03 Dec 2018 Press release Ecosystems

At Global Landscape Forum, partners deliberate on a triple win for Climate, People and the Planet

  • Sustainable landscapes are essential for food security, health, livelihoods, business and trade opportunities, including renewable materials and energy.
  • Peatlands are highly efficient carbon sinks that when drained, they account for more than 3% of all greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The Brazzaville Declaration commits Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo and Indonesia to work together with Global Peatlands Initiative partners to protect peatlands.

Bonn, 3 December 2018 – In order to protect some of the world’s most fragile ecosystems – locking in some of the largest stocks of global soil carbon – tropical countries zeroed in on how to manage their peatlands and celebrated the launch of the International Tropical Peatland Center, at the Global Landscape Forum in Bonn this week

The countries engaged in an urgent sharing of knowledge, challenges and best practices at the Forum, which saw more than 1,000 representatives of government, international, non-governmental and indigenous organizations, activists, finance, the private sector, youth, scientists and media come together.

Peatlands are compressed, partly decayed organic matter under waterlogged conditions that prevent its full decomposition. They store about one-third of all soil carbon despite covering only 3% of the Earth’s land area. They are found all over the world, come in many forms, display many different characteristics and are used in many different ways.

Ministers of Environment from the Republic of Congo and Indonesia, both countries home to some of the biggest peatlands in the world, followed up on their commitments made in the Brazzaville Declaration earlier this year, which laid out the parameters of cooperation for countries to manage their peatlands. 

If nations act on their commitments to effectively manage their peatlands, these invaluable ecosystems can provide sustainable livelihoods that are essential to human health and well-being – while retaining their unique biodiversity. Leaving peatlands undisturbed as much as possible can limit air and water pollution in the direct vicinity and carbon emissions on a global scale. 

Drainage of peatlands for agriculture and forestry is an enticing economic prospect for developing countries. However, drained tropical peatlands – while fertile agricultural plots – are vulnerable to fire, which contributes to haze and toxic substances, land degradation that causes saltwater intrusion and increased carbon loss via water which transports contaminants and pollutants. This has severe implications for air and water quality, human health, as well as climate change.

 “We need better knowledge on peatlands to better protect this critical ecosystem,” said Joyce Msuya, Acting Executive Director and Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations.” “Countries must come together and act fast to protect our peatlands. Sustainable development on this planet depends on it!

The discussion particularly focused on the Cuvette Centrale in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is the largest, carbon-rich and relatively undisturbed peatland in the world with a unique ecosystem hosting both threatened species and endemic species only found in the Congo basin region. The discovery of their extent and significant carbon stocks is especially relevant to climate mitigation but also to the sustainable development goals on health, water and life on land

“Peatlands are fragile ecosystems which are not yet well understood. We need to support efforts such as those here in the Congo Basin to achieve sustainable development, rather than risk the degradation and destruction of peatlands” said Tim Christophersen, Coordinator of the Freshwater, Land and Climate Branch, UN Environment.

The GLF is the first global movement of its kind that brings together world leaders, climate negotiators, policymakers, development practitioners, private sector representatives, world-class scientists, civil society and the media. Since 2013, over 25,000 stakeholders from more than 3,000 organizations and 110 countries have engaged with the GLF.


About the Global Landscapes Forum 2018

The Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) is the world’s largest knowledge-led multi-sectoral platform for integrated land use, bringing together world leaders, scientists, private sector representatives, farmers and community leaders and civil society to accelerate action toward the creation of more resilient, equitable, profitable and climate-friendly landscapes. The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), UN Environment and The World Bank launched the Forum in Warsaw in 2013, alongside the UNFCCC Conference of Parties (COP). With core funding provided by the Government of Germany.

About the Global Peatlands Initiative

The Global Peatlands Initiative is 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.

About UN Environment

UN Environment is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations. UN Environment works with governments, the private sector, the civil society and with other UN entities and international organizations across the world. 

For more information, please contact:

Shari Nijman, News and Media Unit, UN Environment.