An unprecedented large group of governments, companies, NGOs and indigenous peoples groups called for action to protect and restore the world’s forests. In a declaration launched at this week’s UN climate talks in New York, targets are set to stop deforestation, support sustainable alternatives and restore forests. This should lead to a cut in carbon emissions to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius. Wetlands International endorses the Forest Declaration to send a message to world leaders to support a climate agreement in Paris in 2016 and take forests and land use into account.
We applaud the support of palm oil producers, pulp and paper companies, soy traders and aquaculture industries to this declaration. These products have significant impact on wetlands like peat swamp forests, mangroves and river flood plains. Protecting and resorting these have often a greater climate benefit as wetlands are huge carbon stores.
Over 90 percent of the original peat swamp forests of Southeast Asia are deforested causing enormous carbon emissions from decaying drained peatlands. The main culprits have been the palm oil and pulp wood industries. Now, over 60 percent of them have committed to produce palm oil sustainably and the biggest pulp and paper producer in Indonesia has committed to no deforestation. Wetlands International is working with these companies and the Indonesian and Malaysian government to protect what is left, restore peat swamp forests and create alternative livelihoods with economically valuable crops on rewetted peatlands (so-called paludiculture).
Mangrove forests in Southeast Asia also have suffered a similar fate at the hands of industrial aquaculture and community fishponds. Using innovative approaches like building with nature and silvo-fisheries, Wetlands International tries to bring back mangroves into these systems. Local communities and biodiversity benefit from the protection against storm surges and coastal erosion, improved off-shore fish catches from the mangrove fish-nurseries and lower maintenance costs.
Putting a price on carbon facilitates a rewarding mechanism to pay for reducing deforestation in developing countries. During the UNFCCC CoP Paris in 2016 Wetlands International will advocate for the adoption for REDD+ (Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation) to include all carbon sources.