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What is the Global Peatlands Initiative?

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.

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What is the Global Peatlands Initiative?

The Global Peatlands Initiative is an effort by leading experts and institutions formed by 13 founding members at the UNFCCC COP in Marrakech, Morocco in 2016 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 are working together within their respective areas of expertise to improve the conservation, restoration and sustainable management of peatlands. In this way the Initiative is contributing 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 is done in two ways:


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


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.

 Smoke On Water – Countering Global Threats From Peatland Loss And Degradation

The Global Peatlands Initiative has carried out a peer-reviewed rapid response assessment for peatlands based on existing data and information, including data made available by the Global Peatlands Initiative partners.


This rapid assessment looks at peatland location and extent, threats affecting peatlands, what policies are in place to manage and protect them and how effective they are, and what the future may look like.



Frontiers 2018/19: Emerging Issues of Environmental Concern

The Global Peatlands Initiative co-wrote a chapter in the UN Environments’ publication: Frontiers 2018/29: Emerging Issues of Environmental Concern launched in March 2019.

This chapter: Permafrost Peatlands: losing ground in a warming world highlights the importance of peatlands on permafrost as a critical carbon-rich biome with their management having far reaching implications on the climate. Indeed, with rising global temperatures, the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the global average and scientists are becoming increasingly alarmed at the accelerating rate of permafrost thaw. Permafrost thaw is now seen as one of the most urgent issues to address as it could precipitate a runaway greenhouse effect if left unabated.




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 as in the world’s forests.


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.


The Global Peatlands Initiative conducts international activities and within four initial partner countries: Indonesia, Peru, Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo.

Global level activities are developing an overall outlook on the extent, status and importance of peatlands. This includes a comprehensive picture of peatlands as a core asset in global efforts to mitigate climate change. Global activities include 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 four initial partner countries activities 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 also support the transition to a Green Economy






Lera Miles: Making Peatland Matter FR – September, 2017

Tim Chritophersen: Making Peatland Matter FR – September, 2017

Erik Solheim: Peatlands Matter – May, 2017

Astronaut Roberta Bondar supports the Global Peatlands Initiative – March, 2018

Actor Alec Baldwin discusses the importance of peatlands – March, 2018

Martha Rojas Urrego, Secretary General, Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, speaks of the importance of peatlands – Nairobi, 2017

Martha Rojas Urrego, Secrétaire Général, Convention de Ramsar sur les zones Humides, parle de l’importance des tourbières – Nairobi, 2017

Martha Rojas Urrego, Secretario General, Convención de Ramsar sobre los Humedales, habla de la importancia de las turberas – Nairobi, 2017

Good peatland Governance to Strengthen Economic,  Social and Ecosystem Resilience – UN Climate Change Conference, 2017

Trailer for Smoke on Water – Countering global threats from peatland loss & degradation, 2017

Monique Barbut, Secretary General, UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) speaks of the the dangers of peatlands degradation and potential solutions – Ramsar COP13, 2018

Side Event 3.1: High level South South Cooperation in action – Protecting Tropical Peatlands Together – a Triple win for the Climate, People and the Planet – Global Landscapes Forum, Bonn, December 1, 2018

Side Event 3.2: Lessons learned and best practices for the management of tropical peatlands: an inter-tropical dialogue – Global Landscapes Forum, Bonn, December 1, 2018

Press Conference of the launching of the International Tropical Peatland Center (ITPC) – Global Landscapes Forum, Bonn, December, 2018

Side event: Keep it cool: fixing the climate with permafrost and peatlands – Global Landscape Forum, Bonn, June 22, 2019

Natural Climate Solutions – peatlands rewetting, restoration and conservation as a nature-based solution for climate action

Peatland Protection – A Super Solution for Climate Crisis

Conserving Forests – Congo Basin Forest: a Super Solution

Natural Climate Solutions – Greta Thunberg and George Monbiot

GLF Digital Conference – Why Peatlands Matter for Food Security

GLF Digital Conference – La importancia de las Turberas para la Seguridad Alimentaria

GLF Digital Conference – L’importance des Tourbières pour la Sécurité Alimentaire

Protection and sustainable use of peatlands as nature-based solutions to climate change: international experiences

GLF Biodiversité – Les tourbières, une super solution basée sur la nature face au changement climatique et un refuge pour une biodiversité unique et menacée

GLF Biodiversidad- Las turberas como una solución basada sobre la naturaleza frente al cambio climático, y un refugio para una biodiversidad única y amenazada

GLF Biodiversity – Peatlands, a Super Nature Based Solution – home and refuge for unique and threatened biodiversity

UNEP – This Earth Day, join #GenerationRestoration​ with Alec Baldwin

The Wildlife Trusts – Peatlands – our superhero habitat: are we doing enough to protect and restore them?

6 Reasons why restoring wetlands is vital for our future


Rubén Ramírez Mateo, Minister of Environment , Peru speech for the Peatland Pavilion Opening at UNFCCC COP26


UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen opening speech for the Peatland Pavilion Opening at UNFCCC COP26


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.


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