Gabon: Why Gabon is a model of environmental conservation

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Gabon is considered a global leader in climate action – possibly the most carbon-positive country in the world due to its strong environmental conservation and long-standing political commitment to preserving the untouched natural environment of Gabon. country. In 2021, it became the first country to receive results – payments based on reducing forest emissions. The United Nations Resident Coordinator in Gabon, Savina Ammassariis currently in Sharm El Sheik, Egypt for COP27. Africa Renewal‘s Kingsley Ighobor interviewed Ms. Ammassari on Gabon’s best climate practices and the United Nations’ support for the country’s efforts. Here are excerpts from the interview:

What is your experience so far with COP27?

This is my very first COP and I must say that I am really impressed. I understand that the size of COP27 is greater than ever because it is important to bring together different stakeholders, including young people and representatives of the people we serve most, in particular the most vulnerable groups, those most affected by climate change.

Gabon is again in the spotlight here at COP27. He was in the spotlight for many years; it has played a major role in many COP negotiations because the country is an exemplary model of environmental preservation. It has preserved its forests, its biodiversity and its oceans.

Today, 88% of Gabon’s surface is covered in forest, which is a remarkable achievement that required investment over many decades. The country has pursued a very coherent vision and a coherent policy in this regard. Gabon can already demonstrate the absorption of nearly 200 million tonnes of carbon that it intends to sell on the carbon markets. These carbon credits have been certified.

The funding to be mobilized will further contribute to preserving the environment and accelerating Gabon’s transition to a green economy as well as progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

Does Gabon’s carbon absorption go through reforestation?

This is, mainly, through non-deforestation and the sustainable management of natural resources. As you know, Gabon belongs to the Congo Basin, the second largest carbon sink in the world after the Amazon. [in Brazil and other countries]. Some people claim it might even surpass the Amazon. Gabon is a net carbon absorber: it emits very little and absorbs a lot. It is one of the most carbon positive countries in the world and, as such, in the service of the planet and of humanity.

Today, 88% of Gabon’s surface is covered in forest, which is a remarkable achievement that required investment over many decades. The country has pursued a very coherent vision and a coherent policy in this regard. Gabon can already demonstrate the absorption of nearly 200 million tonnes of carbon that it intends to sell on the carbon markets. These carbon credits have been certified.

Ahead of COP27, African Climate Week was held in Gabon from August 29 to September 2. How did this event prepare Africa for COP27?

It is no coincidence that the African Climate Week was organized by the UNFCCC in Libreville. It was a huge success, with the support of national authorities and the entire United Nations country team.

The objective was to facilitate consultations for African countries to adopt a common position before COP27. Such a goal is not always easy to achieve because Africa has many different countries with different realities and priorities.

Some countries are already very strongly affected by climate change, such as Sudan and Ethiopia, and must adapt much more quickly to its impact. Other countries like Gabon are better endowed in kind, but they also face climate challenges. Gabon, for example, has a large majority of its population living in coastal areas, mainly in the capital Libreville and Port Gentil, the second largest city, and these cities are exposed to rising sea levels.

Additionally, forest and biodiversity conservation efforts have resulted in a large population of elephants. Today the human-elephant conflict is becoming a major challenge in Gabon for rural people. Agriculture development is difficult as elephants destroy crops and farmland of subsistence farmers.

How did Gabon become so climate-focused? What are the underlying factors?

There has been political will at the highest level for several decades. Vital institutions have been set up such as the National Climate Council, placed at the Presidency. Gabon also has a very strong Ministry of the Environment with a National Agency managing its 15 natural parks.

The country has invested heavily in data collection and has created an observation and space studies agency, which is well advanced. Gabon has been able – thanks to satellite and drone images and data collected by outreach workers and researchers in the field – to collect data enabling it to become the first country to benefit from results-based payments, significant funding Greens for Climate facilitated through the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI).

The country was able to demonstrate that it left a significant portion of its trees standing. And it is extraordinary. With a relatively small population of around 2 million, it is one of the most urbanized countries in the world. Its forests cover most of the country.

However, there are challenges as Gabon has to rely more on local food production to reduce imports. An effective balance will have to be found between the development of agriculture and the preservation of the forest and the richness of biodiversity.

Gabon belongs to the Congo Basin, the second largest carbon sink in the world after the Amazon. [in Brazil and other countries]. Some people claim it might even surpass the Amazon. Gabon is a net carbon absorber: it emits very little and absorbs a lot. It is one of the most carbon positive countries in the world and, as such, in the service of the planet and of humanity.

Many countries are currently experiencing several effects of climate change, including drought and floods. What is Gabon’s experience?

So far, there has been no drought or flooding. Gabon has many rivers and much of the country is by the ocean. But it serves the rest of Africa and the world by keeping its forests intact. If Gabon were to cut down its trees, droughts and floods in other countries would be even worse than they are today.

The analysis shows that deforestation in Congo Basin countries, including Gabon, would have a massive impact on other countries.

We at the UN continue to assist Gabon in its conservation efforts and support the country to transition from a brown economy, primarily based on oil extraction, to a sustainable green economy that will preserve the environment and will serve the world.

Gabon has many rivers and much of the country is by the ocean. But it serves the rest of Africa and the world by keeping its forests intact. If Gabon were to cut down its trees, droughts and floods in other countries would be even worse than they are today.

This relates to my next question, which is: how does the UN support the national mitigation and adaptation effort?

Essentially, there are three things we do across three pillars which seek to strengthen governance and human rights, support the transition to a green and blue economy, and promote equality and inclusion.

First, we support through technical assistance, the establishment of frameworks and the development of effective policies and programs that we help implement to accelerate the path to the SDGs and improve returns on investment for all.

Second, we help coordinate efforts, mobilize resources and ensure that these resources – financial and human resources as well as partnerships – are aligned with country priorities. That the needs of the most vulnerable populations are at the center of the programs we fund and implement.

And third, we help demonstrate results to attract investments and multiply the results of efforts by helping to gather the data to track progress towards the 17 SDGs and to channel investments and interventions in ways that enable faster achievement of the SDGs. the 2030 Agenda.

There is a need to put women and youth at the center of climate action and other sustainable development actions… Targeting women and youth requires much more investment in education. At the moment, there is a strong desire to transform the education system in Gabon, and that is reassuring.

In Gabon, we have seven joint programs, varying by sector, which are implemented by different United Nations agencies. They add value by specifically targeting the most vulnerable, especially women and young people. For example, a program to provide birth certificates to children and adults so they can access education, health care and social protection, implemented by six United Nations agencies, has leveraged each other’s comparative advantage and had a significant impact.

Are there other good practices in Gabon that countries can replicate?

Yes. Gabon has invested a lot in what I call green and pink areas. Green, because that is what we are discussing here at COP27, and it is the preservation of the environment and the response to adaptation and mitigation needs and the urgent imperative to mobilize the necessary financing.

Pink aims to promote gender equality. Gabon is strong in this area and has made tremendous progress, especially in recent years. In both areas, the country has succeeded thanks to strong political will and a coherent policy and programmatic approach. In addition, the government has dedicated resources to these objectives.

Gabon has also made effective use of data in the environment sector and is doing more in other sectors to guide policies and programs. It is something that is very powerful in any country. This is an example that can be emulated.

Finally, there is a need to put women and youth at the center of climate action and other sustainable development actions. And this is something that I hope Gabon will do even more in the future. Targeting women and young people requires much more investment in education. At the moment, there is a strong desire to transform the education system in Gabon, and that is reassuring.

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