The UN climate summit (UN-FCCC) currently taking place in Poznan is crucial for the question whether the huge emissions from degraded peatlands will finally be addressed. Today however, the working group on the methodologies for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) has decided to only deal with above ground biomass, ignoring carbon rich soils. This decision will therewith so far ignore or even worsen the emissions of 2000 Mt/CO2/yr from peatland loss in developing countries.
Exclusion of soil carbon in this draft decision for REDD projects is a result on uncertainties among some countries to measure, report and verify these emissions. For peatlands however there are no technical constraints to do this in a reliable way. It is furthermore a concentrated problem and reducing these emissions has been proven to be by far the most cost-effective measure to reduce emissions from terrestrial carbon stores.
The largest greenhouse gas emissions from peatland degradation currently occur in the peat swamp forests of developing countries, especially in Southeast Asia (more than 2000MtC/yr), as well as in many other countries.
This decision is now only dealing with pilot projects for REDD. If a full REDD policy for the period after 2012 would again exclude soil carbon, REDD could become a perverse mechanism. Countries would receive credits through the conversion of peatswamps into for instance drained eucalyptus plantations. The huge emissions of up to 100 tonnes CO2/yr/ha due to decay of peat would thus be ignored.
If soil carbon will be included, REDD can become an effective mechanism for addressing one of the largest and the most concentrated sources of land-use related emissions.
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