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Seeking a fair deal for the Congo Basin forests


In this blog, Professor Philip Dearden, Associate Dean (Research and Knowledge Exchange) and the Head of the Centre for International Development and Training (CIDT) explains some of the complex background to COP26 and outlines why CIDT is attending the climate change summit in Glasgow next month.

The extensive Congo Basin Forests are one of the ‘lungs of our planet’. They are critically important in the fight against global warming.   By attending the COP26, we want to help achieve a fair deal to save the forests of Central Africa in the Congo Basin.

The presence of CIDT and our partners at the COP26 will help give voice to civil society organisations, local and indigenous people from the Congo Basin who are at the forefront of conserving these forests. We also want to hear the voices of the private sector, scientists, governments and show case our experiences.

Looking back to look forward

During my undergraduate degree in Environmental Science at the University of East Anglia (UEA) I was exposed to some great thinking about global and local work. At that time, I was also first introduced to the whole notion of global climate change. Since then, we have of course gained an appreciation of the science behind climate change. We have also seen the importance of global warming and its consequences both globally and locally.

Over many years I have seen international Climate Changes Conferences and Summits come and go.  There have been successes and failures.  From the inaugural, flawed international treaty in 1997 where governments first pledged to reduce greenhouse gases, global leaders have had many opportunities to take real action. Too often, these important moments have sadly simply been wasted.

The Paris Agreement is a legally binding international treaty on climate change.

  • It was adopted by 196 Parties at COP 21 in Paris, on 12 December 2015 and entered into force on 4 November 2016.
  • Its goal is to limit global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels.
  • To achieve this long-term temperature goal, countries aim to reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible to achieve a climate neutral world by mid-century.
  • The Paris Agreement is a landmark in the multilateral climate change process because, for the first time, a binding agreement brings all nations into a common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects.
  • Activities in the forest sector that reduces emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, as well as the sustainable management of forests and the conservation and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries, were re-iterated as an integral element of the Paris Agreement.

 So, what is different about COP26?

The COP26 summit will bring parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

 It's been hailed as the biggest climate moment since the Paris Agreement in 2015. The key difference is about raising ambition but also the focus on nature, finance, energy transition, transition to net-zero and adaptation and mitigation.  COP26 also takes on a special significance as it is the fifth summit since the Paris Agreement. According to the treaty, this means countries must come with their updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).  194 countries have submitted their first NDCs as part of COP 25 and only 13 have submitted revisions according to UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.)

The key goal of COP26 is for countries to agree on concrete commitment to keep a temperature rise limit of 1.5 degrees within reach - otherwise the ecological consequences for our planet could be catastrophic.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has recently released a landmark report, a ‘code red for humanity’ which confirmed that without radical reductions in carbon emissions this decade, temperature rises above 1.5 degrees would be inevitable and irreversible.

Three key facts from the recent IPCC report

  • The global surface temperature between 2011 and 2020 was 1.1 degrees Celsius higher than it was between 1850 and 1900.
  • If the temperature rise exceeds 1.5 degrees extreme heat waves can be expected to happen every five years.
  • Sea levels can be expected to rise for the rest of the century because of irreversible change that has already happened.

Our involvement

For many years, the CIDT has been working on a number of important projects and programmes across Africa. These projects include:

 As long-standing partners of the UK government’s FGMC programme over the last decade in the Congo Basin, our efforts to protect Congo Basin Forests are yielding results on the ground as demonstrated in our recent case studies. However, a lot more needs to be done to protect the second most important forest block on the planet.

Trees in forests are nature’s most efficient way of taking in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and converting it to wood and the oxygen that trees breathe out. Over many years through economic and general human development, we have catastrophically reduced the size of tropical forests thereby drastically reducing nature capacity to deal with the climate change problem.

On the back of our long track record, we have privileged to be invited to COP26 to show case our Congo Basin Forestry and Climate Change work in the ‘Blue Zone’ of the Glasgow Exhibition Centre of the COP 26.  

We will be working with members of Commission of Central African Forests (COMIFAC) and the Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP) team highlighting the importance of tropical forests (like those in the Congo basin) in combatting climate change and also articulate the critical role that civil society organisations, local and indigenous communities play in safeguarding these forests through the work they do in monitoring activities taking place in these forests.

In addition, we want to call for action to strengthen the work of local civil society, environmental defenders and indigenous peoples at the forefront of the fighting deforestation and protection of forests. 

We want to give a voice to others to increase the necessary funding for their important work.   Our panel discussions and future looking ambitions contribute to driving support towards local communities and indigenous peoples to protect forests, fight illegal deforestation and wildlife trafficking and consequently keep Congo Basin forests standing for the good of the planet. For us, success will be achieving a fair deal to save the important forests of Central Africa in the Congo Basin - one of the key lungs of our planet.

The University is taking part in the international climate change summit COP26 in Glasgow from 31 October – 12 November 2021. 

To register for the CIDT forum at COP26 on Saving Africa’s Congo Basin Rainforests, People and Biodiversity click here.

For more information please contact the Corporate Communications Team.

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