Protection for Peatlands

2 December 2010

Forest management is surely as important as everyone knows, but peatlands that have been drained for agriculture and other purposes are also important emissions hotspots globally.
Yet incentives for Annex I countries to reduce these emissions under the Kyoto Protocol were minimal in the first commitment period. In fact, accounting for land use activities associated with the drainage of peatlands (forest management, grazing land management and cropland management) is voluntary and therefore rarely selected.
The second commitment period of the KP offers a new opportunity to address this mega-gap. Parties will have higher reduction targets, and LULUCF can and should make a significant contribution to reducing emissions.
Further peatland drainage can be discouraged by making accounting for Article 3.4 activities mandatory, provided sufficient data quality is ensured.
In particular, further drainage for biofuel production should be decreased to prevent the development of a giant new emissions accounting loophole in the energy sector combined with unaccounted increased emissions in the land use sector.
In addition, rewetting of drained wetlands as an effective measure to decrease emissions should be encouraged by adopting the new activity ‘wetland management’.  If countries fail to agree mandatory accounting of existing Article 3.4 activities, mandatory wetland management is the only way to close the emerging accounting loophole for peatlands under LULUCF.
Reporting and accounting for peatland drainage is already facilitated with IPCC 2006 guidance, but a number of gaps still remain. An IPCC expert meeting in October concluded that science has developed recently to such an extent that most gaps (e.g. rewetting of drained peatlands, wetland restoration) can now be filled. As well, the emissions associated with land use on peat (cropland, grassland, forestry, peat extraction) should be reassessed.
Here in Cancun, the SBSTA can request the IPCC to undertake this work and define a way forward to finalize improved guidance in time for the second commitment period.  It’s all to protect one of our most important land sequestration resources . . . for peat’s sake!

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