Mr. Lutundula said at the news conference with Mr. Blinken that Congo would stick to its promise last year to protect the rainforests, but also stressed that the government needed to find ways to improve the economy of Congo, a nation of 90 million that is one of the world’s poorest. It was exploited for decades as a colony of Belgium before being ruled by dictators.
“The challenge is to find an equilibrium, a balance between the well-being of Congolese people and also the necessity to guarantee a framework, a development framework, an ecological framework,” Mr. Lutundula said.
He also pointed to the history of foreign companies in his country, saying, “We know that there are some countries that have been exploiting D.R.C.’s riches for years now and not respecting at all the biodiversity.”
The rainforest of the Congo Basin stretches for 1,500 miles across central Africa. It acts as a large carbon sink, slowing climate change by removing 1.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere annually, according to Mr. Lewis.