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Global climate body: Peatland degradation more significant than deforestation


At the 26th UNFCCC Subsidiary Body meetings in Bonn this week, Working Group III of The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) highlighted  the inclusion of the impact of peatlands on climate change in their report ‘Mitigation of Climate Change’.

This acknowledgement is an important step forward as recent investigations by WL / Delft Hydraulics, the NGO Wetlands International and Alterra revealed that at least 8% of the current global carbon dioxide emissions derive from unsustainable management of tropical peatlands in South-east Asia (covering 0.2% of the global land surface).

The report visualises the now recognized emissions from degraded peatlands in the below chart, which shows that since 1990 more CO2 emissions at the global level originate from decaying peatland than from deforestation
Another  important conclusion from the IPCC report  is that  “restoration of drained and degraded peatlands is  one of the key low cost green house gas mitigation strategies” according to Dr Daniel Martino from Uruguay and one of the lead authors of the report. 

Wetlands International and the Global Environmental Centre (GEC), who jointly held a workshop on the impact of degraded peatlands on climate change on the sidelines of the UNFCCC negotiations in Bonn last week, are optimistic that this will lead to further prioritization of conservation and restoration of peatlands ( especially the peat swamp forests in Se Asia) within the UNFCCC agenda. Unfortunately current financial mechanisms of the UNFCCC do not specifically target this huge but concentrated problem. Prevention of emissions from peatlands is not included under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) or  other funding mechanisms. It is very worrying that the issue may have to wait until 2012 when the Kyoto Protocol will set new targets for greenhouse gas reduction, especially as the peatlands represent a huge but finite store, and with current trends a significant proportion of this store will be emptied even before 2012.

With the current pace of destruction, peatlands can’t wait till 2012. Therefore, till then, Wetlands International and partners propose the development of an alternative finance mechanism to trigger and support peatland protection and restoration as an urgent action by nations within their suite of climate change strategies”, said Marcel Silvius, Wetlands International. “This will include cooperation with the voluntary carbon trade sector”.

Wetlands International and GEC have over the past decade presented the importance of wetlands and in particular peatlands in relation to climate change mitigation and adaptation. Recently WL / Delft Hydraulics, Wetlands International and Alterra released their publication ‘PEAT-CO2’ which presented new and shocking information on the huge emissions from degraded peatlands, mostly in South East Asia. Wetlands International conducts major research and restoration projects in the Asian peatlands. GEC ( plays a key-role in successful outreach on peatland degradation in South-east Asia and globally within important conventions.
Wetlands International Indonesia Program is actively involved in peatswamp forest conservation and livelihood development progammes. For more information on this program, please visit

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Alex Kaat
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