Summit held to save rainforests before they burn out of existence
Climate change-driven fires are burning the Amazon rainforest at a record rate. | Eraldo Peres/AP

At a time when rainforests worldwide may be facing their eleventh hour, a summit has convened to protect them. Held Oct. 26-28 in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, the Three Basins Summit gathered to address crucial issues regarding the survival of the Congo Basin, the Amazon, and Borneo-Mekong in Southeast Asia, and to fight against a future where destruction erases them from the planet.

The primary goal of the Summit was to establish a global coalition within the United Nations Decade for Ecosystem Restoration, with the aim of preserving these biodiversity-rich parts of the world and financing the restoration of 350 million hectares of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Part of the impetus behind these efforts is the critical role these regions play in soaking up carbon dioxide, an ability impeded by deforestation, yet vital in lessening the damage of global warming. At great risk in these lands are indigenous people and the vast multitude of flora and fauna that make these areas among the most unique natural ecosystems in the world.

The delegates, hailing from Brazil, Indonesia, Republic of Congo, and several other nations, agreed to cooperate to stop deforestation and defend biodiversity, with Congo establishing a forest partnership with the European Union that aims to safeguard more tropical forests, create forest-related jobs, and cut back the rate of forest loss.

“We’ve realized that joining forces is an absolute necessity,” said Republic of Congo environment minister Arlette Soudan Nonault. “We’ve recognized that the initiative to unite the three basins is part of an inevitable dynamic. We have a responsibility as guardians of global diversity, as the lungs of the planet, and as regulators of the earth’s carbon balance” to maintain these ecosystems.

Wanjira Mathai, managing director for Africa and global partnerships, at World Resources Institute, remarked, “There is no protecting these forests without a laser focus on building resilience and improving the livelihoods of the people who live within them. The countries of the three basins should deepen their collaboration to attract more international finance and build a truly inclusive coalition where local voices are valued. There is so much they can learn from each other.”

The forests have been ravaged over time by logging, the climate crisis, and diminishing native species, despite the fact that the three basins together contain two-thirds of all biodiversity on the planet. In 2022 alone, deforestation claimed 4.1 million hectares of tropical forest, according to findings by the Forest Declaration Assessment. It’s a tragic reality that has so far proven woefully immune to the pledges of governments and businesses to bring such destruction to a halt.

It remains to be seen whether the objectives of the summit will yield positive change, but its importance was stressed by Dr. Martin Kabaluapa Kapinga, World Wildlife Fund director for the Congo Basin: The leaders, he said, must “use this renewed momentum to foster concrete action to restore forests, bolster scientific and technical cooperation, stop and reverse biodiversity loss, and adopt measures to address the climate crisis.”

Previous undertakings and commitments toward stopping deforestation have been discussed by countries over the years, such as during the United Nations climate talks at COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, in 2021, but with little movement on the issue; critics noted that such plans and promises have amounted to nothing many times before. Another meeting in August of this year, between leaders of Brazil, Indonesia, and Congo, did not take place. It would have been held in Congo’s capital, Kinshasa.

Mikaela Weisse, director of Global Forest Watch, highlighted the importance of positioning the loss of these regions at the heart of climate discussion. She stated, “There is no keeping climate change to 1.5 degrees (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) without protecting tropical rainforests.” She added that with the right moves, the coalition could be built with greater inclusivity in mind, allowing for indigenous and local voices to be heard, helping one another to devise the most effective strategies and solutions.

Fran Price, global forest practice leader with the World Wildlife Fund, called for coalitions to strive beyond “countries discussing as they have been,” and for plans to be transparent and realistic. “It is imperative that all governments in the regions and outside of the regions use this platform to work together.” It’s time, she concluded, “to change the business-as-usual trajectory that we’re on.”

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Blake Skylar
Blake Skylar

Blake is a writer and production manager, responsible for the daily assembly of the People's World home page. He has earned awards from the IWPA and ILCA, and his articles have appeared in publications such as Workday Minnesota, EcoWatch, and Earth First News. He has covered issues including the BP oil spill in New Orleans and the 2015 U.N. Climate Conference in Paris.

He lives in Pennsylvania with his girlfriend and their cats. He enjoys wine, books, music, and nature. In his spare time, he reviews music, creates artwork, and is working on several books and digital comics.