When the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) announced its plan to auction off oil exploration permits in its untouched rainforest territory, investment company EQX Biome stepped in with an alternative.
The New York–based firm wants to buy those permits and turn the area into a profitable conservation project instead, reports the Guardian.
The DRC is home to the world’s second-largest rainforest, the Guardian explains — but like the Amazon, the Congo basin is being demolished by human activity. Businesses cut down huge regions of rainforest for lumber, farming, and other industries.
Not only does this destroy irreplaceable ancient trees and the fragile species that depend on them, but experts warn that cutting down too much of a rainforest could bring drought to the rest of it. That’s a dangerous possibility when these large, ancient rainforests generate so much of the oxygen and moisture in our atmosphere that we need to survive.
For this reason, oil drilling in the Congo basin could affect more than just the DRC — it’s an international concern.
The DRC’s auction has been criticized because of the environmental effects, but the DRC has not changed course. The environment minister of the neighboring Congo basin country Gabon, Lee White, even called out the critics for hypocrisy.
“Certainly, the Norways and the U.K.s of this world cannot make a moral call for African nations not to exploit their oil,” he says. “We are not seeing any of this committed climate funding. It’s not flowing into our countries at all. So, to then be preached to by countries that emitted most of this CO2 is galling.”
But EQX Biome appears to have the answer. According to the Guardian, the company will buy and preserve the land up for auction, satisfying the country’s need for money and the world’s need to preserve this region.
It will fund these purchases by selling carbon credits — permits to generate a certain amount of heat-trapping gas in exchange for investing in environmental protections. However, carbon credits have not been without controversy in the past. In fact, a report from the Guardian found that 90% of all traditional rainforest carbon credit programs are essentially “worthless.”
However, EQX Biome has a different approach. The firm estimates that its unique method of creating these credits will generate more jobs and profit in the long run while still being the best choice for the environment.
“Companies and investors need a way to buy into a result in conservation,” says Matthias Pitkowitz, CEO of EQX Biome. “Carbon credits are the only way to really monetize forest conservation today.”
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