Norway pays Gabon to preserve and conserve rainforest – Quartz Africa

Last week, Gabon has made history as the first African country to be paid to preserve its rainforest. With 90% forest cover, Gabon’s tropical rainforest plays a vital role in the region and beyond. To contextualize it, the annual carbon emissions absorbed by tropical rainforests in Africa, including 12% in Gabon, are greater than three times the UK’s carbon emissions.

The $ 17 million payment is the first of $ 150 million from the Norwegian government expected to come under the Central African Forests Initiative (CAFI) program launched by the UN. The initial payment is mostly symbolic, since it only represents 0.1% of Gabon’s GDP.

Payment opens up interesting debates on the replicability and scalability of such initiatives. The economic pressures facing other developing countries facing rampant deforestation are also completely different from those in Gabon, one of the richest countries on the continent. The country’s large oil exports, abundant natural resources, and small population set it apart from many other African countries. Although there are significant income inequalities in the country, the Gabon’s per capita GDP is around $ 8,000, the fourth highest on the continent.

The promotion of clean fuels around the world, while a worthy cause, is also fraught with contradictions. Africa is the continent that contributes the least greenhouse gas emissions, but suffers the most from the impact of climate change. Several countries in the region are at the forefront of adapting clean energies. In Kenya, for example, 95% of the country’s electricity on weekends comes from renewables. For most countries, their low electrification rates mean that fossil fuels will play an important role in their development trajectories.

While the Gabon project is a success in terms of conservation efforts, Gabon has even launched new innovative financing models to save forests, this may not be easily replicable in other countries. Under the CAFI program, all investments must be made upstream, with payments occurring later. This is not a viable option for most of the poorest countries, which makes this initiative one of many the world will need to explore.

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