Interview: Savina Ammassari (United Nations) explains why Gabon is a true global leader in climate action

The UN resident coordinator in Gabon, Savina Ammassari © Twitter/SA

Gabon is considered a global leader in climate action—probably the most carbon-positive country in the world due to its strong environmental conservation and longstanding political commitment to preserving the country’s untouched natural environment. In 2021, it became the first country to receive results-based payments for reduced forest emissions. The UN Resident Coordinator in Gabon, Savina Ammassari, is currently in Sharm El Sheik, Egypt, for COP27. Africa Renewal interviewed Ms. Ammassari on Gabon’s climate best practices and the UN support for the country’s efforts. Here are some excerpts from this very informative interview.

What is your experience so far with COP27? 

Savina Ammassari : This is my first-ever COP and I have to say I am really impressed. I understand the size of COP27 is bigger than ever as it’s important to bring together different stakeholders, including the youth and representatives of people we serve the most, especially the most vulnerable groups, those most affected by climate change.

Gabon is in the spotlight again here at COP27. It has been in the spotlight for many years; it has played a major role in many COP negotiations because the country is an exemplary model of environmental conservation. It has preserved its forests, biodiversity and its oceans.

Today, 88% of Gabon’s surface is covered by forests, which is a remarkable achievement that has required investments for many decades. The country has pursued a very consistent vision and coherent policy on this. Gabon can already demonstrate absorption of nearly 200 million tons of carbon which it intends to sell in carbon markets. These carbon credits have been certified.

The finances to be mobilized will further help conserve the environment and accelerate Gabon’s transition to a green economy as well as progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals.

Is Gabon’s carbon absorption through reforestation?

Savina Ammassari: It is, mainly, through non-deforestation and sustainable management of natural resources. As you know, Gabon belongs to the Congo Basin, the second largest carbon sink in the world after the Amazon [in Brazil and other countries]. Some people argue it may even surpass the Amazon. Gabon is a net absorber of carbon: it emits very little and absorbs a lot. It’s among the most carbon-positive countries in the world, and as such, serving the planet and humanity.

How did Gabon become so climate focused? What are the underlying factors?

Savina Ammassari: There has been political will at the highest level for several decades. Vital institutions were established such as the National Climate Council, placed at the Presidency. Gabon also has a very strong Ministry of the Environment with a National Agency managing its 15 natural parks.

The country invested heavily in data collection and created an agency for observation and space studies, which is well-advanced. Gabon was able—through satellite and drone images and data collected by outreach workers and researchers on the ground—to collect data allowing it to become the first country to be provided with results-based payments, important climate green financing facilitated through the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI).

The country has been able to demonstrate it left a significant part of their trees standing. And this is extraordinary. With a relatively small population of about 2 million, it is one of the most urbanized countries in the world. Its forests cover most of the country.

However, there are challenges ahead as Gabon needs to rely more on local food production to reduce importation. An effective balance will need to be found between the development of agriculture and the preservation of the forest and rich biodiversity.

Read the full interview on Africa’s Renewal by clicking on this link.