Switzerland and Glencore reined in by DRC: ‘The resources belong to us’

DRC's minister of the environment, Eve Bazaiba, announced to Switzerland that extracting companies would no longer be allowed to export raw materials. (Credit: Geneva Solutions)

Eve Bazaiba, Congolese minister for the environment, is at Cop26 in Glasgow with strong demands for Switzerland and the worst polluting countries. She tells us about her exchange with the Swiss environment ambassador Franz Perrez.

The Anglo-Swiss giant Glencore will no longer be allowed to export the raw materials it mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Congolese Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for the Environment Eve Bazaiba, broke the news to the Swiss Ambassador for the Environment, Franz Perrez, on Friday 5 November during an informal meeting on the sidelines of climate negotiations in Glasgow.’

The Zug-based trading and mining company has been active in the DRC since 2008, mining cobalt and copper in particular, where according to its own figures, it has invested more than $7bn. Bazaiba, on the other hand, has long fought against the abuses and looting of the mining industry. This even led to her being jailed for a short time as a young woman. She was invited by Le Temps to the Forum des 100 on 14 October, where she had the opportunity to engage with Swiss federal councillor Simonetta Sommaruga, a conversation continued in Glasgow.

GS News: What did you discuss with the Swiss ambassador for the Environment, Franz Perrez?

Eve Bazaiba: The Glencore case. The company is very active in our country, especially in cobalt export. This is what allows Switzerland to say that it is moving towards ecological transition, because it has this resource [used in electric car batteries], but it comes from our country.

We have warned that from now on, we will no longer accept our resources to be exported as raw material. They belong to us. They will now have to be processed locally. Even if Glencore is not in the processing business, it will have to adapt. We can no longer accept these exports. We too must move towards ecological transition. Cobalt cannot be exported, transformed and manufactured into batteries outside the country, while we are reduced to selling our teeth to afford a green vehicle.

GS News: What was the response?

EB: They’re still processing it. Now we wait.

GS News: And what do you expect from Switzerland?

EB: We expect for Switzerland to understand that we are in an interdependent world. Switzerland has the means and it needs resources and raw materials. The DRC may not have the means, but it has raw materials. So we are going to trade in a win-win partnership.

GS News: When will this start?

EB: When the decree comes out. We’ve only just informed Switzerland. It should not be surprised by the news. Glencore will have to comply, because we are the ones who gave them the opportunity to exploit our country's resources.

GS News: What other issues did you discuss with the Swiss delegation?

EB: I also asked the ambassador for Switzerland to include a uniform carbon pricing in its international discussion agenda. It is inconceivable that for our forests, which play a major role in global carbon sequestration, a carbon tonn can be bought or sold at $5, more or less, while in the North, where you live, the price is $60 dollars and there are intentions to drive it higher.

Furthermore, I have asked for Switzerland to convince countries, especially the industrialised G20 members, which represent 80 per cent of the world's GDP, to recognise that it is industrialisation that has brought pollution. We have a sacrosanct polluter pays principle and they have to pay for their pollution. We need money and these funds, which will be made available to countries like ours that bring solutions to the table, should not be considered as humanitarian aid or development aid. Rather, they are joint funds to fight global warming. The countries need to explain this to their taxpayers.

GS News: Is securing funds to protect the DRC's forests one of your priorities at Cop26?

EB: We have already presented our NDCs [nationally determined contributions] estimated at $48 billion for securing our forests. We are currently calling for funds. So we are asking countries to respect their commitment of delivering $100bn since 2009 under the Paris Agreement. We also want additional commitments, because our forests provide other services than sequestering carbon. They also regulate water ecosystems. Without the Congo basin forest, there would be no rain. Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt and all of those countries would disappear to some extent, because of desertification.

GS News: Negotiations are underway, particularly on Article 6 on carbon offsetting. What are your expectations?

EB: The first thing that should come out of these negotiations is that promises and discussions should give way to achievements. We have been talking about this Article 6 for a long time. We have no more time to lose. It is urgent.