Unless protected and restored peatlands threaten to unleash emissions that could accelerate
Beside its own successes, it has become a showcase for what can be achieved as the Indonesian government de- velops its own ambitions to restore 2.4 million hectares of damaged peatlands by the end of 2020.
to polluters to offset their emissions. But for the project, the area would have been turned into an industrial timber plantation. “The forests would have been destroyed and the peat swamps drained,” says David Stone of Permian Global, which manages the project in partnership with Wet- lands International and others. Stopping that prevented the release in to the atmosphere each year of an estimated 7.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide – some from deforestation but most from the gradual oxidation of the drained peat. The carbon credits represent that gain. Happily, there is a major ecological gain too. Protecting one of the world’s largest peat-swamp forests and the several endangered species that live there in large numbers, in- cluding 3500 orangutans, 10,000 gibbons and 500 probos- cis monkeys. The year 2019 saw the project achieve financial security when Volkswagen and other companies bought its cred- its. But to ensure that the carbon stays put for centuries to come, it also needs acceptance from the 40,000 or so Dayaks and others who grow rice, tap rubber and cultivate rattan in the surrounding forests. To that end, project man- agers from Permian Global have sought agreements with the 34 surrounding villages, ensuring their land rights and helping them grow crops sustainably, as well as recruiting them as firefighters for the project.
Peatlands make up only around 3% of the world’s land surface, but they contain twice as much carbon as the world’s forests. The importance of their conservation and restoration is increasingly recognised in international cli- mate negotiations. Indonesia and Russia, which ratified the 2015 Paris agreement on fighting climate change in 2019, are among countries that plan to incorporate peatland pro- tection and restoration into their emissions reduction strat- egies. During 2019, we helped both countries to develop methodologies for accurately calculating emissions from peatlands; and we provided technical expertise to help more nations join them. Countries with great potential to benefit include Mongo - lia, where extensive peatlands overlaying permafrost are disappearing rapidly due to overgrazing, mining and agri- cultural expansion. We recently completed work with local herders there, piloting how to restore peat on their pas- tures. Further monitoring of this restoration, including its impact on carbon balance, integrated with a strategic plan for peatland in Mongolia we have also developed, will help
Protecting the Katingan peatswamp forest, Indonesia, has meant securing habitat for 3500 orangutans, 10,000 gibbons and 500 proboscis monkeys.
Wetlands Annual Review 2019
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