Sale of oil and gas permits casts shadow over world’s second-largest rainforest

Cassie Dummett

Villagers in the Congo basin rely on the forest for food, medicine and spiritual wellbeing, but an auction of exploration rights could threaten that way of life

West accused of double standards over oil and gas exploration in DRC

“I have lived all my life in the forest; everything I do is in the forest,” he says. “The forest provides my food and my medicine.”

But beneath his feet lies something even more precious: dense layers of peat formed over millennia creating a carbon store that holds the equivalent of three years’ of global fossil fuel emissions. Now this forest is under threat from plans to exploit other natural resources. As well as creating new logging concessions, the DRC government is selling permits for oil and gas exploration. As well as the peatlands in the north-west of the DRC, the drilling permits also cover Virunga national Park in the east of the country, home to mountain gorillas and the critically endangered lowland gorilla.

The auction has raised concerns about the future of a forest protection deal signed by the former British prime minister Boris Johnson, on behalf of the Central African Forest Initiative (Cafi), and the DRC president, Félix Tshisekedi, at Cop26