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UN FCCC makes major step towards wetland restoration


Bonn, Germany. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will explore further guidance for monitoring greenhouse gas emissions from wetlands. This is a crucial step towards a decision by the UN Climate Summit in December in Mexico to allow countries to reduce emissions through rewetting drained wetlands.

Conservative estimate show that globally anthropogenic CO2 emissions from drained peatsoils in wetlands amount to 2 Gton per year (i.e. 6% of all global anthropogenic CO2 emissions), of which at least 500 Mton is emitted by developed countries that have signed the Kyoto Protocol. Many of these emissions could be reduced by rewetting. However because emissions are currently in fact ignored as they do not need to be accounted for, there are no incentives for countries to save or restore these carbon rich areas.

The decision to invest in methodologies to account the emissions from peatsoils in wetlands was taken by the SBSTA, the body that provides technical guidance to the UN Climate Convention, which was meeting in the past two weeks in Bonn. Until now the methodological guidance by IPCC, given to countries to enable emission accounting does not cover emission reductions from wetland restoration. Without reliable guidance, countries are not able to calculate their emission reductions accurately and will not agree to account for the emissions or emission reductions from their drained degraded carbon rich wetlands.

The decision shows that there is broad acknowledgement among Parties under the Convention that emissions from drained wetlands are significant and that rewetting peatlands is an important contribution to decreasing greenhouse gas emissions and avoiding dangerous climate change.

“Once emissions and removals from wetlands can be accounted for under the Kyoto Protocol the entire finance stream for wetland management will change. Rewetting these important ecosystems and implementing sustainable use like paludiculture (wet agriculture) will become financially attractive”, says Susanna Tol who follows the negotiations on behalf of Wetlands International.

Until recently, little was know about peatlands, their carbon stocks and their emissions. Reports by Wetlands International and Greifswald University in the past years have informed countries on the magnitude of emissions from peatsoils and on how to measure these emissions. In November 2009 the first ever worldwide overview of peatland emissions and peat stocks per country was presented. These figures turned the official emission figures of many countries upside down.

More information:
Wetlands International
Susanna Tol
Tel. +31 0(6) 22624702

Large areas of organic wetland (peat) soils are currently drained for agriculture, forestry and peat extraction. As a result, the organic carbon that was built up over thousands of years is exposed to the air, decomposes and turns into the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. This process is taking place all over the world. In tropical regions, the decomposition process goes more rapidly than in colder regions while in the latter (Russia, Canada) most peat is found. Carbon stocks in peat soils are twice the carbon stock in global forest biomass.

Some figures of global emissions from peatlands:
▪ Conservative estimate: decomposition of drained peat causes 1.3 billion tons of CO2 emissions. Peatfires (in SE Asia and E-Europe) and peat mining (for horticulture and fuel) bring the annual figure to around 2 billion tons.
▪ Since 1990, worldwide peatland emissions have increased with more than 20%.
▪ The largest current emitters are Indonesia, European Russia, China, USA and Finland.
▪ In fifteen countries in Africa, Asia, Europe en South America, emissions due to peatland degradation are even higher than their reported emissions from fossil fuels.
▪ The EU is the World’s second largest emitter with 174 million ton CO2, after Indonesia (500 million ton) and before Russia (160 million ton).
▪ In Sub-Sahara Africa (South Africa excluded) peat emissions equal 25% of all fossil fuel emissions in this region.
▪ In Southeast Asia peat emissions equal to 70% of all fossil fuel emissions in this region.
▪ A concrete step towards curbing the emissions from tropical peatlands in South-east Asia is reflected in a partnership agreement between Norway and Indonesia announced last week.

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