Gabon just became the first African country to be paid for reducing carbon emissions by protecting its rainforest.
The Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI) has paid the country $17 million thanks to a UN-backed initiative based on a formula that calculates remuneration earned through the amount of carbon that would otherwise have been released.
This is not only an essential step in reducing carbon emissions, but also in shifting the country towards a greener economy.
“This is the first time an African country has been rewarded for reducing forest-related emissions at the national level,” Norway’s Minister of Climate and Environment, Sveinung Rotevatn said in a statement — the country met the whole bill as a funding partner of CAFI.
“The country has demonstrated that with strong vision, dedication, and drive, emissions reductions can be achieved in the Congo Basin forest," Rotevatn added.
The rain forest itself boasts rich biodiversity, and is home to 60% of Africa’s surviving forest elephants. It also hosts enough trees to absorb an estimated 127 million tonnes of carbon annually, which is equal to the amount of emissions made by 30 million cars.
Currently Gabon’s most profitable financial asset is oil, which it relies on heavily to sustain its economy. However, as there’s growing global pressure to reduce carbon emissions and the use of fossil fuels, the country would stand to make a loss in the coming years, not to mention, continue to contribute to the global climate crisis.
As the country is made up of almost 90% rainforest, Gabon is betting on green investment to not only reduce global emissions, but power its economy. This means that it plans to invest more into sustainable development and the protection of its rainforests.
Other investments into Gabon’s green economy include the introduction of 13 national parks, plans to create a sustainable wood logging operation, and a focus on eco-tourism. Gabon’s Minister of Water and Forests, the Seas, and the Environment, Prof. Lee White is also aiming to use this success to sell carbon credits, which are permits that will allow high-carbon emitting countries to reduce their emissions by investing in Gabon’s carbon-reducing rainforest.
This initiative could be really beneficial as forests in Central Africa have the capacity to absorb 4% of the world’s annual emissions. If the sale of carbon credits is successful in Gabon, the idea could be replicated in other Central African countries home to rainforests, such as Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo, in order to boost their economies.
Gabon’s $17 million carbon reduction payment is the first of several payments that will be made over the next few years, set to culminate in $150 million as per an agreement signed in 2019.