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Where are wetlands in the climate negotiations (2)?


Copenhagen, Thursday 17 December 2009. If there will be a final and successful climate deal this weak remains unclear; many key issues are still under discussion. The current drafts do provide hope for the wetlands issue, although key elements need to be solved.

For developed countries, land use emissions such as from degrading peatlands are in the old system not mandatory accounted, only voluntarily. The Kyoto protocol (2008-2010) identifies land use activities to reduce emissions (cropland management, grassland management, forestry). These activities can be elected to reduce emissions. Many agree that this cherry picking voluntarily system should go. The draft text says it should move once to full, mandatory accounting for all land use emissions. An option to do that right now is still on the table but chanceless.

Good news

Although the voluntarily system remains, there is good news. Wetland management – increasing the soil water table - is now proposed as new activity. If the Ministers agree with this proposal, it means that a country can decide to reduce its emissions via rewetting areas. Under the old Protocol, this activity was not there. This new activity is a great step forward as it will provide an incentive for some countries to rewet drained wetlands and so reduce the loss of the carbon in their organic peatsoils.

For developing countries, a text on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD) is proposed. A lot of discussion needs to take place, including on the big issue of funding the whole scheme and on the ambitions to reduce emissions via REDD. Some promising development has taken place when it comes to wetlands. A key one is the request to the technical committee to develop forestry and land use activities to address. The room is opened for allowing also activities to reduce emissions from non forested or deforested areas such as deforested peatlands. This is a great step forward in addressing the large peatland emissions from particularly logged and drained areas in developing countries such as Indonesia.

On climate change adaptation, the discussion remains on organising finances for developing countries. Still, the only the framework is discussed here. In this, it is a great achievement that the draft text talks about ‘building resillience (..) through sustainable management of natural resources’. Also the support of developed countries to undertake impact assessment is a step towards preventing odd measures, presented in the name adaptation. This is by far not yet a mandatory environmental impact assessment, to be conducted before a project is financed. But it is a first recognition on the need to assess the impacts of activities.

Unclear crucial outcomes

Although the complete and most crucial outcomes of this crucial COP remain unclear,  Wetlands International is pleased with the recognition in the text of wetland values, their carbon stocks and role for climate change adaptation.

Wetlands International has been the only NGO that has been lobbying for these values, attending all summits, doing applied research on emissions and adaptation values. We have the feeling that we have achieved a lot, although we are definitely not there yet.

Wetlands International is present with a team in Copenhagen. Work has been hindered severly by the restrictions to NGOs to attend the summit. Some contacts are ' in'  en keep us updated on the latest developments.

Alex Kaat

+31 (0)6 5060 1917




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