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Degraded peatswamps: The cost-effective way of tackling climate change


Indonesia takes, with 2000 million tonnes CO2 emissions per year from degraded peat, the largest share of the global peat emissions; it is a huge problem, but also very concentrated, involving around 13 million hectares. The cost-effectiveness of restoring these degraded areas is very high. Emissions in many of these peatlands are around hundred tonnes per hectare per year.

Restoration activities (blocking drainage canals by establishing dams and reforestation) are very cheap; the initial investment costs are around 15 eurocents for every avoided tonne CO2. Our restoration projects in both Kalimantan and Sumatra, which included investments in awareness campaigns and providing alternative, sustainable livelihoods, resulted in average costs of 1 euro / tonne avoided CO2 in many degraded, logged areas. Of course further investments will be needed over-time to maintain the achievements, but these will come with additional income generation for local people. Compared to the value of carbon credits or measures taken in Annex 1 countries to reduce CO2 emissions (several tens of euros per tonne CO2); this is extremely cheap.

The Indonesian Ministry of Forestry is now acknowledging the opportunity to reduce the emissions, with the help of the REDD programme of the World Bank. At the Forest workshop in Nusa Dua (6-7 December), the ministry presented the report REDDI - Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation in Indonesia. In this paper, peatlands are highlighted as the areas with key opportunities for avoiding CO2 emissions.

Wetlands International is working with local governments and other NGO-partners in Kalimantan and Sumatra to end the huge emissions from logged and drained peastswamp areas. In Central Kalimantan, we are restoring the hydrology by building dams in the main drainage canals. So far we have build 15 large dams in the main channels and hundreds of smaller ones in smaller canals. This has restored the water levels in 10.000 ha of degraded peatland in the Sebangau National Park and 50.000 in the heavily degraded Ex-Mega Rice Project area. We were able to increase the water table with one meter and often even more.

Per hectare this results in a reduced annual emission of 100 tonnes carbon dioxide. In total; we estimate an avoided carbon emission by almost ending peat decomposition processes of at least 4 million tonnes carbon dioxide per year. These emissions would, without these activities, have continued for some decades before they would have gradually ceased when all the peat has gone. These projects only made a start, as there are over one and a half million ha in Central Kalimantan and another 11.5 million ha elsewhere in Indonesia that need and can be restored.

Additional to these avoided emissions from decomposition; we have achieved the reduction from emissions coming from peatfires in the areas where we restored the water levels and in and around the villages that we equipped and where we trained local communities to prevent and control fires. Annually; the emissions that result from ten-thousands of wildfires in degraded peatlands are on average twice the emissions from decomposition.

Also additional is the value of carbon sequestration. We reforest the rewetted peatland areas. This means that additional carbon is taken from the atmosphere and stored in newly planted vegetation.

In the Berbak National Park in Jambi, Sumatra, we carried out a similar project. By supporting community based activities aimed at fire prevention, stopping illegal logging, restoring the hydrology, reforestation and raising awareness, we were able to reduce the annual emissions with 55 tonnes CO2 per hectare, with a total of 2.4 million tonnes CO2 per year in an area of 43,000 ha.

Costs of the projects in both cases were less than 1 euro / tonne reduced CO2 emissions.

Wetlands International
Alex Kaat
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