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A new study by the Rights and Resources Initiative shows implementation of the United Nations’ Paris climate agreement could displace up to 4.1 million people living in heavily inhabited forests and another 0.9 million who depend on such areas for their economic well-being. The agreement calls for those areas to be designated “ecologically protected” in Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), two of the poorest countries on Earth. Western-backed programs to expand forests and limit their use, in order to reserve forests as carbon sinks dedicated to removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, could make millions homeless.
According to Andy White of the Rights and Resources Initiative, “Governments have targets to expand their protected areas, and now with new climate funding being available the risk is they will use this to expand in a way that doesn’t respect local rights. It could result in the displacement of millions of people.” Andrew Follett of the Daily Caller reports the DRC and Liberia, with the support of Western governments and environmental organizations, have already displaced millions of resident from their historic forest homelands. The DRC has removed 17 million people, almost a quarter of the country’s population, from existing protected areas.
Under new programs funded by Germany and environmental non-profit groups, the DRC is planning to set aside 12 to 15 percent of its forested land as ecologically protected areas. Liberia has committed to turning 30 percent of its forests into ecologically protected areas in exchange for $150 million in developmental aid from Norway.
Concerning the impact on people being removed from their forest homes, Follett quotes a Mbuti tribal leader in the DRC saying, “Our new masters … like the animals more than humans and do not mind that people suffer as long as the animals are happy.”