23 March 2018: The first comprehensive mapping of Congo Basin peatlands has spurred a partnership between the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Republic of Congo and Indonesia, aimed at protecting the Cuvette Centrale region in the Congo Basin. With the largest tropical peatland in the world, this ecosystem is estimated to store 30 gigatonnes of carbon, roughly equivalent to what the US economy emits in 15 years.
Titled, ‘Smoke on Water: Countering Global Threats from Peatland Loss and Degradation,’ the Rapid Assessment Report published by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP, or UN Environment) and the Global Peatlands Initiative, aims to raise awareness about the importance of the world’s peatlands and to encourage immediate action to preserve them. The report summarizes contributions by 30 experts from 15 organizations analyzing the threat to peatlands from agriculture, forestry, resource extraction, and infrastructure development.
This ecosystem is estimated to store 30 gigatonnes of carbon, roughly equivalent to what the US economy emits in 15 years.
The three countries signed the Brazzaville Declaration on the sidelines of the Third Partners Meeting of the Global Peatlands Initiative, which took place in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, from 21-23 March 2018. The agreement builds on a transboundary collaboration agreement between the DRC and the Republic of Congo to regulate exploitation of the region’s peatlands when planning economic concessions for agriculture, oil and gas mining, and logging.
Explaining Indonesia’s role, Siti Nurbaya, Minister of Environment of Forests of Indonesia, said the country has extensive experience in managing tropical peatlands, “both in positive and negative terms,” and was keen to share its experience with the Congo Basin and other countries through South-South Cooperation
In his remarks, Erik Solheim, UN Environment Programme Executive Director, underscored the need to address the needs of communities living in peatland areas to prevent their draining and degradation.
The Rapid Assessment Report states that while peatlands cover only three percent of the Earth’s land mass, they contain “as much carbon as all terrestrial biomass combined, twice as much as all global forest biomass, and about the same as in the atmosphere.” The report notes, however, that peatlands across the globe are under threat from drainage and burning for agricultural, forestry, and development uses, with an estimated 15% of reserves already destroyed or degraded. [UN Environment Press Release] [Publication: Smoke on Water: Countering Global Threats from Peatland Loss and Degradation]