Gabon receives $150 million to preserve its rainforest

About 80 per cent of Gabon is covered by forests, sheltering a rich variety of wildlife.

(CNN)In an effort to fight climate change, the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI) announced Sunday that Gabon will be paid $150 million in international funds to preserve its rainforest.

Through the initiative, Norway will support Gabon with the funds to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and battle deforestation. The announcement was made at the Climate Action Summit in New York, where world leaders gathered to discuss how to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.
CAFI is a collaborative partnership between the UN Development Program (UNDP), six Central African countries, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Bank and a coalition of donors including the United Kingdom, Norway and South Korea.
The partnership aims to support six Central African countries -- Cameroon, Gabon, Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo -- to create investment frameworks to support conservation of their forest resources.
    According to a statement from CAFI, the historic 10-year deal with Gabon will see that the country maintains up to 98% of its rainforests.
    "The 150 million US dollars agreement announced today between Gabon and Norway via the Central African forest initiative (CAFI) is historic in many ways. For the first time, an African country will be rewarded in a 10-year deal for both reducing its greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and degradation, and absorptions of carbon dioxide by natural forests," according to the statement.
    In 2014, Liberia and Norway entered into a similar partnership to improve forest governance and support efforts in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
    The partnership involved the release of $150 million to Liberia over a six-year period to fight climate change.
    But according to Arild Skedsmo, senior advisor, forest and climate for Norwegian Ministry of Climate and Environment, the country's agreement with Liberia had some components that were based on seeing verified emission reductions, which are yet to be established.
    Gabon's payment, however, was based on past emission reductions.

    Covered in forests

    Up to 80% of Gabon is covered with forests, according to a report in Mongabay, a website of environmental news.
    In the statement, Ola Elvestuen, Norway's minister of climate and environment, said he hopes the partnership will help Gabon maintain 98% of the forests.
    "I am very pleased with this results-based partnership through CAFI, which includes a historic carbon floor price to further encourage Gabon to continue to preserve its rainforest. This is a major breakthrough for REDD+ in Africa," Elvestuen said.
    For many years, Gabon has been a leader in Africa in preserving its rainforests.
    In 2002, it announced the establishment of its first national park system at the World Summit in South Africa.
    The park system consists of a network of 13 parks. One of them, Lope-Okanda national park, is listed as a UNESCO natural heritage site.
    The country also hosts more than 50% of the surviving forest elephants on the continent, which CAFI said was a "key indicator of sound natural resource governance."

    Raising the value of Gabonese rainforests

    But Gabon is not without its environmental challenges.
    In June, following a corruption scandal in which hundreds of containers of illegally logged kevazingo wood went missing, the country's former forests minister was fired.
    Lee White, the country's new minister of Forest, Seas, Environment and Climate Change, says raising the value of Gabonese rainforests is an important key in improving the living standards of the people of Gabon.
      "We have to raise the value of the Gabonese rainforests in order to ensure that conservation and sustainable exploitation can be used as tools to improve the living standards of the Gabonese people by creating jobs and livelihoods, whilst also sustaining natural capital, and to preserve our natural treasures and biodiverse ecosystems," he said.
      Correction: This story has been corrected to reflect that Liberia was the first African country to receive funding for preserving its rainforests.