Cameroon signs license agreement to join Congo Basin group using satellite images to monitor deforestation; US$233M French-financed project aims to protect forests, help African countries access carbon markets

LOS ANGELES , July 17, 2012 () – Cameroon has joined a Congo Basin initiative that uses satellite imagery to monitor changes in forest cover, AlertNet reported on July 17. Members of the initiative are licensed to use images from the SPOT satellite Earth Observation System.

Before last year's U.N. climate talks in South Africa late last year, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo and Central African Republic signed a license agreement with the French government and geo-information provider Astrium Services. Last month, Cameroon joined the collaboration, which aims to use satellite monitoring to curb deforestation in African countries and help them access carbon trading revenues.

The forest area of the Congo Basin covers around 330 million hectares and spans the borders of Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.The Cameroon government estimates that the Congo Basin forests store an estimated 25-30 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide.

Cameroon’s forests are the second largest in Africa, at more than 23 million hectares. According to the State of the World’s Forests 2011 report by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the country lost 18% of its forest cover between 1990 and 2010, and had an average annual decline of 0.9%, or 220,000 hectares.

The US$233 million cost of the project in Cameroon being financed by the Agence Française de Développement (French Development Agency) under the iREDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) program which aims to compensate developing countries for protecting their forests.

Bruno Gain, France’s ambassador to Cameroon, signed the agreement on behalf of the French government. He said the satellite system would complement the region's efforts to fight deforestation. Cameroon's environment minister Pierre Hélé said the move underscored the government's commitment to the fight against climate change through forest conservation.

The primary source of this article is AlertNet, Yaounde, Cameroon, on July 17, 2012.

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