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Peatland loss: a burning issue at Bangkok Climate Summit


While fires rage through the drained and logged peatswamp forests of Indonesia emitting huge amounts of CO2, the UN Climate Talks take place in Bangkok. The coming two weeks country negotiators will work towards a framework for a new climate treaty. This issue of greenhouse gas emissions from peatlands is now explicitly on the agenda of these crucial last negotiation rounds before the Copenhagen Summit.


Crucial to address

Not only in Indonesia, but allover the world peatland destruction leads to enormous and increasing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions; up to 10% of all global emissions. Reducing emissions from deforestation is high on the climate agenda (so called REDD scheme: Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation). Unfortunately, this future scheme could focus on above ground biomass only, whereas organic peat soils contribute to between 30-40% of all emissions from ecosystem loss.

Susanna Tol, Wetlands International: “A narrow focus on saving carbon in trees might lead to even more emissions as ignoring soil carbon will lead to drainage of many peatswamps to enhance forest growth.’

Current negotiations

The issue of addressing the loss of soil carbon is one of the options that are under discussion during these UN climate negotiations in Bangkok. New proposals for the post-Kyoto Protocol climate treaty explicitly include accounting of (peat) soil carbon emissions, something that is currently not the case.

The same applies for the negotiations following the Bali Action Plan. Various options to develop a mechanism with (financial) incentives for countries - like Indonesia - are under discussion. This addressing of soil carbon emissions could be within a REDD scheme.

Addressing doubts

Although both options are under consideration, doubts among many countries remain regarding the impact on national emission figures once peatlands are added as a source to account. These doubts exist regarding the possibility to measure and report peatlands emissions or regarding the quality of existing IPCC guidelines for reporting emissions.

To address all these issues, Wetlands International in cooperation with the world’s leading peat experts has provided several studies to facilitate on facts and technical aspects of peatland emissions. This is presented in Bangkok to country delegations.

For more information on these, see or contact us.

+31 (0)318 660912 (direct office)

+31 (0)6 5060 1917 (mobile)



1. Read our Policy Brief on peatlands for the Bangkok Climate Talks

2. For more resources, visit Our science base on peatlands & climate change


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