Q&A: DRC plans a national pollution policy
In the ninth of our interviews with representatives from the Least Developed Country Group ahead of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) talks in Paris (COP21), Benjamin Toirambe Bamoninga, director of sustainable development in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's environment ministry, talks about the realities of climate change in DRC.
Between 30 November and 11 December, the 21st session of the Conference of Parties to the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will take place in Paris to seek a legally-binding agreement on climate change.
Here, Benjamin Toirambe Bamoninga (BTB), director of sustainable development in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's environment ministry, talks about the realities of climate change in DRC with Doloresa Tshiyombo (DT).
DT: Is the DRC with its natural resources, particularly the equatorial forest, the Congo basin and all its lakes and rivers, a major actor in this climatic change?
BTB: Yes, the DRC is a major actor in the struggle against climate change. The DRC contains 10 per cent of the world's tropical forests and 50 per cent of the forests in Africa. Research shows that the forests of the Congo basin are especially important for the sequestration of carbon, accounting for 140 gigatonnes annually, or almost the equivalent of three-quarters of the world's Co2 sequestration.
This is a huge contribution, and it shows the importance of the forests in the DRC for the fight against climate change when we consider their potential. On the other hand, despite this the DRC is one of the countries most threatened by global warming because of the very high rate of deforestation which it has seen in the period 2000 to 2010.
DT: So what is the country's policy on combating climate change?
BTB: In terms of policy, the country does not actually have a policy to combat climate change. The DRC has not defined such a policy. But on the other hand we can say that the country is a signatory to conventions such as the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Kyoto Protocol. As such this country, while not responsible for climate change, is committed to the campaign to find solutions to climate change.
The DRC has been negatively affected, but that these effects have not been measured and accounted for in concrete terms.
The DRC carries out actions to implement the agreements it has committed itself to. Within the framework of the climate change convention it has signed, the DRC has established the REDD+ process (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) since 2009, with notable success, and is in the course of defining its policy for combating climate change, which is expected to be approved very shortly.
DT: What kinds of losses has the RDC suffered as a consequence of the climatic changes currently taking place globally? How significant are these negative consequences? Can you give us some examples?
BTB: At first sight we might be tempted to say that the country has not experienced losses due to climate change. However, I can assure you that in fact the DRC has been negatively affected, but that these effects have not been measured and accounted for in concrete terms.
We can say that there have definitely been impacts and effects for the DRC. Climate change has had effects in a number of provinces. In the south of the country there has been a decline in rainfall, which has led to the appearance of mosquitoes and so to an upsurge in malaria in some places. Lower rainfall has also had effects on agriculture, mainly in terms of declining production leading to food shortages.
In some places excessive rainfall has caused flooding, and rises in levels of water courses. These are some examples of the impacts of climate change for the DRC.
DT: How might the DRC benefit from the tax revenues derived from the "polluter pays" principle?
BTB: The polluter pays principle is the legal principle whereby the costs of preventive measures and pollution reduction activities must be borne by the parties causing the pollution. In accordance with this legal principle, the DRC is to draw up national legislation governing the responsibility for pollution and other damage to the environment and the compensation of those who are victims.
Lower rainfall has also had effects on agriculture, mainly in terms of declining production leading to food shortages.
There are companies and businesses operating on Congolese soil which are under an obligation to pay taxes arising from the pollution generated by their activities. But the problem is that the country is up against a problem of governance in this area, despite the existence of environmental legislation. It is unfortunately true that the country has yet to define a policy on the compensation of victims of corporate pollution.
DT: What strategies does the country have to make its people aware of the importance of saving the life of the planet?
BTB: In terms of awareness, we can say that there isn't a single clearly defined and developed strategy to educate and motivate our people to come to the aid of the planet. There are sectoral strategies; different projects involved in combating climate change each have their own approaches to making people more concerned and aware.
For example the REDD+ process works with civil society and other partners on communicating with the public. So there is no full developed strategy of popular awareness-raising, but there is a collaborative approach to informing and educating the population about the global threat.