Gabon has become the first African country to receive payment for reducing carbon emissions by protecting its rainforest. The UN-backed Central African Forest Initiative (Cafi) has handed over $17m – the first tranche of a $150m deal struck in 2019. Nearly 90% of Gabon is covered by forest, which captures more carbon than the country emits. Rainforests are vital for absorbing the globe’s climate-heating emissions. Gabon has been able to show that it managed to reduce deforestation and so lower its carbon emissions in 2016 and 2017 compared to the previous decade, Cafi says. As a result Norway, through Cafi, has paid Gabon $17m based on a formula relating to the number of tonnes of carbon that would otherwise have been released. The rest of the $150m should be handed over in the coming years. The initial payment represents just 0.1% of Gabon’s annual GDP, but Forest Minister Lee White told the BBC that it was a significant first step. Norway has validated Gabon’s systems for monitoring deforestation and carbon emissions, which could be used to help high carbon-emitting countries pay Gabon for managing its resources in the future, the minister said. Gabon’s forest minister now wants to push forward with a bolder plan to sell carbon credits to allow rich countries to reduce emissions from tough sectors like transport and home heating.