The DRC contains the largest share of the Congo Basin rainforest – close to 60% of its surface. Rainforests are critically important for biodiversity (accounting for around half of the world’s plant and animal species). They are also a key resource for sustainable development through, for example, their role in helping to regulate the climate and moderate fresh water flows., These ecosystems need to be conserved and restored.
The DRC has seen a very high rate of deforestation since 2005, with an increasing trend reaching 1.4 million ha/year deforested in 2020. The major driver of deforestation is agricultural demand for land (90 to 99% of total deforestation), particularly from small farming holders to cultivate cassava, palm oil, cocoa and maize., While playing a minor role in LULUCF emissions, the use of charcoal in households for cooking due to lack of affordable and accessible energy alternatives contributes to forest degradation and is the second most important source of severe forest degradation. Important habitats, including carbon-rich peatland, are also threatened by oil and gas exploration; the government having recently announced an auction for oil and gas permits.
Contrary to the current trend on the ground, the 1.5°C pathway analysed here indicates an urgent need to cut deforestation rates, with reductions achieved already by 2025. From 2035 on, reforestation and afforestation activities would restore previously forested land, with peaks in forest area growth occurring in the 2040s and 2050s. This will require the country to focus on smallholder agriculture to foster the development and adoption of best-management practices and create incentives to develop a deforestation-free food supply chain. The deployment of grid infrastructure to enable energy access and sustainable energy alternatives for households – such as a decarbonised power – will help change cooking practices and the extensive use of charcoal in households. International support and initiatives will need to be made available to the DRC to support efforts in this direction.