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Options for peatland-based climate change mitigation presented at UN climate talks


Opportunities for climate change mitigation through peatland rehabilitation and lessons learned for future agreements under the UNFCCC were discussed at a side event during the Bonn climate negotiations.


Participants at the side event , jointly organised by Wetlands International, FAO , the University of Greifswald and the Michael Succow Foundation, discussed how climate change mitigation actions focusing on peatland rehabilitation could inform negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC ).

Speaking at the side event, Marja-Liisa Tapio-Biström of FAO presented research showing that cultivated organic soils are the second largest source of global agricultural emissions. She singled out Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs) as a potential vehicle to address this extremely serious source of emissions. She made the case that degrading peatlands are such a small area that peatland management would be very cost effective in reducing emissions.

Tatiana Minayeva of Wetlands International presented practical examples from peatland restoration efforts in the Russian Federation. Large areas of degraded peatlands, most of them previously used for peat extraction for energy, now lie abandoned. Unmanaged, such peatlands are a large source of CO2 emissions and are extremely prone to fire. Massive peat fires in recent years have had enormous health and climate huge and climate consequences, and rehabilitation seeks to prevent such occurrences.

Marcel Silvius, Wetlands International’s head of programme and strategy for wetlands and climate, highlighted the issue of peat subsidence – the process whereby drained peat soils oxidise and compact, progressively sinking until they reach their drainage base and can no longer be drained. Currently, large areas of peatland in Southeast Asia are drained for oil palm and pulp wood plantations. Such unsustainable plantations will have to be removed and the peatlands rehabilitated in the next few years, otherwise those large areas will be flooded and become unsuitable for productive use.

Silvius presented alternative crops, such as Jelutung, Tengkawan and Sagu, which can be sustainably cultivated on wet peatlands and compete with crops such as oil palm on the long term, while providing livelihood benefits for local communities in the short term.

Finally, Hans Joosten (Greifswald University) initiated an interesting debate, arguing that peatlands could serve as a pilot example of how to deal with land use issues in the post-2020 global climate regime. Peatlands occur in almost all countries, developed and developing, boreal, temperate and tropical. Several land use activities take place on peatlands, from forestry to agriculture to energy and industrial activities. Initiating comprehensive accounting of land-based emissions could therefore be initially tested on peatlands, which cover a very small land area, but where mitigation actions are disproportionally effective.

All presentations from the side event are available on our Action page.

For further information, please contact Vera Coelho.

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