12 Sep 2018 Story Forests

Four countries from the global South to share peatland experiences

Photo by UN-REDD

As the World marks United Nations Day for South-South Cooperation on 12 September, preparations are under way for a major step forward in the global South – cooperation on protecting tropical peatlands.

In a groundbreaking move, the Indonesian Minster of Environment and Forestry invited Ministers from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Republic of Congo (ROC) and Peru to spend a working week with her in Indonesia in the coming months.

As part of the Global Peatlands Initiative, the Ministers have committed to share experiences and knowledge on one of the most unique and underappreciated ecosystems on Earth – peatlands. During the high-level visit, they will pledge their continued commitment to work together to protect and sustainably manage tropical peatlands.

This intense South-South collaboration will include exchanging information on current policies and practices of peatlands protection, management and restoration, and will include sharing new technologies for wetland use such as paludiculture (the practice of crop production on wet soils, predominantly peatlands). They will zoom in on best practices to: map threats and competing demands on peatlands through land-use planning; look at fire detection and suppression; share ideas on livelihoods, including through high-end eco-tourism; and learn about innovative private sector finance facilities like the Tropical Landscapes Finance Facility.

This exchange is an immediate follow-up to the commitments Indonesia, DRC and ROC made when they signed the historic Brazzaville Declaration on Peatlands in March earlier this year. The high-level political commitment will help the Global Peatlands Initiative partners advance their efforts to support these countries to protect the globally significant Cuvette Centrale Peatlands of the Congo Basin from unregulated land use and prevent its drainage and degradation. These are among the world’s largest tropical peatlands – estimated to contain 30 gigatons of carbon – equivalent to 15 years of U.S. emissions.

Lake Tele in the Republic of Congo. The area is one of the world’s last remaining wildernesses with huge peatland forests. Photo by Johannes Refisch/UN Environment

Indonesia knows peatlands

With over 15 million hectares of tropical peatlands, Indonesia has extensive experience and a multitude of lessons on peatlands management.

As part of the Government of Indonesia’s policy ambitions to make peatland management a national priority, the country will host a new International Tropical Peatlands Centre (ITPC) in Bogor. Under the management of the Forestry and Environment Research, Development, and Innovation Agency of the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry, the Centre will be an institutional hub for forestry research, committed to demand-driven collaborative research, outreach and technology transfer between regional, national and international partners. The Centre’s launch is also a trailblazing step towards the Global Peatlands Initiative’s aim to bridge the gap between science and policy, for peatlands management, protection and restoration.

Vital plank in mitigating climate change

According to UN Environment’s 2017 Emissions Gap report, we are already losing the battle on climate change and the world needs to preserve its peatlands to prevent a potentially catastrophic global warming tipping point. Peatlands cover less than three per cent of the Earth’s surface but are the largest terrestrial organic carbon stock – storing twice as much carbon as in the world’s forests. In fact, greenhouse gas emissions from drained or burned peatlands account for five percent of the global carbon budget.

The four partner countries of the Global Peatlands Initiative, DRC, ROC, Peru and Indonesia, have some of the world’s biggest areas of tropical peatlands, rich with biodiversity and providing habitat for critical flora and fauna.

The event will be attended by UN Environment Executive Director, Erik Solheim, a key mediator of the Global Peatlands Initiative.

“This is one of the biggest environmental challenges of the century: how to keep the carbon in the ground, while at the same time unlock the growth potential of this unique landscape and drastically improve livelihoods,” Solheim said. “This will entail smarter land use management, and for this we need to make sure we work together to have the right solutions and put them into practice.”

Firefighters in Indonesia are trained to extinguish peatland fires. Photo by UN-REDD

The Global Peatlands Initiative recognizes that  reducing emissions on a global scale requires worldwide action on peatlands, built on experience and approaches from science to policy and innovation to financing – as captured in the Smoke On Water Report. The initiative contributes to several of the Sustainable Development Goals, and supports countries in filling knowledge and information gaps, identifying options and promoting urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, maintaining ecosystem services and securing lives and livelihoods.

United Nations Day for South-South Cooperation on 12 September marks the 40th anniversary of the Buenos Aires Plan of Action for Promoting and Implementing Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries.

South-South Cooperation is a manifestation of solidarity among peoples and countries of the South that contributes to their national well-being, their national and collective self-reliance and the attainment of internationally agreed development goals, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

For further information: Dianna Kopansky