To spur global action to support the sustainable management and protection of some of the most vulnerable peatlands, Germany has announced its support for the Global Peatlands Initiative. While establishing their own peatlands unit in their Ministry, they also have committed just under two million euros in funding from the Federal Environment Ministry’s International Climate Initiative.
Peatlands are a unique form of wetlands and cover about 3% of our planet’s land, storing approximately 30% of all land-based carbon–twice the amount than all the world’s forests combined. Peatlands are the most effective carbon sinks on Earth.
When drained or burned for agriculture, peatlands go from being a carbon sink to a carbon source, releasing centuries of stored carbon into the atmosphere. CO2 emissions from drained and burned peatlands equate to 10% of all annual fossil fuel emissions.
“For the world to keep the global average temperature increase under two degrees Celsius then peatlands must gain our attention – locally and globally. Urgent action must be taken everywhere, especially in the tropics to keep the carbon locked in peatlands where it is – wet, and in the ground,” said Dianna Kopansky, UN Environment’s Global Peatlands Coordinator.
Regardless of size or location, peatlands or wetlands, in general, perform essential functions: providing humans with water, fuel, food, recreation and employment, they support an immense variety of wildlife and can mitigate extreme water events.
However, it is these natural water bodies that have borne the brunt of development, with up to 50% having been lost, often intentionally drained, since 1900, and others undergoing flooding due to damming or diversions.
Furthermore, with the frequency of disasters worldwide having doubled and up to 90% of these disasters being water-related with predictions of even more extreme weather being anticipated going forward, their protection and restoration is more important than ever.
UN Environment has taken the lead in propelling action towards the protection of these wetlands and is the lead coordinator of the Global Peatlands Initiative which aims to bring countries and partners together to save peat bogs as the world’s largest terrestrial carbon sink thus preventing any more releases of CO2 into the atmosphere.