New Research Shows Massive Threats to Amazon and Congo Tropical Forests and Communities From Oil and Gas Expansion

December 12, 2022
An Area Six Times the Size of the UK Threatened and Tens of Millions of Indigenous and Local Community Members at Risk

Tiohtià:ke, Unceded Kanien’kéha territory (MONTREAL, QC) –  According to new mapping and analysis in a report released at UN Biodiversity COP 15, oil and gas expansion in the Amazon and Congo Basins is a rapidly accelerating existential threat to global climate stability and biodiversity, and to tens of millions of Indigenous People and local communities who live inside areas slated for oil and gas exploration and development. This new report titled Crisis Point: Oil and Gas Expansion Threats to Amazon and Congo Basin Tropical Forests and Communities is published by Earth InSight, and the findings underscore the global need for an end to all oil and gas expansion – especially in these and other critical forest basins and ecosystems.

Key findings show that:

  • Amazon and Congo Basins Combined:
    • Over 135 million hectares of undisturbed tropical forest – an area nearly six times the size of the United Kingdom – has been designated as oil and gas blocks (areas already in production or under exploration)
    • More than 20% of the total population in these regions or up to 45 million people (inclusive of Indigenous and local communities) now dwell in oil and gas blocks
    • More than 26,000 populated places (villages, towns, cities, etc.) overlap with oil and gas blocks in these key tropical forest regions.
  • Amazon
    • An estimated 65 million hectares of undisturbed tropical forest (an area nearly twice the size of Poland) now overlap with existing or planned oil and gas blocks in the Amazon Basin
    • Over 500 distinct Indigenous nationalities call the Amazon Basin home and more than 25 million hectares of Indigenous Territories are now in oil and gas blocks
    • More than 20% of populated places (over 1,800 villages, towns, etc.) in Indigenous Territories are under a current production or designated exploration oil and gas block
    • Over 12 million people living in more than 10,000 villages, towns, etc., or more than 20% of populated places in Amazonia are now in oil and gas blocks.
  • Africa and Congo:
    • On a continental scale in Africa, exploration blocks are nearly 4 times the current area in production – representing a significant potential increase for oil and gas expansion.
    • Oil and gas exploration blocks overlap more than 30% of undisturbed tropical forests in Africa, of which 90% are in the Congo Basin.
    • More than 70 million hectares (an area nearly twice the size of Germany), now overlap with oil and gas blocks in the Congo Basin.
    • Over 150 distinct ethnic groups call the Congo Basin home and over 32 million people, or more than 20% of populated places in Congo Basin countries, are now in oil and gas blocks.

“We must not let a chaotic expansion of fossil fuels risk our precious tropical forests, biodiversity hotspots, and the rights and livelihoods of forest communities who are already feeling the impacts of climate change. With a focus on realizing our potential in renewable energies, Africa and Congo Basin countries can lead the way to a prosperous green future”, says Francois BILOKO, General Secretary of Réseau CREF, a leading environmental network in the Congo Basin 

“The Congo Basin is a place of immense beauty and its life sustaining capacities not only support tens of millions of people and hundreds of diverse cultures who live in its midst, but this vital region also is critical for global climate stability. The science is clear – oil and gas expansion must not be happening anywhere and it is vital that the fossil fuel industry stay out of the Congo Basin region and for regional leaders to chart a different path and invest in energy security and renewable energy instead of pathways that will fragment and pollute the forest,” says Harrison Nnoko, Executive President (CEO) at AJESH Cameroon, and one of the spokespeople at the CBD COP press briefing.

“Indigenous peoples have stewarded and helped keep Amazonia in balance for thousands of years. Oil and gas expansion is one threat among many types of industrial extractivism to the Indigenous People and cultures, forests, lands, and rivers of our rainforest. Put simply, there is no place for new oil and gas drilling in the Amazon if we are to preserve the integrity of our rainforests and if the rights of Indigenous People are to be respected,”  says José Gregorio Díaz Mirabal, Coordinator General of COICA, the Pan-Amazonian Indigenous Federation

“Oil and gas expansion is one of many threats to the stability of Amazonia. Two thirds of oil and gas exports from the Amazon rainforest go to the United States and US and European banks are complicit in the build out of this industry and all the related human rights and environmental impacts. A new paradigm and emergency action is needed to protect 80% of the Amazon by 2025 – one that charts a path of prosperity and ecological balance and is grounded in the vision and leadership of Indigenous People,” says Alicia Guzman PhD, Co-coordinator of Amazonia For Life: 80% by 2025 coalition and Director of the Amazon program at  

We are in the midst of a climate and biodiversity emergency. Time is running out and bold action is required to address the scale of the challenge we face. An immediate moratorium on industrial activity in priority forests and ecosystems is essential. The Amazon and Congo Basins and other critical regions must be prioritized for preservation along with the expansion of rights, territories, and direct funding for Indigenous communities,” says Tyson Miller, Director of Earth InSight

Time Still Remains and Solutions Exist

Oil and gas drilling is a gateway to deforestation. New policies and financial mechanisms are critical to stop oil and gas expansion in critical areas. Solutions include:

  • A moratorium on all industrial activity in primary forests until 2050 in order to safeguard critical ecosystems while allowing time and space to develop appropriate plans and financing
  • Expansion of global Indigenous land tenure, access and resource rights, direct funding for co-management, and the requirement of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC)
  • The Amazonia for Life: 80% by 2025 Declaration from Indigenous federations across the Amazon calling for expanding indigenous rights, territories, and funding, conditioned debt forgiveness, clean financing and supply chains, and ending extractive activities in primary and priority forests, and restoration
  • Commitments from banks and financial institutions to stop financing oil and gas expansion – starting with critical forest basins and ecosystems, e.g., through platforms like Exit Amazon Oil and Gas
  • Increased country-level commitments to the principles of the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance
  • New frameworks for financing bold climate and biodiversity action including the 10-Point Plan for Financing Biodiversity
  • Widespread commitments to the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty
  • Unlocking the vast potential in renewables and scaling up direct support to forest communities and other frontline forest defenders.

The Crisis Point report is being released during UN Biodiversity COP 15 – the international gathering of world leaders designed to address the biodiversity crisis. It offers a stark reality check regarding the threat that oil and gas expansion plans pose to the world’s two largest tropical rainforests and the Indigenous and local communities who live within them. This research also builds on findings that were co-published with Rainforest Foundation UK in Congo in the Crosshairs and released at the UN COP 27 climate conference earlier in the year.  It also builds upon the excellent research of RAISG and the Amazonia Under Pressure series as well as Amazonia Against the Clock published by the Amazonia for Life: 80% by 2025 coalition.

Amazon and Congo Map Infographics Available for Use Linked Here


Media Contacts:

At COP 15: Tyson Miller, Executive Director: +18282792343 /

General: Susan Hassol, Climate Communication,

Media interviews with Amazonian and/or Congolese partners available upon request