Global Peatlands and Permafrost Initiative | Effort by leading experts and institutions to save the world
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What is the Global Peatlands Initiative?

The Global Peatlands Initiative is an effort by leading experts and institutions to save peatlands as the world’s largest terrestrial organic carbon stock and to prevent it being emitted into the atmosphere. The current greenhouse gas emissions from drained or burned peatlands are estimated to amount up to five percent of the global carbon budget — in the range of two billion tonnes CO2 per year.

Partners to the Initiative will work together within their respective areas of expertise to improve the conservation, restoration and sustainable management of peatlands. In this way the Initiative will contribute to several  Sustainable Development Goals , including by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, maintaining ecosystem services and securing lives and livelihoods through improved adaptive capacity.

One of the first outputs of the Global Peatlands Initiative will be an assessment, which will focus on the status of peatlands and their importance in the global carbon cycle. It will also examine the importance of peatlands for national economies.

This will be done in two ways:

AT THE GLOBAL LEVEL

Provide an updated overall assessment of the status of peatlands and their importance in the global carbon cycle and to national economies. It will emphasize peatlands’ role in enabling the achievement of global commitments to mitigate climate change, as outlined in the Paris Agreement.

AT THE NATIONAL LEVEL

identify and begin to respond to the needs of pilot countries with substantial peat coverage through building the knowledge base and developing options to reduce degradation. Improve the sustainability of peatland management including through restoration and the development and adoption of sustainable peatland strategies and action plans.

WHAT IS PEAT AND WHERE IS IT FOUND?

Peat is partially decayed plant material that accumulates under water-logged conditions over long time periods. Natural areas covered by peat are called peatlands. Terms commonly used for specific peatland types are peat swamp forests, fens, bogs or mires. Peat is found around the world – in permafrost regions towards the poles and at high altitudes, in coastal areas, beneath tropical rainforest and in boreal forests.

Peatlands store large amounts of carbon. Although they cover less than three per cent of global land surface, estimates suggest that peatlands contain twice as much carbon as all the world’s forests and four times as much carbon as the atmosphere.

WHAT DO WE NEED TO KNOW?

Despite their importance especially to climate change, there is significant uncertainty around peatlands because their extent, status and dynamics have never been globally mapped with sufficient accuracy.

 

The major threat to the peat carbon stocks globally is drainage. Drained peatlands are mainly used for agriculture and forestry, and peat is extracted for horticulture and energy production. Drainage of peatlands and poor management can result in a variety of problems, the most obvious of which are large and persistent peat fires, such as those in parts of Southeast Asia and Russia in recent years.

In addition to the often reported recent loss of tropical peatlands, degradation remains a significant source of emissions in many temperate and boreal countries after decades of non-sustainable use. In boreal areas, permafrost is thawing, causing land subsidence and potentially leading to high greenhouse gas emissions. Further degradation and loss of peat ecosystems, regardless of their location, could seriously hamper climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts and the achievement of the Paris Agreement.

 

Although there has not been a detailed or comprehensive global assessment,  it can be stated with confidence that improved management of peatlands – reducing their drainage and degradation – can be achieved with available tools and measures.

HOW WILL IT WORK?

The Global Peatlands Initiative will conduct international activities and within three initial partner countries: Indonesia, Peru and the Republic of Congo.

Global level activities will develop an overall outlook on the extent, status and importance of peatlands. This will include a comprehensive picture of peatlands as a core asset in global efforts to mitigate climate change. Global activities will begin with a rapid global assessment of peatland extent and carbon content followed by a more detailed analysis of sustainable peatland management options, South-South-North cooperation, and private sector engagement.

Within the three initial partner countries activities will focus on supporting a shift in management practices towards inclusive, sustainable approaches which maximize the contribution of peatlands management to efforts to address climate change and natural resource use. The pilot projects will also support the transition to a Green Economy

COMING SOON

As part of the start-up phase of the Global Peatlands Initiative a knowledge and experience sharing platform will be made available to connect scientists, government policy makers, stakeholders, the private sector and other interested parties. This platform is expected to be launched in early 2017.

OUR PARTNERS

WHAT NEXT?

This platform is expected to be launched in early 2017.

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CONTACT US

United Nations Environment Programme United Nations Avenue, Gigiri PO Box 30552, 00100 Nairobi, Kenya

+254-(020) 762-5109

dianna.kopansky@unep.org