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Copenhagen: are wetlands in or out?


This morning and yesterday; new steps are agreed regarding the texts on the Land Use part of the Kyoto Protocol (LULUCF) and on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation in Developing countries (REDD). Not all these new steps are positive, but they do allow addressing emissions from the loss of wetlands.

Wetlands International welcomes these steps, and encourages the Parties under the Convention to make further improvements to come to a fully adequate agreement to reduce emissions from ecosystem loss.

Wetlands in developed countries: Kyoto Protocol LULUCF

Current situation

Annex I – developed countries, annually cause 500 Mton CO2 emission from drained peatlands. Currently, the Kyoto Protocol doesn’t require Parties to account these in their national emissions.  As a result, there is now no reason for countries to reduce emissions by restoring drained wetlands. For wetlands that are managed as forest lands, grasslands or croplands countries can choose to account for emissions from peatsoils, but only voluntarily, not necessarily. As a result only few Parties selected this option.


New activity in Protocol: wetland management

In the latest draft-text on a new Kyoto Protocol, the Parties have now defined a new accounting activity: ‘wetland management’. This is a great step forward. Emissions caused by lowering the soil water table or emission reductions via rewetting can now be accounted for; within all (!) land use categories.  

Accounting wetland emissions: mandatory? What to account?

It remains undecided so far whether Parties are obliged to account for all land use activities or that this remains voluntary. Other important issues still under negotiation include the base year or period to account against and how to deal with natural disturbances. Wetlands International calls for mandatory accounting.


Wetlands in REDD

There is a strong commitment that a new climate agreement must provide a finance and policy system to reduce the emissions from deforestation (REDD). Wetlands International calls for inclusion for peatsoils under forests and deforested areas under this policy.


In many ways, today’s new draft texts on REDD are promising for addressing emissions from peat soils. The activities that are eligible for funding under REDD include actions to reduce forest degradation and enhancement of forest carbon stocks. This may allow support for measures to reduce further degradation of peatsoils. A lot however remains undecided and needs to be settled in the last week of the Conference in Copenhagen.


Calculating forest carbon

First of all the technical committee still needs to decide about the methodological guidance on estimating REDD emission reductions. This is important because the currently used 1996 IPCC guidelines do not consider (organic) soils as an integrated part of forests and have outdated default values for estimating the emissions. The new ones of 2006 are much better. Some countries have called for the use of the new guidelines.


What are forest carbon stocks?

There is no agreement yet on the definition of forests, leaving the question open whether recently deforested areas with still large carbon stock in their soils are considered as forests. A positive decision on this would allow restoration of these drained wetlands. Another possible loophole is that failure to distinguish between natural forests and plantations. This may lead to REDD support for oil palm plantations in recently cleared forests and even on drained peatsoils. .


REDD and biodiversity

The new draft text has also unfortunately watered down safeguards to prevent negative impacts of the new REDD policy on biodiversity in forest ecosystems, including the risk that forest may be converted to plantations. Furthermore, a safeguard to prevent impacts on important ecosystem services (such as water purification and water regulation) has been deleted at all...


Dealing with unforested peatlands

A last but not least very good result is that the SBSTA is asked to develop a work programme to identify activities for all land use emissions in developing countries. This is a great step towards dealing also with unforested peatlands with large carbon stocks.


For more information: 

Alex Kaat

Tel: +31 650501917




Press contact

Communications and Advocacy Department
Email: communications@wetlands.org