In a positive step against the ongoing fight against deforestation, Gabon has signed an $18 million deal to protect woodland and cut its carbon emissions by half by 2025.

As one of the world’s most densely forested countries, Gabon is the second African country, after the Democratic Republic of Congo, to sign an agreement with the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI); a partnership launched in 2015 and backed by European donor nations. It also covers the Central African Republic, Cameroon, Congo Republic and Equatorial Guinea.

The aim of the initiative is to increase protection efforts in the Congo Basin which is at risk from expanding palm oil plantations. Overall, the forests cover around two million sq km – nearly the size of Mexico – but are rapidly shrinking at a rate of 5,600 sq km per year.

Protecting forests in this way is largely seen as one of the most effective ways to reduce the emissions behind global warming – and it is also one of the cheapest. In total, the loss and degradation of forests accounts for about 15 per cent of emissions each year.

In a statement, Vidar Helgesen, Norway’s climate and environment minister and chairman of the CAFI, said “This agreement is a big step forward.

“Gabon is committing to measures that, if implemented, would preserve about 98 percent of its rainforests”.

This new deal will create national investment plans to address the pressures driving deforestation and the illegal deforestation methods that are endangering wildlife and destabilising habitats. It’s hoped this new move will inspire other countries to take similar steps towards sustainable development.

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