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Biofuel plantations on peat excluded from CDM support


Plantations on peatsoils will no longer be supported by The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). This is a decision by the CDM Board as a result of concerns expressed by Wetlands International, Greifswald University and CDM-Watch, who alarmed the Board that these CDM projects directly result in very high greenhouse gas emissions from the drainage of peat soils for palm oil plantations.

Methodology for climate change mitigation

Last year, the CDM Executive Board approved a methodology that now gave till last week CDM credits to biodiesel plantations on socalled ‘degraded lands’ in developing countries. The CDM allows industrialized countries under the Kyoto Protocol (Annex B Party) to reduce their emissions via projects in developing countries. Such projects can earn saleable certified emission reduction (CER) credits, which can be counted towards meeting Kyoto targets. This methodology was meant to stimulate sequestration of carbon via replanting of degraded, devegetated land areas with renewable energy crops as alternative for conventional diesel.

Adverse impact on wetlands and emissions

In practice, this methodology gave an additional financial boast to new palm oil plantations on the logged peatswamps in Southeast Asia (click to watch video). These ‘degraded’ lands however still contain large amounts of carbon in the case of water logged organic peat soils. This carbon will be rapidly released upon drainage for plantations.

In Southeast Asia, millions of hectares of peatlands are rapidly degrading by drainage for plantations including palm oil for biodiesel. This process exposes the organic carbon of the peat soils to the air, triggering biological processes that turn the organic carbon into carbon dioxide (CO2). As a result plantations on peatlands cause very high emissions; in the case of palm oil at least eight times as much than the use of fossil fuels. About 33% of all new palm oil is on peat (see

Repair of this adverse incentive

Last Friday 17 September, the CDM Executive Board decided in its 56th meeting to repair this very adverse incentive (see the meeting report and Annex 8 for this decision).

Marcel Silvius, Wetlands International: “We are very relieved that within a year, the CDM Board has decided to revise the existing methodology. This decision now ends a perverse incentive for development of plantations on peatlands.”

Wetlands International and CDM Watch note that despite this revision, the CDM methodology for Afforestation and Reforestation does not yet address many other important environmental and social issues connected to biofuels, such as indirect land use impacts of biofuel production.


For more information:

Wetlands International

Alex Kaat

Tel: +31 (0)6 50501917



Analysis of the Greifswald University in newsletter of the International Mire Conservation Group

Watch the video: Palm Oil production, peatland loss & CO2 Emissions

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