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Report on peatland emissions changes global picture


Wetlands International in cooperation with Greifswald University has presented the first ever overview of peatland emissions and peat stocks per country. The overview presented today turns the official emission figures of many countries upside down.

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.

Some remarkable findings:

  • 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 emittors 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.
  • Preventing and reducing peatland emissions is currently not addressed by the global climate treaty that focuses mainly on fossil fuel emissions. Also a proposed policy to reduce deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries (REDD) may overlook emissions from organic soils in peatswamp forests.

Read the report with all data per country and rankings with the largest emitters, largest carbon stocks and most extensive peatland. 

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More information:

Wetlands International

Alex Kaat 

Tel. +31 0(6) 5060 1917


Top 5 countries: largest peat carbon emissions
(fires and peat mining excluded; million ton CO2, 2008)



Russian Federation




United States of America




Total peat


Total fossil fuel (’06)




Top 5 countries: largest peat-carbon stocks (million ton C, 2008)



Russian Federation




United States of America


Papua New Guinea


Total peat



Top 5 countries: largest relative contribution of peat emissions to the national emissios (peat carbon dioxide emissions as % of fossil fuel emissions, 2008)







Papua New Guinea





Read also in French:

La perte des zones humides est la cause majeure de l’émission des gaz à effet de serre en Afrique


The report ‘The Global Peatland CO2 Picture’ of Wetlands International is the result of many years of work of a network of scientists, coordinated by the University of Greifswald. The report provides for all countries of the world the first ever overview on peatlands and their status, carbon stocks and carbon emissions.


Until recently, little was known about peatlands, their carbon stocks and their emissions. Developing countries have not very strict reporting duties for UNFCCC and understandably hardly report these emissions.

Developed (Annex 1) countries do need to report emissions for different land use categories including also soil carbon losses. A recent study learns, however, that the quality of these reports varies largely. Incorrect emission figures partly result from too low default values for emissions from drained peatlands as handled by the International Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) since the 1990s.













The release of the Global Peatland CO2 Picture at the Barcelona Climate Talks (Nov. 2009) was covered by:

AFP: Asia peatland loss 'helps drive warming': scientists

Reuters: Study finds vital peatlands neglected &  Study Suggests Peat CO2 Credits More Valuable

Bloomberg: Indonesia Leads in Emitting CO2 From Peat

The Economist: For peat's sake, stop

ANP (Dutch): CO2-uitstoot opdrogend moeras onderschat

The Irish Times:  Study focuses on key role of peat bogs


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