In relation to the below 4 requests to the SBSTA in Annex II of the Cancun Agreement, I’d like to share a number of recommendations and considerations as input to the SBSTA.
As many of you will know peatlands play a critical role in climate regulation. They store 550 GT C which is twice as much carbon as the entire world’s forest biomass. Besides this critical role, they are also critical for other services, such as for local livelihoods, biodiversity conversation, water regulation and climate change adaptation.
However, when drained, peatlands emit large amounts of carbon. 2 Gton CO2 /year is being emitted from about 50 million hectares of degrading peatlands (which is 15% of all the world’s peatlands). 50% of these emissions come from drained and degraded peatswamp forests in developing countries (mostly SE Asia) which are directly relevant to REDD+. However, depending on the scope of REDD, also non-forested peatlands might be addressed.
This map shows that emissions from peatlands occur at several places in the world. The red colour shows that South-east Asia has very significant emissions, but also non-tropical areas have signficant emissions, including Europe.
Globally, significant emissions reductions can be achieved. As this involves only a disproportionally small area of land, peatlands are hotspots within the land sector for climate change mitigation.
As mentioned, in Europe and other Annex-I countries significant emissions. New incentive: a new accounting activity called ‘drainage and rewetting’ approved in Cancun. In developing countries the accounting would be similar, namely based on drainage and restoration. Conservation of undrained or slightly drained peatswamps under REDD+: This will prevent emissions, thereby reducing CO2 emissions from avoided peat oxidation and fire incidence. This included avoiding planned peatland drainage that is legally authorized and documented to be implemented and avoiding unplanned peatland drainage as a result of improved access. 2. Rewetting of drained peatsoils under REDD+ . Includes practices that establish a higher water level on drained peatsoils and revegetation. Reduces greenhouse gas emissions from peat oxidation and peat fires, and may even re-install carbon sequestration through renewed peat accumulation. About half of the 13 mln drained peatsoils in SE Asia are under plantations, therefore only half can be restored on the shorter term. 3. Protecting and restoring unforested non-tropical peatlands. Another almost 1 Gt of CO2 results from the 37 million ha of currently degrading non-tropical peatlands of the world. Less concentrated but similarly substantial problem. Rehabilitation of 50% has significant mitigation potential as well, which could be increased even when paludiculture (wet agriculture) as an alternative for drainage based peatland agriculture and forestry.
Here a picture of drained peat in Borneo to show you drained peat through the construction of large drainage canals.
And a picture to show you a technique of blocking drainage canals to re-install the water level in past pilot projects of Wetlands Internatonal. The picture below shows the replanting of appropriate vegetation for which no drainage is required.
On methodological issues for REDD+ and peatlands the following points are important to mention: Firstly, there is an improvement of the current IPCC 2006 guidelines for wetlands under development. These improvements will have a high impact on emission figures for countries with peatlands which are currently in a number of occasions far from realistic, in particular for tropical peatlands. Also guidance will be provided to peatland rewetting, which wasn’t available before. Secondly, in March 2011 the VCS guidelines for Peatland Rewetting and Conservation (PRC) were published. PRC provides standards to which methods for estimating and monitoring emissions and removals should comply. With this guidance methodologies can be developed for different activities (rewetting, revegetation, conservation) and different regions. Finally, there are many running methodology development efforts to MRV emissions reductions from peatland rewetting and conservation, which base on water level, vegetation and subsidence. This will enable measuring and reporting with higher Tiers. Research and pilot projects are being pursued in e.g. Belarus, Ukraine, Germany, Indonesia and Malasyia. We strongly recommend SBSTA consults these efforts.
On MRV of peat emissions and removals, Carbon changes in peat forest occur above ground, but mostly in their below ground carbon pools. The 2003 Best Practice Guidelines requires reporting for organic soils, but the 1996 don’t. In order to ensure emissions and removals from peat soils are accounted, we recommend the SBSTA ensures that each Party should account for all changes in peat forest soils except when transparent and verifiable information is provided that the pool is not a significant source (criteria and procedures by SBSTA). As previously mentioned, new methodological guidance by the IPCC is under development. We therefore strongly call for REDD activities to be reported in accordance with the most recently adopted IPCC Guidelines, including improvements to the 2006 GL Furthermore, for those countries that lack capacity to use this most recent methodological guidance, support should be provided.
On reference levels, I am not proposing a certain approach at this stage, but rather provide some thoughts to consider which are specific to peatlands. First of all, it is critical that all peatlands are included in the baseline, including those that have been deforested and drained in the past. These should be considered ‘temporarily destocked’ and have ongoing emissions at present and in the future. If these areas are not included in the baseline, emissions will continue but no incentive will be provided to reduce them. Furthermore, plantations will preferentially move to these lands leading to deeper drainage and larger emissions. The second notion that follows from this is that, because emissions from drained peatlands continue until the entire peat is depleted or being rewetted, new conversion will only add to already existing emissions.and carbon stocks will continue to decline
On drivers, peatlands are threatened globally by deforestation, drainage for unsustainable agriculture and forestry, peat fires, overgrazing, extraction for heating, horticulture, transport, construction etc. The main problems in SE Asia are oil palm plantations and pulpwood plantations. For instance in Borneo and Sumatra, almost all remaining peatswamp forests are about to be converted to plantations, with other areas in Southeast Asia to follow.
How to address this problem? The question is at which levels guidance can be given. The following issues should be addressed: Conversion of still undisturbed peatswamp forests should be avoided. To protect the largest share of relatively undisturbed peat forests existing concessions (for pulp wood and palm oil plantations) must be revoked. Palm oil and pulp wood supply chains must exclude products from drained peatlands, because of unacceptable soil carbon emissions. Recognition for instance is shown in that by decision of the CDM Board (Sept. 2010), plantations on peat soils are already no longer supported by the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).
On environmental and social safeguards, I wont say much additional to what others have said, apart from emphasising that these are critical for peatlands as well. On participation of stakeholders I’d like to flag an approach which Wetlands International is using in its programmes, which is called bio-rights in which communities are financially rewarded for ecosystem restoration, while they are simultaneously supported to move to alternative sustainable livelihoods.
Bonn, 9 June 2011 Susanna Tol, Wetlands International Policy recommendations and considerations on peatlands & REDD+ for SBSTA.
Each Party should account for all changes in peat forest soils except when transparent and verifiable information is provided that the pool is not a significant source (criteria and procedures by SBSTA).
• REDD activities are reported in accordance with the most recently adopted IPCC Guidelines and any subsequent clarifications agreed by the Conference of Parties (as per CP.4/15)
SBSTA should establish a work programme for joint effort to support countries that lack capacity to use methodological guidance.