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  PlanetArk 29 Aug 07
Indonesian Peatlands Seen Playing Key Climate Role
Story by Sugita Katyal

PlanetArk 28 Aug 07
Indonesia Hopes to Include Peat in New Climate Deal
Story by Adhityani Arga

YOGYAKARTA, Indonesia - Indonesia wants emission cuts from preserving its vast carbon-rich peatlands to be eligible for trade in a new deal on combating global warming at upcoming climate talks, a forestry official said on Monday.

Under the Kyoto Protocol, developed nations can pay poor countries to cut emissions from activities such as the manufacture of refrigerants and fertilisers as well as capturing greenhouse gases from farm waste and rubbish dumps.

But emissions cuts from forest areas such as peatlands are not yet eligible for trade, because they were excluded from the Kyoto Protocol's first round which runs out in 2012.

"In order for Indonesia to properly preserve its peatlands, the world has to provide incentives, because we know that peat absorbs carbon more than anything else in the world," Wahjudi Wardojo, director general for forestry research at Indonesia's Forestry Ministry, told Reuters by telephone.

"We think the current scheme has to be reviewed. The carbon market should be allowed to finance restoration of degraded land and reforestation of any kind, because there should be incentives for any effort to reduce carbon emission."

Wardojo is leading the Indonesian team that is drafting a proposal on cutting carbon emissions by keeping forests and peatlands intact at a major conference in Bali in December, which is expected to initiate talks on clinching a new deal by 2009 to fight global warming.

Under Kyoto, about 35 rich nations are obliged to cut emissions by 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12.

"The draft will include long-term projections, showing that businesses can profit by taking part in the RED scheme by aborting peatland conversion projects than cashing in on palm oil," Wardojo said, just ahead of a three-day conference in the historic city of Yogyakarta on peatlands, described by some as the new black gold.

"Once completed, it will become Indonesia's ammunition to seal the new climate deal."

Participants from 189 countries are expected to gather in Bali for December's UN-led summit, which will hear a report on Reduced Emissions from Deforestation (RED) to decide the fate of a new scheme that aims to make emission cuts from forest areas eligible for global carbon trading.


Peatlands are considered a hot new investment ticket and investors around the world are dreaming of the billions Indonesia's festering carbon-rich bogs could bring in as the world battles global warming.

Around US$30.4 billion of carbon credits -- representing 1.6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) -- were bought and sold last year in Europe by firms aiming to trade off business-related carbon emissions for emissions cuts achieved elsewhere.

Experts estimate Indonesia has 20 million hectares (50 million acres) of dense, black tropical peat swamps, formed when trees, roots and leaves rot, that are natural carbon stores.

However, when burnt or drained to plant crops such as palm oil, peat releases big amounts of CO2.

A 2006 Wetlands International report found Indonesia's peatlands emit 2 billion tonnes of CO2 a year, more than the annual greenhouse gas emissions from Japan or Germany.

Indonesia is home to 60 percent of the world's threatened tropical peatlands and among the world's top three carbon emitters when peat emissions are added in, said a report sponsored by the World Bank and Britain's development arm.

"Among the challenges is keeping track of all the types of peatlands, their status and condition. Then to put a price tag on each of them is another major challenge," Wardojo said.

PlanetArk 29 Aug 07
Indonesian Peatlands Seen Playing Key Climate Role
Story by Sugita Katyal

YOGYAKARTA, Indonesia - To the average person, they are just ordinary swamps or bogs.

But peatlands across the world are more than just simple marsh land: they are one of the largest carbon stores on earth and play a significant role in the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions and global climate change.

Not for long, perhaps.

In recent years, experts say peat bogs have been stoking global warming through increasing greenhouse gas emissions because of massive deforestation and conversion into agricultural land and palm oil plantations, especially in Southeast Asia which accounts for a huge chunk of the world's marshes.

"When you clear land, the easiest way is by burning. But that emits sequestered carbon into the atmosphere," Bostang Radjagukguk, an Indonesian peat expert, told Reuters at a conference on peatlands in the historic city of Yogyakarta.

"In Indonesia, some 5 percent of 20 million hectares (49 million acres) of peatland has already been converted into agricultural land."


Peat is created by dead plant matter compressed over time in wet conditions preventing decay. Peat can hold about 30 times as much carbon as in forests above ground.

The world's peatlands -- a rich and fragile ecosystem formed over thousands of years -- are estimated to contain 2 trillion tonnes of sequestered carbon.

When drained, peat starts to decompose on contact with air and carbon is released, often aggravated by fires that can rage for months and add to a choking smog or haze that is an annual health menace to millions of people in the region.

Dutch research institute Wetlands International estimates peatlands in Southeast Asia store at least 42 billion tonnes of soil carbon or peat carbon.

Wetlands senior programme manager Marcel Silvius estimates about 13 million of 27.1 million hectares of Southeast Asia peatlands have been drained causing severe peat soil degradation.

Although degraded peatlands in Southeast Asia cover less than 0.1 percent of the global land surface, they are responsible for about 2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, or close to 8 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions.

"By 2025, peatland emissions will decrease because easily degradable peatlands would have disappeared altogether," Silvius told Reuters. "In Indonesia alone, 3 million hectares of shallow peatland have already disappeared."

As concerns about global warming increase, environmentalists say the problem is more acute in Indonesia where emissions from peat, when drained or burnt, account for some 85 percent of total emissions from Southeast Asia.

Indonesia is home to 60 percent of the world's threatened peatlands, but its marshes are being destroyed at an unprecedented pace because of massive conversion into pulp wood and palm oil plantations to feed global demand for biofuel.

"Palm oil production on peatlands requires drainage, leading to substantial emissions of carbon dioxide. This renders it unsuitable as a biofuel, as biofuels should by international standards at least be carbon neutral," said Silvius.


Indonesia has also lost a huge chunk of peat under a project to convert about 1 million hectares of peat swamp forests into rice fields in the mid 90s, dubbed the Mega Rice Project.

The project deforested and drained massive amounts of peatland in Central Kalimantan, only to find the acidic soil underneath was unsuitable for rice farming.

Today, it's a giant wasteland, a spread of dry black peat releasing enormous amounts of carbon dioxide into the air.

The highly combustible material lights up in the dry season, choking the area in thick haze for a couple of months a year. "It releases carbon-dioxide, methane and a cocktail of other gases, some of them toxic," Professor Jack Rieley, a peat expert at the University of Nottingham, told Reuters.

Now, as the world battles global warming, Indonesia's peatlands are being seen as a hot investment ticket, as keeping its vast peatlands intact could be a huge opportunity for companies seeking to trade off business-related carbon emissions for emissions reductions achieved elsewhere.

Indonesia is pushing to make emission cuts from preserving peatlands eligible for trade in a new deal on fighting global warming at UN-led climate talks in Bali in December.

(Additional reporting by Adhityani Arga)


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