The capital of Indonesia, Jakarta, hosted in May 2017 two important international conferences on peatlands.
The thematic Global Landscapes Forum “Peatlands Matter” brought together more than 400 local and global actors to accelerate positive actions in the management of peatlands around the world. This science-lead dialogue platform, organised by CIFOR, the Center for International Forestry Research based in nearby Bogor, explored what it means to have multi-directional and multi-stakeholder dialogues surrounding peatlands and people making a living out of them.
The Forum’s panel discussions on community perspectives provided stark reminders that large areas of tropical peatlands are still drained, cleared and set afire to make way for agricultural plantations that produce palm oil and wood pulp for the global markets. Besides supporting such non-sustainable economies, peatland drainage has global consequences, because the not yet degraded peatlands store 30% of the earth’s soil carbon on only 4% of the terrestrial surface. Peatlands in tropical regions store most of this carbon, but half of them have been degraded since 1990. Such drained peatlands (on 0.4% of the terrestrial surface) emit 5% of all CO2 emissions produced directly by human activities. And more than 40% of all CO2 emissions from degraded peatlands stem from Indonesia, followed by those from the European Union, the Russian Federation and China, totalling together 75% of the global emissions from peatlands. This is why it is crucial to keep the carbon safely stored in healthy peatlands - and to restore already degraded peatlands to reduce current emissions and prevent future ones.
After the devastating peat fires during the dry El Niño year 2015 that created public health problems and many premature deaths in several SE-Asian areas and major cities, Indonesia created in 2016 the national Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG, Badan Restorasi Gambut) with the aim to restore 2 million hectares of degraded peatlands in seven of its provinces until 2020. In May 2017 Peatland Restoration agency hosted the second partners’ meeting of the UNEP-led Global Peatlands Initiative (GPI), bringing together about 80 Indonesian specialists, GPI partner organisations, and representatives from the initial GPI target countries Indonesia, Peru, Republic of the Congo and Democratic Republic of the Congo. With German funding from the International Climate Initiative (IKI), the GPI aims to produce a peer-reviewed global “Rapid Response Assessment for Peat” based on existing data and information to raise policymakers’ awareness, build the case for support for a global assessment and respond to increased concerns about the global implications of peatland degradation. GPI is also supporting South-South exchanges between its target countries on sustainable peatland management and restoration strategies. A field visit was organized for the international visitors to Riau province on Sumatra, to present the impressive peatland restoration programme of the Siak district and to exemplify the community involvement of the Kampung Dosan village for peatland restoration, native tree plantation and the creation of sustainable village livelihoods projects.
During their meeting in Jakarta, the GPI partners reconfirmed their principles and priorities of work for the partnership programme. They agreed on a work plan, to publish their Rapid Response Assessment, and to launch it at the occasion of the Climate Change COP23 in November 2017. Next GPI partners’ meeting will be hosted in Peru. This will provide a unique opportunity for countries engaged in the Ramsar Regional Initiative for the Amazon River Basin to interact with GPI partners and the beneficiaries of the first project financed by the Green Climate Fund to enhance the climate resilience and livelihoods of the indigenous wetlands communities of the Datem del Marañón province in the Amazon basin.
Reported by Tobias Salathé, Ramsar Senior Advisor for Europe