Republic of Congo: New Forest Code promulgated
The law n° 33-2020 on the forest code was definitely adopted on 8 July 2020. This new law has been under discussion since 2018 and was still under debate in the National Assembly in April 2020.
Over the past few years, there has been an emergence of concerns about forest management, climage change, illegal logging, conservation of biodiversity, development of reneweable energy, integration of forestry into local development and the evolution of techniques and international dialogues on forests. Thus, the sustainable management and certification of forest concessions have become a major priority in the exploitation of forests resources in Congo, shared by all stakeholders, including the public sector, the private sector, civil society, and by local communities and indigenous people.
The Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) and Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) processes in Congo also confirm the country’s wish to involve all the actors concerned in the development of Congolese forest timber sector. In this same dynamic, the Congo also signed a letter of intent with the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI) in September 2019.
It is in this context that the revision of the new forest law was initiated in 2013, and has since been the subject of numerous revisions in order to take emerging themes into account such as a further local processing of wood, the improvement governance and transparency, the fight against deforestation, a better consideration of local communities, the supply for the local market in wood or even a better use and an increase in volume of forest resources through the introduction a production sharing regime, while aiming to optimize forest revenues.
Generally, this new forestry law, compared to the old law, clarifies some concepts, and introduces new ones, in particular certification, verification of legality, consideration of riversides communities, deforestation and reforestation, the fight against climate change, carbon credits, etc.
The flagship measures having an impact on the forest-wood sector are:
- The introduction of the principle of a production sharing regime (Art 102 and following), ie the obligation for companies to deliver physical quantities of logs to the State. This provision, which raises many questions, will be defined through a law which will determine the terms of this regime, following a study which should be launched as soon as this draft law is adopted by Parliament;
- The obligation for forest companies to “certify the management of their managed concessions or the legality of their exploited and processed products from there” (art 72). The law also mentions the possibility of recognition of certification for the verification of legality (art 65) and the establishment of a national forest certification system (art 70);
- The introduction of simplified management for medium-sized forest management units (art 77);
- The obligation to mainly process forest products on national territory, leading to a ban on the export of logs, with the exception of “logs of heavy and hard wood species whose machining requires specific technology” (art 97);
- The introduction of the plantation timber valuation agreement (art 118);
- The introduction of two new taxes: the occupancy tax and the residue tax (art 110 and following)
- The concepts and modalities of the FLEGT VPA are outlined throughout the text (verification of legality, certificate of legality, SIVL, etc.).
Several important new modalities will be defined by future implementing texts, or under specific laws (such as production sharing). This law succeeds Law No. 16-2000 of November 20, 2000 relating to the Forest Code, amended by Law No. 14-2009 of December 30, 2009.