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Durban Climate Summit enables carbon cuts from peatlands


Durban, South Africa, 11 Dec-2011. The Durban Climate Summit has delivered an overall rather meager agreement. A positive outcome has though come forward to reduce emissions from peatlands, both in REDD+ from developing as under the Kyoto Protocol for developed countries. Wetlands International celebrates this result. Peatlands represent 6% of global emissions and until now, no incentive existed under the UNFCCC for reduce these.


Accounting for emissions from peat in Kyoto

Ministers have agreed that in a follow up of the Kyoto Protocol, Annex I countries can account for their emissions from drained peatlands and can reduce these by rehabilitating drained areas. Under the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol these emissions were not accounted while they add up to half a billion tons of CO2 each year in developed countries. This is a level similar to that of forestry, but occurring on only 0,5% of the land surface of the developed countries. In the EU 43% of the emissions from cropland result from drainage of peatsoils, which cover 2% of their cropland area.

The agreement to account for emissions from drained peat soils is so far only voluntary. This seemed the most feasible in the negotiations, despite calls from a large number of countries and environmental groups for mandatory accounting to address the massive emissions.

Bad outcome for forests

The negotiations however also resulted in bad accounting rules under Kyoto for emissions from forests. The emissions due to logging and converting natural forests to plantations will escape rigorous accounting for their emissions. Countries can get away with developing plantation forests at  the account of their carbon rich natural forests.


Emissions from peatsoils in REDD+

A second achievement in Durban for peatsoils is realised in REDD+, the mechanism to reduce emissions from tropical forests in developing countries. It was decided in Durban that countries that wish to participate in the REDD+, must include all significant carbon pools and activities in their accounting. Soils including peat soils are such a carbon pool. This offers great opportunities for reducing the massive CO2 emissions from tropical peatswamp forests worldwide, in particular in Indonesia where peatland drainage and peat fires result in some 900 million tons of CO2 per year; more than the loss of forest vegetation.
This agreement will already impact the way investments are done by several donor countries in the coming years; for instance the one billion of Norway for reducing emissions from forest loss in Indonesia.

Waiting for an ambitious climate agreement

The impact of these positive outcomes depend on a new and binding global climate deal. It is clear that much more ambitious steps are needed than just taken in Durban.


For more information:

In South Africa: Susanna Tol: | tel: +31 622624702

In The Netherlands: Alex Kaat: | tel: +31 650601917 | Twitter:


About our work on peatland emissions

Wetlands International has advocated for emissions reductions from peatlands for the past five years at the UNFCCC. Peatlands are one of the largest and growing sources of emissions globally and are the world’s most concentrated and important reservoirs of terrestrial organic carbon.

Peat soils, drained for forestry and agriculture on a mere 0,3% of the global land surface contribute to 2 Gtons of CO2 every year. These emissions can be effectively reduced by the conservation of undisturbed peatlands and rehabilitation (rewetting) of drained peat areas. Rewetting will also help to prevent peat fires, which occur in drained peatsoils and add to further emissions. 


Peatlands are also in urgent need for protection and restoration for biodiversity conservation and because rapid subsidence of coastal areas as a result of peat soil drainage is of major concern for flooding, in particular in South-east Asia.



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