By Hereward Holland
KINSHASA, Oct 28 (Reuters) - Democratic Republic of Congo's environment minister said on Thursday the country intends to ban all log exports and implement other measures to lessen threats to its carbon-absorbing tropical rainforest, a major bulwark against climate change.
Home to a majority of the world's second-largest rainforest, Congo is under pressure to improve forest management and curb a high deforestation rate that has doubled in the last decade, according to U.N. figures.
Environment Minister Eve Bazaiba announced the suspension of log exports to reporters in the capital Kinshasa, but did not say when it would come into effect.
"It allows us not only to enable natural restoration but also a reforestation programme that we have with all of our technical, financial and development partners," she said.
The Congo Basin rainforest, 60% of which lies in Congo, sucks approximately 4% of global carbon dioxide emissions out of the atmosphere annually, according to the Central African Forest Initiative.
The environment ministry's plan to lift a 2002 moratorium on new industrial logging concessions has dismayed environmental groups and scientists, who have warned of catastrophic environmental, social and climatic impacts.
Earlier this month President Felix Tshisekedi ordered an audit of all existing logging contracts in a bid to impose order on the poorly regulated sector.
"We don't want any more contracts with partners who came to savagely cut our forests, we will retire these types of contracts," Bazaiba said.
In 2018, Congo's biggest markets for wood products by value were Vietnam, the European Union and the European Free Trade Association, and China, according to Forest Trends, a US-based conservation group. (Reporting by Hereward Holland; Editing by Aurora Ellis)
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