(Bloomberg) -- The Democratic Republic of Congo’s President Felix Tshisekedi rejected a request by the US to halt bidding on oil blocks in one of the world’s most important carbon sinks.
The central African nation has the largest tropical peatlands and is home to most of the Congo Basin, the world’s second-biggest tropical rainforest after the Amazon. The basin’s peatlands alone contain about 29 billion tons of carbon, equivalent to about three years of worldwide carbon-dioxide emission.
In a meeting with US special presidential envoy for climate John Kerry Tuesday, Tshisekedi defended his country’s right to explore for oil while taking into account its fragile ecosystems, according to Eve Bazaiba, Congo’s vice prime minister for environment. That’s after Kerry asked Tshisekedi to withdraw six out of 30 oil and gas blocks from an ongoing tender round in their meeting, Bazaiba said.
Read: US Asks Congo to Halt Oil Bids in Key Forests, Kerry Says
The president said the issue could be discussed further at a working group being created by the two nations to protect the forests and peatlands, according to Bazaiba. The group should start its work by COP27, she said by phone Wednesday.
“It’s not about a colonizer who comes to control a colonized. It’s about work. It’s about investing together, taking into account international standards while protecting the environment,” Bazaiba said. “If there are American companies that want to invest, they can invest as long as they take into account environmental laws.”
Kerry was in Congo for preparatory meetings with environment ministers before the COP27 climate talks, which take place in Egypt next month.
©2022 Bloomberg L.P.