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DRC Oil Project Stop Sought

FILE - A view of DRC's rainforest, here showing logging on the banks of the Congo River. Taken Oct. 7, 2004.
FILE - A view of DRC's rainforest, here showing logging on the banks of the Congo River. Taken Oct. 7, 2004.

KINSHASA - A US investment firm has proposed to stop a controversial oil auction in DRC's rainforests, bidding to exploit carbon credits instead of drilling in the environmentally sensitive areas.

Investment firm EQX Biome has filed a bid for the 27 DRC oil blocks, setting out an alternative business case to extraction that is designed to protect the forest.

The New York-based company is proposing to spend $400m in conservation projects, which would then generate $6 billion over 20 years through the sale of carbon credits, according to CEO Matthias Pitkowitz.

Planting trees or protecting tropical rainforests have become popular tools for companies to offset CO2 emissions or burnish their green credentials.

Companies can buy carbon credits, from certified conservation projects, that represent the volume of CO2 prevented from being emitted into the atmosphere. One credit typically represents one ton of C02.

A condition of EQX Biome's bid is that the government call off oil drilling in all 27 blocks.

Pitkowitz argues that the proposal makes better economic sense than oil, with the potential to create thousands of local jobs and generate taxable revenue.

"$6 billion instead of oil drilling," he told AFP. "This isn't dreamland."

The $6bn-revenue figure is based on estimates about the success of the conservation projects, which would then would generate carbon credits, Pitkowitz explained.

He declined to comment on whether EQX Biome, founded in 2022, had secured funding for its proposed $400m investment.

In July, the Democratic Republic of Congo opened bidding for the 27 oil blocks, arguing that exploiting its fossil resources was an economic imperative for the impoverished central African country.

But some of the blocks overlap with protected areas in the basin of the Congo River - a huge carbon sink and rainforest haven second in size only to the Amazon.

Green groups have warned of dire consequences should the oil industry move in.

The danger is considered particularly acute in the central Congo Basin peatlands, which researchers estimate store around 30 billion tons of carbon.