Global assessment reveals huge potential of peatlands as climate solution

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Sharm el-Sheikh (Egypt)– Earth loses 500,000 hectares of peatlands a year, while already drained and degraded peatlands contribute around four per cent of annual global human-induced emissions.

These findings are part of the Global Peatlands Assessment, published on Thursday by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

Global Peatlands Assessment — The State of the World’s Peatlands: Evidence for action toward the conservation, restoration, and sustainable management of peatlands was undertaken by the Global Peatlands Initiative between 2020 and 2022 as decided by the UNEA-4 resolution on the Conservation and Sustainable Management of Peatlands in March 2019.

Building on spatial data and the best available information from 220 contributors from over 50 countries — including scientists, governments, NGOs, Indigenous Peoples, and others — the report is the first comprehensive global assessment of peatlands in almost 15 years.

It proposes a definition for peatlands as an ecosystem with a peat soil of any thickness and provides an evidence base on the status of peatlands and their importance in the global carbon cycle.

“If we’re serious about acting on climate change, we must get serious about the protection, restoration, and sustainable management of peatlands. Wherever peatlands are allowed to be damaged or drained, harmful emissions will continue to be released for decades,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP.

“The Global Peatland Assessment can guide countries on how to treat peatlands as a potent nature-based solution for climate change, biodiversity loss and local communities.”

Covering around 3-4 per cent of the world’s land surface area, peatlands are responsible for storing nearly one-third of its soil carbon. This is twice as much carbon as in all world’s forest biomass combined.

Peatlands also have a crucial local role in the water cycle, filtering and storing water, providing clean water, and preventing floods. They are home to unique species and carry significant cultural meaning for communities worldwide.

Around 50 million hectares of peatlands — an area about half the size of Egypt — have been historically drained around the world. This damaged area is equivalent to around 12 per cent of current peatlands or about 0.4 per cent of the world’s land surface area, but contributes 4 per cent of global human-induced GHG emissions annually.

In addition, 500,000 hectares of peatlands — an area almost twice the size of Cairo — are destroyed by human activities annually. (IANS)

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