Climate change: the urgency of taking action and reconnecting with nature

Jun 7, 2017

The DRC has 26 million hectares of agricultural land and 152 million hectares of forests

The theme of this year’s World Environment Day, “Connecting People to Nature”, invites us to appreciate nature’s beauty and importance, and above all to respond to the call to protect the Earth. In the current global context, this call is more relevant than ever.

UNDP reiterates its engagement of and support for the Paris Agreement, of which the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is a signatory. Despite the announcement last week of the withdrawal of the United States, the signatory states and the United Nations will continue their efforts to effectively implement the Paris Agreement. In this context, UNDP supports the United Nation’s efforts to build awareness amongst all parties. Our institution also recognizes the importance of partnerships between the United Nations and industry leaders in the fight against climate change.

The Paris Agreement is inextricably linked with the Sustainable Development Goals. UNDP will continue to use the Paris Agreement as an opportunity to support countries in taking ambitious action to preserve the planet, develop jobs and stimulate innovative economic efforts that respect both mankind and the planet.

UNDP will enthusiastically participate in COP 23 and will continue to support progress and decisions to strengthen the Paris Agreement.

The forests of the DRC, the planet’s second green lung

Billions of people living in rural areas spend every day “connected to nature”. They are fully aware of their dependence on the environment and are among the first to suffer when ecosystems are threatened. This is the case in the DRC, where 57% of the population lives in rural areas and depends on the land. The country has 26 million hectares of agricultural land and 152 million hectares of forests. Accounting for 10% of global tropical forest cover, the country has the second-largest coverage of tropical forest in the world.

Moreover, the DRC has many protected areas, rich in biodiversity, where citizens can come to re-connect with the environment, discover the natural wealth of their country, and get involved in protecting it. There are 9 national parks, 2 natural reserves, and 3 botanical gardens managed by the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation, a UNDP partner. However, the protected zones and other natural spaces in the DRC are dangerously threatened by deforestation, the extraction of minerals and human pressures. Their protection requires enormous awareness, individual engagement and concerted action at all levels.

It is therefore urgent for DRC to resolutely embark upon a trajectory of sustainable development for all, reducing human activities that have negative consequences on the environment and climate change.

If nothing is done quickly at a local and global level, climate change will increasingly affect the environment, the living conditions of populations and their development. Combating deforestation is a vital task for everyone fighting climate change. The voice of indigenous peoples must be heard when formulating environmental initiatives. Many indigenous peoples’ organisations seek recognition, support and development for viable communities based on their own world view – a balance between the earth, nature, people and spirits. They must be supported and recognized for their positive actions in supporting the environment.

UNDP increases support for environmental protection in DRC

Our institution supports the country in different sectors to protect the environment. UNDP has supported the elaboration of key environmental strategies. In recent years, our efforts have focused on the fight against climate change, especially in supporting the REDD+ Initiative (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation). UNDP’s support work also addresses civil society, in particular within the framework of REDD+, but also within the framework of the UNDP/GEF (Global Environment Facility) Small Grants Programme, which essentially serves to build the capacity of community organizations in developing local solutions. Civil society plays a major role in fighting climate change and deforestation. In effect, it represents the interests of local communities in the REDD+ programmes/projects, guarantees the transparency of the REDD+ process and relays information, whilst constantly advocating. Within the framework of its programmes financed by the Central Africa Forest Initiative (CAFI) Fund, UNDP collaborates closely with civil society. In order to support the protection of forests through the sensible use of agricultural land, UNDP has contributed to the promotion of alternative methods of subsistence that are resilient towards climate change to benefit the most vulnerable. In doing so, 60% of households (80% of them headed by women) have been equipped with processing units for agricultural products, and have thereby been able to improve their socioeconomic resilience in the face of climate hazards.

Given the urgency of the challenges linked to climate change in the DRC and the world, UNDP urges, the government, civil society, communities and all citizens to get engaged. Together, we need to be support courageous and inspiring initiatives to protect nature for a sustainable future for all.     

Article translated by Nick Lanigan

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