The pact aims to reduce global warming emissions from carbon-rich peatlands

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Scientists are researching peatlands in Peru. CIFOR / Jeffrey van Lent

A recent meeting of international environmental officials and heads of government from four key tropical countries formalized a shared commitment to prioritize the sustainable management of peatlands.

During the virtual event – organized by the Ministry of Environment of Peru, the United Nations Environment Program, the Global Peatlands Initiative (GPI) and the International Center for Tropical Peatlands (ITPC) – Indonesia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Republic of the Congo exchanged information on efforts to prioritize high-carbon ecosystems, which are seen as essential to tackle the global warming.

Peru, represented by Minister of Environment Gabriel Quijandria Acosta, was welcomed as a new member of ITPC.

The peatlands of the lowlands of the Peruvian Amazon are estimated to store 20 billion tonnes of carbon and cover 120,000 km², an area the size of Nicaragua.

“It is an important step that Peru builds on a range of environmental initiatives by joining ITPC, strengthening South-South cooperation to exchange local knowledge, experiences, science and practice, and promoting best practices for the protection and enhancement of tropical peatlands, ”Quijandria said, noting that Andean peatlands – the country’s most important carbon store – contribute substantially to the economy, food security and water resources of coastal peoples, including indigenous and local communities.

The center was launched three years ago in Jakarta as part of the GPI in collaboration with coordinating partners CIFOR, UNEP and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations facilitate an exchange of best practices for peatland management.

“Through these initiatives, countries can make informed decisions and develop management and policy options that minimize impacts on people and the environment and avoid dangerous social and climatic tipping points associated with loss and loss. degradation of peatlands, ”said Dianna Kopansky, who heads GPI, a partnership of 43 organizations and the four tropical peatland countries present at the meeting, on behalf of UNEP.

Peru – like Indonesia, DRC and Republic of Congo – will explore options to include peatlands as a component based on the nature of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) ahead of the COP26 climate talks to be held in Glasgow later this year.

NDCs are at the heart of the UN Paris Agreement, under which countries agreed to prevent post-industrial average temperatures from reaching 1.5 degrees Celsius or higher by setting targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and designed to control them. Countries are waiting update their 2030 objectives to meet their commitments before COP26.

“The amount of carbon stored in 1 hectare of healthy peatland is equivalent to the annual emissions of 1,400 passenger cars,” said Doreen Robinson, Head of the Biodiversity and Land Division at UNEP, who moderated the “Peatlands as a Super nature-based solution. ” round tables. “Peatlands offer a triple victory for climate, nature and people. They are the most carbon-dense terrestrial ecosystems on Earth, harbor an exceptional range of unique biodiversity, and have supported human health and well-being for thousands of years.

The aim of nature-based solutions is to support the achievement of Sustainable development goals, preserve human well-being in a way that reflects cultural and societal values, improve the resilience of ecosystems, their capacity for renewal and service delivery, she said.

Keeping an eye on the amount of carbon stored in peatlands is a critical part of global efforts to curb global warming. Of all the 169 countries with peatlands, Indonesia has the fourth largest area after Canada, Russia and the United States. The Indonesian archipelago is also home to the largest area of ​​tropical peatlands in the world.

Built over thousands of years from rotting, waterlogged vegetation, peatlands around the world are equivalent to 3 percent of the total land area and freshwater, but store one third of the world’s soil carbon and 10 percent of the world’s freshwater resources, according to International Marsh Conservation Group and the International Peat Society.

Degradation from conversion and drainage for agriculture has affected nearly 15 percent of all peatlands. These degraded peatlands, which cover only 0.4% of the world’s land area, contribute 5-6% of global anthropogenic CO2 emissions each year, Kopansky said.

Indonesia’s peatlands are the fourth largest in the world, comprising about 36 percent of the world’s tropical peatlands and storing about 30 to 40 percent of the world’s soil carbon deposits, said Siti Nurbaya, Indonesia’s Minister of Environment and Land Use. forests.

Indonesia has implemented a wide range of strategies to manage peatlands, which are traditionally often drained and burned for agricultural purposes. The initiatives include guidelines to ensure that plantation runoff channels retain a minimum water level to prevent over-drying. In addition, malaria farming and fire mitigation techniques have been introduced.

Peatlands form the backbone of Indonesia’s NDCs through which the country aims to reduce its emissions by 41% by 2030, Nurbaya said.

“The second NDC will be accompanied by the roadmap on mitigation and the roadmap on adaptation, energy planning and the roadmap for phasing out coal-fired power plants; and exploring for blue carbon, including mangroves and coral reefs, ”she said, adding that Indonesia aims to become carbon neutral by 2060.

As the largest expanse of peatlands in the tropics, the Cuvette Centrale peatlands extend over 145,000 km², covering an area larger than England in the DRC and the Republic of Congo. One of the most carbon-rich ecosystems on the planet, they sequester 30 billion tonnes of carbon.

Peatlands are livelihood production environments for local communities and indigenous peoples, which means it is important that responses to environmental concerns do not cloud the peatland economy, a written statement said. the Deputy Prime Minister of the DRC, Eve Bazaiba Masudi, who is also Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development.

“It would be important that policies for the sustainable production of non-draining livelihoods are identified, contextualized and popularized,” according to his statement, which also said the country supports the conservation of peatlands in order to maintain their ecological functionality and economic improvement of peatland conservation.

At COP 26, the Republic of Congo will present new research results on peatlands, highlighting their importance for biodiversity and their contribution to climate balance.

They are teeming with species of flora and fauna – including endangered species – that are endemic to the Congo Basin, said Arlette Soudan-Nonault, Minister of the Environment, Sustainable Development and the Congo Basin of the Republic. of the Congo. “These are important carbon stocks that represent great potential for climate change mitigation – and it is a must for achieving NDCs linked to global goals under the Paris Agreement.”

A technical session to be held later in the year will be designed to help GPI partners to share, exchange knowledge and best practices.

“The aim is to help countries make informed decisions and develop management and policy options that minimize impacts on people and the environment and avoid dangerous social and climatic tipping points associated with loss. and degradation of peatlands, ”Kopansky said.

Peatlands as a Nature-Based Super Solution was held on July 5, 2021, with the support of CIFOR.

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