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An answer to the climate crisis: keeping our wetlands wet

Published on:
  • Climate and disaster risks
  • Climate mitigation and adaptation

Ede-Wageningen, NL, 10 October 2022 — As delegates arrive at the UNFCCC COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, one of the driest and most water-scarce countries on earth, there is no better place to recognise nature’s best source of fresh water, and humanity and biodiversity’s ultimate guardian: our planet’s wetlands. [1]

The impacts of climate change and the stress on freshwater resources is in large part due to the loss and degradation of wetlands. In turn, the changing climate means the world’s water is under unprecedented pressure, impacting human and food security.

But water – and wetlands – are not just victims of the climate and nature crises, they are central to solving them. With 35% loss globally in the last 50 years, mainly driven by land-use change, wetlands are our most threatened ecosystem, disappearing three times faster than forests. We need to restore and reconnect wetlands across all landscapes to increase resilience and reduce the impact of floods, wildfires and droughts. Reconnecting wetlands across natural landscapes and halting drainage is the basis for solving the challenges of water, food, climate, land degradation and sustainable economies.

“Wetlands are our most effective ecosystems for addressing the climate crisis. Safeguarding and restoring wetlands can provide an important means through which Parties can meet both climate mitigation and adaptation goals, while simultaneously providing a multitude of co-benefits for ecosystems, economies and societies and reducing the impacts of climate change,”
– Jane Madgwick, CEO at Wetlands International.

“Yet climate negotiators have until now paid them scant regard.  The world’s wet places remain Cinderella ecosystems, when they should be front and centre in our efforts both to hold carbon and water in the ground and to defend people, land, and livelihoods against extreme weather events due to climate change. We need to keep landscapes wet for water resilience. Restoring and reconnecting wetland systems across all landscapes is the basis for solving the challenges of water, food, climate, land degradation, human security, and sustainable economies.”
“Nationally Determined Contributions continue to be the main entry point for including wetlands in climate action plans at the governmental level. By including wetlands in NDCs countries are recognizing their importance in climate efforts, driving finance and action for wetlands conservation and restoration.”

Wetlands for mitigation:

  • Wetlands hold some of the largest stores of carbon on the planet, but when disturbed or drained they release the three major heat-trapping GHGs: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O, mainly from ditches). At the same time, degraded wetlands fail to sustain essential ecosystem services such as food, freshwater supply, erosion, and flood control, all vital also in the context of climate change adaptation.
  • Since they can become a huge source of emissions upon degradation, by conserving and restoring wetlands, such as peatlands and mangroves, you are addressing emissions at the source and enhancing removals, while also enhancing water resilience and other adaptation co-benefits.
  • Measures to transition to more sustainable paths should take into account effects and impacts on ecosystems, including wetlands (e.g. clean energy transition, sustainable agriculture), and local and indigenous communities.

Wetlands for water, adaptation, and resilience:

  • The loss and degradation of wetlands is a root cause of droughts and floods.
  • Healthy wetlands and well-managed landscapes are fundamental for climate and economic resilience, reducing the impacts of climate change.
  • At the same time, we need to keep landscapes wet so that they continue storing carbon. Water is the glue between mitigation and adaptation.
  • Wetland or water resilience is a key component of wider societal resilience and essential to realizing the SDGs, climate mitigation and adaptation.
  • Wet landscapes = ecosystem diversity = biodiversity + human security: there is no life without water.
  • Restoring and reconnecting wetland systems across all landscapes is the basis for solving the challenges of water, food, climate, land degradation, human security and sustainable economies.

Wetlands International is bringing hard evidence to the COP27, based on decades of experience and extensive scientific fieldwork, that wetlands are a powerful and cost-effective solution to climate change. Wetlands International calls on countries to include wetlands as a focus in their NDCs to reap the reward of a ‘triple-win’: reduced carbon emissions avoided future emissions and resilient, biodiverse land and water systems. All of this is needed as a basis for a healthy, prosperous society.

Notes for editors


Wetlands International experts attending the UNFCCC COP27 and available for interview:

Jane Madgwick, CEO, for comment on wetlands, water, mitigation and adaptation, Article 6 and blue carbon

Julie Mulonga, Director, Wetlands International Eastern Africa, for comment on water in Africa, aquaculture, access to water, wetlands & mangroves, blue carbon and water.

Chris Baker, Programme Head for water resource management, for comment on wetlands, and water

Cinthia Soto, climate change advocacy officer, for comment on climate policy and wetlands, NDCs, environment and sustainable development, mitigation, blue carbon

Lanneth Barrera, Technical Officer, wetlands project development, wetlands and Latin America, adaptation, climate resilience, and nature based solutions.

Ibrahima Sadio Fofana, Project officer, Wetlands International Afrique, for comment on water in Africa, aquaculture, access to water, wetlands and water, blue carbon, land degradation, and sustainable development.

For media inquiries or to speak to any of our experts please contact:

Julien Anseau, Head of Communications & Advocacy, [email protected], +31 6 1984 9764

Arin de Hoog, senior communications officer, [email protected], +31 6 4619 7329