On Wednesday, 24 August at 19:30 GMT: DR Congo is opening parts of the world’s second largest rainforest to oil and gas companies, alarming environmentalists and world leaders who warn that exploiting the region could severely undermine the global fight against climate change.
The Congo Basin is among 30 blocks of the country where DR Congo’s government is auctioning hydrocarbon exploration permits. Ministers say oil and gas reserves in the areas up for auction are worth more than half a trillion dollars, and could bring long overdue economic relief to some of the world’s poorest people.
But scientists and environmental groups say allowing oil and gas exploration in the Congo Basin would spur hunting, deforestation, pollution and carbon emissions in one of the world’s most critically-important carbon sinks, affecting millions of people in local communities and deepening the challenge of tackling global heating.
The Congo basin rainforest absorbs 1.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide a year – a figure that would plummet if land is cleared for fossil fuels exploration. Hundreds of millions of tons of climate-warming carbon held in the basin’s peatlands would also be released into the atmosphere if it is disturbed. Conservation groups are alarmed that some of the blocks of land up for auction extend into parts of Virunga national park, one of the world’s last remaining homes to endangered mountain gorillas.
In this episode of The Stream we’ll look at why DR Congo is opening up one of its most environmentally sensitive regions to big oil and gas, and what its exploitation could mean for the local, regional and global climate.
In this episode of The Stream, we are joined by: Simon Lewis, @SimonLLewis Professor of Global Change Science, University College London and University of Leeds www.geog.ucl.ac.uk/people/academic-staff/simon-lewis
Alain Uaykani, @uaykani Journalist