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Wetlands and peatlands at the COP22

Wetlands and peatlands at the COP22

By Lea Appulo, Wetlands International

According to a recent study of Wetlands International, peat (organic) soils cover only 3% of the land but hold more carbon than all global forest biomass. Many countries can kickstart national emission reductions by focusing on drained peat soils. In 25 countries (18 developing and 7 European Annex-I – industrialised – countries), emissions from drained peat exceed 50% of the total emissions from fossil fuels and cement. In an additional 25 countries, emissions exceed 10% of those from fossil fuels and cement.

The COP 22 climate change conference took place in Marrakech (Morocco) from 7 to 18 November 2016. Some key side events on wetlands and peatlands during the COP 22 are listed here:

Wetlands and peat: understanding the potential
Enhancing wetlands conservation and rehabilitation within national implementation plans is key to increase community resilience towards impacts of climate change and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Wetlands and peatlands should be treated as hotspots for high mitigation potential. Tackling emissions from peatlands which cover only 3% of global land area but contain 30% of the world’s soil carbon will be cost-efficient, because a large amount of emissions stems from such a small area of land. During this side event, a presentation on the Satellite-based Wetland Observation Service (SWOS) was given  to present the potential benefits of this service in supporting the monitoring of the ecological character and degradation of wetlands as well as presenting some of its case studies.

Global Peatland Initiative
A new global initiative was also launched in Marrakech. It aims to increase the conservation, restoration and sustainable management of peatlands in countries with significant peat deposits, delivering benefits for agriculture, biodiversity and the climate. The Global Peatlands Initiative will mobilize governments, international organizations and academia in a targeted effort to protect peatlands, which contain almost 100 times more carbon than tropical forests.

Incorporating blue carbon into nationally determined contributions under the Paris Agreement
This event – organized by Wetlands International together with the Australian Government – underlined the role of wetlands as Earth’s natural carbon stores. For instance, coastal ecosystems, which include mangroves, tidal marshes, and seagrass meadows are productive ecosystems that store carbon and increase the resilience of communities living along the coast. Wetlands International stressed the importance of scaling up the ‘Building with Nature’ approach, which helps to tackle coastal erosion, reduces disaster risks and increases the resilience of the vulnerable communities.

Promotion of ecosystem-based approach to Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation
More than 90% of all extreme events are water related. Their frequency and intensity is generally rising: more and more people experience water scarcity and suffer the impacts of major floods, droughts, storms and water-related diseases. Much of this increase in vulnerability is the result of the degradation of wetlands, such as floodplains, mangroves and peatlands and loss of their capacity to regulate water flows, protect coastlines and provide fish and other resources.
How we use and manage water and land-based resources is central to disaster and climate risk management, and to achieving local and national development priorities. Ecosystem-based approaches to Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation apply ecosystem-based solutions, such as the conservation, restoration and the sustainable use and management of land, wetlands and other natural resources, in disaster and climate risk management.