Forests

Brazzaville Summit of the Three Basins needs to find ways to protect world’s tropical forests

Tropical forests face threat from fossil fuel, mining and extractive industry expansion  

 
By Vibha Varshney
Published: Wednesday 25 October 2023
Photo: iStock__

As delegates of the Summit of the Three Basins congregate in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo to strengthen South-South governance for three ecosystems — Amazon, Congo, Borneo-Mekong and Southeast Asia — a global report showed that large parts of tropical forests in these areas remain threatened by fossil fuel, mining and extractive industry expansion. 

The Three Basins Threat Report: Fossil Fuel, Mining, and Industrial Expansion Threats to Forests and Communities put together by the research and advocacy group Earth Insight and other non-profits, documents the challenges that the world’s remaining tropical forest basins face. 

These basins are seeing extensive forest loss and are moving towards a systemic ecosystem breakdown that affects global climate stability, biodiversity and the livelihoods of millions of indigenous peoples and local communities, it added.

Nearly 20 per cent of intact tropical forests in the three basins are now in active and potential oil and gas concessions and nearly 25 per cent in the Amazon and Congo basins are now in active or potential mining concessions. 

In Indonesia, half of all nickel concessions overlap with natural forests and a fivefold risk of deforestation / degradation is possible if nickel mining permits expand to cover the full deposit area.

The expansions affect over 200 million people, including a significant proportion of Indigenous and local communities. 

The report urged world leaders to commit to protect the forests in the three basins and ensure that Indigenous peoples and local communities are at the heart of the solutions being discussed under the Three Basins Initiative. 

“World leaders gathering at the Summit of the Three Basins have a tremendous opportunity to heed the warnings that tipping point thresholds are revealing in the Amazon and beyond and to build an alliance that stops and reverses trajectories of forest fragmentation and deforestation now,” said Tyson Miller, executive director, Earth Insight. 

“Committing to an immediate moratorium on industrial activity in primary and intact forests is vital and will create space for new regional and international financial and other solutions to emerge that balance economic development needs with the planetary boundaries,” he added.

In the Amazon basin, nearly 13 per cent of undisturbed tropical forests overlap with existing or planned oil and gas blocks and more than 33 per cent overlap with active and inactive mining concessions. 

The region is home to over 500 distinct Indigenous nationalities and more than 31 million hectares of Indigenous Territories are in oil and gas blocks. More than 70 million hectares overlap with active and inactive mining concessions. 

“We, Indigenous peoples, have cared for the Amazon for millennia so today we raise our cry for help and urgently call for 80 per cent protection by 2025,” said Fany Kuiru Castro, General Coordinator, Confederation of Indigenous Organisations of the Amazon Basin, Amazon. “This means stopping deforestation, forest degradation and pollution of the water that sustains all forms of life.” 

“It also means legal security of Indigenous territories as a condition for the safeguarding of territorial rights for Indigenous peoples in the Amazon and in the whole of the three basins and beyond,” she added. 

In the Congo basin, more than 39 per cent of undisturbed Tropical Moist Forests overlap with oil and gas blocks and nearly 27 per cent overlap with mining concessions. 

“Fossil fuel, mining, and other extractive industry expansion represents an existential threat to the rich cultures and future of Indigenous pygmy and other rare and threatened peoples,” said Patrick Saidi Hemedi, coordinator of the network of organisations Dynamique des Groupes des Peuples Autochtones, Democratic Republic of Congo. “World leaders face a turning point and can leave a lasting legacy of forest protection for generations to come if they act before it's too late,” Hemedi added.  

In Southeast Asia, nearly 20 per cent of undisturbed Tropical Moist Forests are in oil and gas blocks designated for production or exploration. In Indonesia, 53 per cent of natural forests are vulnerable to being granted for varying extractive concessions (palm oil, mining, logging, forests for energy, among others) by the government and nearly half of nickel mining concessions overlap with natural forests and a fivefold risk of deforestation is possible if nickel mining permits expand to cover the full deposit area. 

“Our forests and communities have been hit hard from waves of global demands from palm oil to pulp and paper and it is time for our government and international companies, particularly electric automakers, to ensure that our remaining natural forests and the communities that call them home are protected,” said Timer Manurung, executive director of the non-profit Auriga Nusantara, Indonesia. 

The Summit to be held from October 26-28 is being attended by heads of state, official delegations, government representatives, international institutions, donors, financing organisations and experts. In his welcome message, Denis Sassou-Nguesso, President of the Republic of Congo called for global mobilisation in the face of the environmental and climate emergency that threatens the planet.

The first Summit of the Three Tropical Forest Basins was held in Brazzaville in 2011 and resulted in the Declaration of the Summit of the Three Tropical Forest Basins, which recognised the need to establish a platform to promote cooperation among the countries of the three basins. 

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