Global Peatlands Initiative launched to address climate change

Global Peatlands Initiative launched to address climate change

17 November 2016


From left: Erik Solheim, Head of the UN Environment; Martha Rojas-Urrego, Secretary General Ramsar Convention; Nazir Foead, Indonesia Peat Restoration Agency
  • Peatlands only cover 3% of the land surface; they contain twice as much carbon as the entire biomass of the world’s forests.
  • Drained peatlands are responsible for up to 5% of anthropogenic carbon emissions

A new global initiative, launched today at the climate change conference COP22 in Marrakech, aims to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by protecting peatlands – the world’s largest terrestrial organic carbon stock.

The Global Peatlands Initiative is a time-bound, targeted effort by leading experts and institutions to protect peatlands, which are the most space-effective store of carbon on the planet.

The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, which represents the commitment of 169 Contracting Parties is very pleased to announce the launch of this initiative as a founding partner along with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Wetlands International and other institutions.


Peatlands in Estonia

Half of the world’s wetlands contain peat deposits. Although peatlands only cover 3% of the land surface, they contain twice as much carbon in the peat soil as the entire biomass of the world’s forests.

When peatlands are drained, the carbon is released in greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Greenhouse gas emissions from unsustainable peatland management account for up to 5% of total global emissions, and they are on the rise due to increasing rates of peatland degradation and loss from agriculture and fires. Worldwide, 15% of peatlands have been drained. 95% of global peatland emissions come from 25 countries. A growing number of studies assert that without tackling peat degradation and loss, climate change cannot be stopped. 

At the launch press conference of the Global Peatland Initiative, Ramsar Convention Secretary General Martha Rojas-Urrego said: “As countries move to implementing the historic Paris Agreement, they can kick-start major national emission reductions by focusing on peatlands as mitigation hotspots. Only few countries are including peatland restoration in their Nationally Determined Contributions plans so more action is needed.”

“Sufficient information is already available on the location and status of peatlands as well as on how to manage and restore them. Conservation of peatlands also supports adaptation and resilience as they provide water and are important for cooling local climates.”

By 2030 the Initiative aims to scale up the conservation, restoration and sustainable management of peatlands in up to 25 key countries, to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and maintain the benefits which their ecosystems provide, and thereby contribute to several Sustainable Development Goals. 

The purpose of the Global Peatlands Initiative is to:

  • At the global level: Provide an updated overall assessment of the status of peatlands and their importance in the global carbon cycle and for national economies, with emphasis on 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 and improve the sustainability of peatland management, including through restoration and the development and adoption of sustainable peat strategies and action plans.

The founding members of the Global Peatlands Initiative are the governments of Indonesia, Peru, and the Republic of Congo, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, FAO, the Joint Research Center of the European Commission, Wetlands International, UNEP-WCMC, GRID-Arendal, the European Space Agency, World Resources Institute, Greifswald Mire Centre and Satelligence.

As a worldwide instrument for the sustainable use of wetlands, the Ramsar Convention plays an important role in highlighting the climate regulation function of peatlands and in stimulating their conservation and restoration.

For more information on peatlands visit our website and Peatlands photo gallery.