Cancún, Mexico. Climate negotiators at the climate summit in Cancún agreed that in a future climate agreement it should be possible for countries to reduce their emissions by rewetting drained peatlands. Wetlands International is very pleased with this agreement because it means a strong incentive will be created to stop the loss of wetlands. Under the current Kyoto Protocol, these emissions were not included and therefore not addressed.
A second achievement in Cancun was an agreed text for REDD, a mechanism that focuses on reducing deforestation and forest degradation in tropical countries. This text offers great opportunities for reducing the massive CO2 emissions from peatlands in developing countries like Indonesia.
No package deal for land use and forestry sector in developed countries
Although there is agreement among the negotiators that emissions reductions from wetlands should be possible under the Kyoto Protocol, it turned out on the last day of the negotiations that no overall agreement could be reached in Cancun for the entire land use and forestry sector. Therefore no COP decision could be made and negotiations will therefore continue next year. The stumbling block was mainly in defining rules for forestry after 2012 when the Kyoto Protocol expires.
The proposals now on the table for the forest sector may not lead to ambitious emissions reductions in the sector and may also to considerable loss of natural forest; both major concerns for many civil society organisations.
An important step for stopping the loss of peatlands
Rewetting drained peatlands under the Kyoto Protocol offers tremendous opportunities to reduce CO2 emissions. The loss of peat drainage and fires leads to about 6% of all global CO2 emissions. A final decision on the issue, possibly next year, will in a number of countries lead to rapid actions, with also benefits for wetlands biodiversity. Likely the largest peatland rewetting programs will start in countries like Scotland, Iceland and Belarus where at relatively low costs large amounts of CO2 emissions can be reduced.
Addressing emissions from tropical peatlands REDD
The REDD mechanism that seeks to reduce deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries, has also reached agreement in Cancun. REDD offers great opportunities for protecting and restoring peatlands in countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea. In Indonesia peatland drainage and peat fires result in some 900 million tonnes of CO2 per year. Further details in the negotiating text next year will determine the extent to which these emissions can be addressed.
Global NGO Wetlands International already campaigns for many years for addressing the huge greenhouse gas emissions from drained peatlands. Susanna Tol, who represented Wetlands International in Cancun: "There is great potential for reducing emissions from peatlands. Countries have now recognised this. Another important achievement is that the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) was requested to provide new guidelines for measuring greenhouse gas reductions from peatland rewetting based on the latest science in this area. We are very pleased with these important steps. "
Peatsoils are wetland soils consisting of large quantities of organic carbon. Drainage of these normally waterlogged soils exposes the organic carbon to the air. As a result this decomposes and turns into carbon dioxide (CO2
Wetlands International, Susanna Tol: @ susanna.tol wetlands.org
Tel. +31 650501917 (Alex Kaat, Communications Manager, Wetlands International, Ede)
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Video: Restoring the peatland forests in Indonesia
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