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UN-FCCC fails to address emissions from wetland destruction


New research by Wetlands International, Delft Hydraulics and others shows the enormous impact of the peatland degradation in South-east Asia on carbon dioxide emissions. Annually, in Indonesia alone 2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide is emitted from the peatlands: 600 million tonnes is caused by oxidation caused by drainage and 1.4 billion tonnes is caused by fires.
Despite this new evidence, the UN-climate Conference in Nairobi will probably not recognize this issue as a priority.  The current Clean Development Mechanism does not address this urgent issue.  Discussions on avoiding emissions from  deforestation in developing countries may lead to a new avenue for saving the remaining peatland forests - but is likely to take years to develop and will not address the problems in the already deforested peatlands. Thus the climate treaty currently doesn’t provide any incentives for the required immediate action. 

Local demands for economic development and poverty reduction as well as the global demand for hardwood, paper pulp and palm oil are the driving forces behind the destruction. Palm oil production is increasingly driven by the global demand for biofuels. The EU now requires substitution of 5% of fossil fuels for transport by biofuels. Indonesia and Malaysia currently produce over 80% of the world’s palm oil with one-quarter of oil palm plantations located on peat soils. They have recently announced that they will expand their plantation area and set aside 40% of their production for biofuel.
However, the production of 1 tonne palm oil on peat results in the release of about 20 tonne of carbon dioxide. Ironically the substitution of fossil fuels by these “biofuels” is thus increasing green house gas emissions.  

Moreover, the related land-use changes are destroying some of the last remaining tropical rainforests. Therefore development of oil palm and pulpwood plantations on peat should be avoided. In addition improved water management needs to be applied to reduce emissions from existing plantations on peat.

Download our article with figures on this issue here

Marcel Silvius  
Wetlands International 

Aljosja Hooijer
Delft Hydraulics

Faizal Parish    
Global Environment Centre  
+60-12 322 7350  

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