Riddle me this. What do you get when you combine rainforest destruction, tar sands, and palm oil plantations in one project? You guessed it, an environmental nightmare. This perfect storm of climate disruption badness can all be found in oil company Eni's plans to develop tar sands and oil palm in the Congo Basin, one of the most biodiverse places on earth. This would be the first tar sands exploration in Africa and one of the largest palm oil plantations, which produce the oil used in thousands of household products from detergents to Pringles. It's unfortunate that it's Eni that is championing this project. The company's CEO Paolo Scaroni recently urged the UN Leadership Forum in New York to take strong action on climate change. But while Scroni talks action, his company is investing in some of the worst projects for the climate.
Says Barbara Unmüssig, President of the Heinrich Böll Foundation: "With less than a month to go to the Copenhagen summit, Eni´s projects undermine its green credentials. They also highlight the wider costs of promoting high-carbon, export-driven energy investments - especially in ecologically sensitive areas with poor governance."
The Congo, along with the Amazon and the Paradise forests of Indonesia, is a priority area for REDD funding. REDD is the name of the United Nation's framework for ending global deforestation, and funding it is one of the most contentious issues right now as we move toward Copenhagen.
Eni´s tar sands exploration is taking place over a huge 1,790 KM2 area. The exact location of the oil palm plantation is unknown, but it will claim 70,000 hectares of "unfarmed" land. Eni says neither project will take place on rainforest and areas of high biodiversity or involve resettlement of people. Yet privately, Eni estimates the tar sands zone comprises 50 to 70% rainforest and other highly environmentally sensitive areas. According to Congolese human rights activist Brice Mackosso (Justice and Peace Commission, Pointe-Noire): "Local people, already suffering the impacts of oil development, have not been meaningfully consulted over the new projects. This violates Eni´s own human rights and environmental policies".
More on the Congo:
Endangered Elephants Are Main Seed Dispersers of Congo's Forest: Study
Endangered Gorillas Become Dinner for Rebels in the Congo