas, Environment and Climate Change. “Norway’s agreement to double the price of a ton of rainforest carbon dioxide is highly significant and gives us hope that the international community will move towards a realistic price that will provide a real incentive for rain forest countries to follow our example.”

Central African forests will prove to be a powerful tool in mitigating climate change in upcoming years. Referred to as Earth’s second lungs, with the first being the Amazon, Central Africa’s rainforests and peatlands cover a landmass the size of Western Europe. With conservation efforts, peatlands can help mitigate climate change by providing long-term carbon storage. Central Africa’s peatlands can store up to 70 billion tons of carbon, equivalent to 5 to 10 years of global greenhouse gas emissions. 

In February 2019, Indonesia’s deforestation decline prompted payment from Norway. Indonesia and Norway had entered into a partnership to support Indonesia’s efforts to mitigate its climate impact by reducing emissions caused by deforestation. Indonesia is among the world’s top CO2 emitters due to deforestation and peatland destruction from palm oil and wood fiber plantations, mining, and logging. The first payment was for 4.8 million tons of CO2.

Header Image Credit: Susi4/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)