Wildlife & Biodiversity

Stay away from Congo’s ‘carbon bomb’ auction, Greenpeace urges Big Oil

27 oil and three gas fields up for sale from July 28

By DTE Staff
Published: Wednesday 20 July 2022
Aerial view of village in Lac Paku in the peatland forest near Mbandaka, Congo. Photo: Daniel Beltra/Wikimedia Commons

Greenpeace — a global non-profit working for environmental issues — has urged major oil and gas companies to sit out a huge auction of oil blocks in Democratic Republic of Congo at the end of July, calling it a “carbon bomb”.

The auction will cover 27 oil and three gas fields, announced Congo’s hydrocarbons minister, Didier Budimbu, July 18, 2022. 

In a letter to oil and gas companies in Africa, Europe and the US, Greenpeace warned against the “ominous” auction, starting July 28, at the expense of biodiversity and global climate.

According to the environmental NGO, at least nine of these blocks overlap with protected natural areas. The gas fields are also located in the Congo Basin forest. 

The oil blocks also overlap carbon-rich peatlands in the the west African country — an area activists describe as a “carbon bomb”. If these peatlands are disturbed, large quantities of carbon dioxide could be released.

The Congo government gave the project the go-ahead in April 2022, allowing the sale of 240,000 square kilometres of oil refineries. It has now added 11 more oil blocks to the auction. 

The decision has come just five months after the signing of a $500 million deal at the COP26 to help protect Congo’s forests. 

Budimbu told Financial Times daily that the country had “no choice” but to increase the number of oil exploration blocks from 16 to 27. 

The minister said that United States president Joe Biden had urged the kingdom to pump more oil.

“We have the right to benefit from our natural wealth”, Budimbu told FT, arguing that income from the sale of the blocks could go towards building new schools, motorways and hospitals.

Greenpeace said the auction made a mockery of Congo’s posturing to solve the climate crisis. 

“The sale exposes Congolese people to corruption, violence, and poverty that inevitably come with the curse of oil, as well as more heat waves and less rains for all Africans,” said Irene Wabiwa, international project lead for the Congo forest campaign at Greenpeace Africa. 

The non-profit said that official maps show that nine oil and gas blocks to be auctioned lie in protected areas, contrary to Budimbu’s claims. He had acknowledged his miscommunication on June 13 as well, it claimed. 

The number of blocks overlapping protected areas may now be as high as 12 following the augmentation.

Greenpeace has also collected testimonies from local communities that opposed the auction. 

The international community and the Congolese government must end the neocolonial scramble for African fossil fuels by restricting oil companies’ access to Congo, added Wabiwa.

“Instead, we must focus on ending energy poverty through supporting clean, decentralised renewable energies,” she said. 

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