FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Greenhouse gas emissions due to the loss of peatsoils have rapidly increased in Southeast Asia in the last twenty years and now have reached a magnitude equal to 70% of all fossil fuel carbon dioxide emissions. This conclusion follows from the first ever inventory of peatland carbon emissions per country, as presented by Wetlands International in cooperation with Greifswald University at this week’s UN Climate Summit in Barcelona.
The report ‘The Global Peatland CO2 Picture’ of Wetlands International is the result of many years of work of a network of scientists, coordinated by the University of Greifswald. The report provides the first ever overview on peatlands and their status, carbon stocks and carbon emissions for all countries of the world.
Due to drainage and reclamation of wetlands, organic wetland peat soils are exposed to the air. As a result, the organic carbon that was built up over thousands of years decomposes and turns into the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. This process is taking place all over the globe.
THE SOUTHEAST ASIAN PICTURE
While Southeast Asia stores only 15% of the world peat carbon, some 45% of the global emissions – peat fires excluded - come from this region (see Annex table). Logging of peatswamp forests followed by the establishment of deeply drained palm oil and pulpwood plantations are the root causes.
Emissions from Southeast Asian wetlands (from peat soil degradation) grew with 250% since 1990, from approximately 230 million to 580 million tonnes CO2 per year. For Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, the loss of wetlands is a bigger source than all their reported fossil fuel emissions (see below the Annex table). In Southeast Asia, emissions from the loss of organic wetland soils (peat) equal to 70% of all fossil fuel emissions in this region.
WHAT THE UN CLIMATE CONVENTION NEEDS TO DO
Magnitude and increase of the Southeast Asian peatland emissions are of global relevance and need to be addressed. Many of these emissions come from hardly used wastelands that remain after logging. These emissions can be halted with relatively easy and cheap measures such as closing canals that were used for transporting logs.
Wetlands International pleads for a global climate treaty that supports developing countries to address the loss of their wetlands. Proposals to halt emissions from deforestation (REDD) should include organic soil emissions and prevent issuing carbon credits for plantations on drained and strongly emitting peat soils. A REDD like mechanism must also provide incentives for reducing emissions from already degraded and entirely deforested areas with still large soil carbon stocks.
See the full report and press release about the Global Peatlands CO2 Picture on www.wetlands.org.
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