More and more governments and corporates recognise the importance of safeguarding the world’s remaining peatswamp forests. Their huge carbon stocks, equivalent to around 100 years of fossil fuel emissions are a precious global asset.
Poor land use is currently resulting in the rapid conversion of these stocks into the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. The problem of tropical peatswamp forest degradation is preventable – and their conservation and restoration could become a major opportunity for countries like Indonesia.
Bloomberg Media calculated in their recent article, that by curbing the drainage of these peatswamps and using their stored carbon to offset emissions elsewhere (carbon trading), could be worth as much as 29 billion euros ($39 billion) per year. This was based on the UN’s current estimate that traded carbon is worth € 14.59 per tonne, and on research by WL/Delft Hydraulics and Wetlands International (PEAT-CO2) that shows that 2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide are being lost from ’s tropical peatswamps each year.
This value highlights the potential of this market, however no international incentive system exists to encourage countries to sustain and restore these threatened carbon stocks. Cuts in carbon emissions made by avoiding peat soil degradation are not covered by the UN-controlled Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), for example. In fact, no official carbon trade agreements include the emissions that are avoided when the carbon locked in soils is kept intact.
Wetlands International calls for a global finance mechanism to trigger large-scale restoration and management of wetlands, with priority given to tropical peatlands. The benefits would be carbon storage, poverty reduction and biodiversity conservation. A dedicated wetlands carbon fund could allow investing companies to compensate for their emissions and could result in trade. The funds generated would be used to sustain the carbon stocks in tropical peatswamps and would also help sustain local livelihoods and conserve a massive biodiversity treasure. A market mechanism of this nature should have a step by step approach, thus begin with relatively small pilot projects and it must be underpinned by commitment of countries like to actively protect and restore a substantial share of their peatlands.
At last week’s global intergovernmental Convention on Biodiversity (CBD-SBSTTA) meeting, 12 countries recommended that the important role that peatlands, particularly tropical peatlands in the global carbon cycle is recognised. They also made clear that peatland conservation and sustainable use could provide a cost-effective tool in the fight against climate change. This new and growing international support for peatland protection and restoration opens the door to possible solutions supported by both the private and public sector. Wetlands International therefore calls for partnerships from private and public investors as well as governmental commitments to develop the fund and implementation mechanisms.
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