Located on the West African coast, Gabon is the third highest forest-covered area by percentage on Earth. It is a heaven of greenery and wild forests that capture more than 85 per cent of the land area. With climate goals making world leaders sweat, countries like Gabon are sweet spots to act as massive carbon sinks purifying the air.

With the commendable natural wealth but extreme poverty and a very youthful population looking for jobs; a critical look must be taken to ensure that Gabon doesn’t become just another country to burn through the woods towards development. Gabon has a median age of 22.5 years which means that the country is extremely young with about 11 lakhs in their early stages of life.

With the gift of population dividend, the burden of rapid development to provide jobs must not be overlooked, Gabon has an unemployment rate of 22% (in 2020) too, which is also concerning. The good news however is policymakers in the country are aware of their responsibilities to both its population and nature.

Gabon’s minister of water, forests, the Sea and environment, Lee White confirmed this while speaking at a high-level meeting on global biodiversity protection in 2021 where he mentioned that they were convinced that investment in biodiversity conservation and natural capital was critical for human wellbeing.

Gabon’s Carbon credits are also helping both the industry that is actively seeking to buy them while the coffers of the country benefits by selling them. Gabon is receiving credit from multiple sources.
For example, it received the first instalment of $150 million from Norway under the Central African Forest Initiative. The country further hopes that such financial systems can actually grow where the country can benefit from maintaining such massive forests.

Gabon is a part of the High Ambition Coalition that is a group of over a hundred countries that seek to protect 30 per cent of the world’s land and ocean by 2030. Gabon is also among the countries pushing to include a 30 per cent goal for freshwater too, also termed as 30:30:30 goal. And the goal is certainly achievable if the funds are available to the country.

Gabon can earn 24 dollars for every tonne of carbon emissions it saves. By exchanging the credits, Gabon can earn up to $2.25 billion per year. In addition, massive rivers like the large Ogooué River can be harnessed for hydropower energy, which is a clean source of energy.

Gabon needs cooperation to turn its traditional strengths into modern nation-building. Without choosing to follow dirty fuel-led development, the country can seek to build power plants based on clean energy.
“It is very crucial for the world to acknowledge the importance of biodiversity,” said Stanislas Stephen Mouba, director general for environmental protection in the Ministry of Environment of Gabon. It is important for both the economy and for people, he added.

Apart from this, Gabon needs to find income sources other than exporting wood too. The massive pristine forests, marine ecosystems and nature’s cleanest landscapes must be used to develop eco-tourism. They can be developed further by eco-friendly tools like blue and green bonds. Just like blue bonds were used to transform the marine ecosystem in Seychelles or Belize; Gabon has all the natural wealth to attract similar funds.

In an age of international competition and dubious promises by even the advanced countries to climate goals; Gabon’s march to find solutions to support its environment, people and natural resources to prosper in a sustainable manner is inspiring. The world needs to support such developing countries and their leaderships and guide humanity to completely transform towards sustainable development.

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