Climate: The full speech delivered by Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba at the opening session of COP 27

COP 27 takes place in Sharm el-Sheik on november 2022 © REUTERS/Sayed Sheasha

On Monday 7 November in Sharm el-Sheikh, during the opening plenary session of COP 27, the Gabonese president gave a remarkable speech. In particular, he called on the countries of the North to recognise and value the efforts made by developing countries, like Gabon, to protect their forests, natural carbon traps. We publish this speech in full.

Your Excellencies, Heads of State and Government,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all, I would like to thank my dear brother, His Excellency Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, President of the Republic of Egypt, for the successful organization of the 27th Conference of the Parties on Climate Change. One year after Glasgow and a few weeks before the COP on Biodiversity, COP 27 is being held at a crucial moment for the future of our planet.

Excellency, ladies and gentlemen,

In Glasgow, we saw the huge gap between our actions and our commitments, and we must rectify this. On the crucial issue of financing climate action, 13 years after Copenhagen, it is now time to deliver on the promise to support developing countries’ climate policies to the tune of $100 billion per year.

For example, the Republic of Gabon, like other developing countries, should be able to receive several hundred million dollars per year from this pledge. This is to finance our adaptation to climate change, our just energy and economic transition, and to reward our efforts in net carbon sequestration.

This funding must be transparent, effective and above all operational.

Unfortunately, the reality on the ground is far from this and Africa is spending up to 9% of its GDP on climate change. This issue was discussed in Gabon during the African Climate Week, which brought together nearly 2,500 participants and for which I am speaking today.

Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,

The Gabonese Republic sits on the Equator, on the West coast of Africa. The tropical rain forests of the Ogooue Basin cover eighty eight percent of our country. As a result of five decades of strong forest governance, our deforestation rate has constantly remained well below zero-point five percent and we are probably the most net carbon positive country on earth. Since I made a strong commitment to fighting climate change in Copenhagen, we have net absorbed almost one point five billion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

As stated in our second NDC, Gabon has committed to remain carbon neutral beyond 2050.

In addition, subject to investment in our forests and appropriate carbon payments,we hope to continue absorbing over 100 million tons of carbon dioxide per year. We are part of the Congo Ogooue Basin, often referred to as the second lung of the planet.

The Congo Ogooue Basin stores almost ten years of global carbon emissions. Our forests are proving more resilient to climate change than the other great forest basins, which makes us the healthier lung of the planet. Despite Gabon’s High Forest Low Deforestation status, over the last decade we have reduced our forest carbon emissions by 90 million tons, resulting in the recent validation by the @CCC, of our REDD+ credits.

This makes Gabon one of the REDD+ pioneers in Africa and it was evident during the Africa Climate Week that the eyes of the continent and indeed the developing world, are focused on the efforts to commercialize these credits. If we are successful, it will encourage other nations to issue Sovereign REDD+ credits, creating the enabling conditions for us to build on the modest voluntary forest carbon markets and capitalize on the potential of Nature to join us in the fight against climate change.

This will be a main theme during the One Forest Summit that I plan to co-host with President Macron in Libreville in March next year.

If every nation focusses on its ability to fight climate change, by reducing industrial emissions, optimizing its agriculture, technological innovation or harnessing the potential of our ecosystems to absorb blue and green carbon, just as we did with COVID-19, we can come together and find solutions rather than differences.