Alex Rose-Innes

Gabon had received funding to protect the country’s forests and accelerate the fight against climate change. It would see 23 million hectare of prime forested areas saved.

With a new president, the United States had made a staggering shift in its approach towards climate change. With Trump never interested in climate change and saving the environment, this new direction sees Gabon giving a strong signal to the rest of the world with its determination to honour its commitments under the most recent Paris Agreement.

The Canadian Agriculture and Food International (CAFI) donor countries had signed a document with the Gabonese government to provide USD 18 million to support its sustainable development policy.

This forward-thinking African country is on track to reduce its greenhouse gases emissions by 50% in four years’ time. In the Gabon government’s document, The Nationally Determined Contribution, it was clearly stated that by 2025, carbon emissions would be half of what it had been in 2005.

Regis Immongault, the Gabonese Minister of Prospective Economy and Sustainable Development Programming, said that this commitment from CAFI was a sign of recognition for the country’s efforts to optimise development while preserving ecosystems and biodiversity. “This agreement reaffirms once more our full adherence to the Paris Agreement. He called on other African countries to maintain their engagement

The CAFI funding would be instrumental to achieve this climate target, but also to monitor the entire process within the short time-frame the Gabonese authorities had set.  The Letter of Intent is focused on three ambitious projects – a national-land use plan, a system to monitor forests and natural resources and future gains in forest governance.

Gabon is one of the most densely forested countries on the planet with forests covering 88% of its territory. The country had always been committed to protect its natural resources with a large network of national parks and protected areas. As opposed to many other African countries, Gabon had already drafted a Forest Code long ago with the aim of sustainable management.

A proper national land-use plan seems to be the only missing piece for the country to achieve its climate target while undertaking sustainable development. The latest plan would enable Gabon to develop agriculture, ensure food security and effect economic diversification, with the main aim of ensuring that forests with high carbon and unique biodiversity were not converted to crops.

The Gabonese government would monitor activities through a National Natural Resources and Forest Observation System which would assist estimation of carbon stocks and to create understanding of economic activities in forests. It would also allow quick correcting reaction to unforeseen deforestation events. Despite being on the cloudiest countries on the planet which makes satellite tracking difficult, Gabon is at the forefront of monitoring systems in the region.

“This agreement is a big step forward. Gabon is committing to measures that, if implemented, would preserve about 98% of Gabon’s rainforests,” said Vidar Helgesen, Norway’s Minister of Climate and Environment and chairman of CAFI. “CAFI is proud to support this ambitious but pragmatic plan, which seeks to grow a middle-income economy while preserving invaluable natural capital for the people of Gabon and for the world,” he added.

The signing of this Letter of Intent is also a major milestone for CAFI, an initiative born less than two years ago, with Gabon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo the first two countries agreeing to the deal.

According to Magdy Martínez-Soliman, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Director of United Nations Development Programme’s Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, Gabon could set a standard for sustainable development inspiring other countries in Central and Western Africa as it embarks on a genuine green economy path offering solutions for both climate issues and agriculture and simultaneously attract green private sector investments. The agreement between Gabon and CAFI paves the way for deforestation-free economic growth.

Gabon is knows as Africa’s Eden with its unique forest wildlife