By James Tasamba
KIGALI, Rwanda (AA) - The US has asked the Democratic Republic of Congo to abandon some oil blocks that it put up for auction in areas deemed sensitive to the environment, United States Climate Envoy John Kerry said Tuesday.
In July, the DR Congo government launched bids for 30 oil and gas blocks, triggering criticism from environmentalists, who warned that drilling in the Congo Basin's rainforests and peatlands could release vast amounts of heat-trapping gas.
The US asked the Congolese government to “withdraw some tracts to protect the forest,” Kerry told reporters at pre-COP27 climate talks that Congo is hosting in the capital Kinshasa.
Kerry later met with Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi to discuss the issue. COP27 is scheduled to be held next month in Egypt.
Scientists have cautioned about the DRC's peatlands.
Roughly 30 billion tons of carbon are stored across the Congo Basin, according to a 2016 study in the journal Nature.
The Congolese government argues that exploiting the country’s oil and gas resources is important to generate income for the nation and help its citizens.
But stressing the need for balance, Kerry said countries need other means to provide employment and economic development without putting sensitive environmental areas at risk.
Earlier while addressing delegates at the opening ceremony, Congolese Environment Minister Eve Bazaiba wondered whether the government should let children die rather than profit from its fossil resources.
“As much as we need oxygen, we also need bread,” she said.
More than 60 ministers responsible for climate issues are meeting in Kinshasa at the conference, which is due to end on Wednesday.
The discussions are centered on themes of climate negotiations, adaptation, mitigation, finance, loss and damage.
Bazaiba also pointed out that any investment in the protection and preservation of forests should “never again be seen as development aid, but rather as an investment in the global climate system which, in reality, is a common good for all humanity.”
“We all breathe the same air, and we all enjoy the same atmosphere,” she said.