At Nairobi, governments are debating the future of the Kyoto Protocol andaction to prevent the most serious impacts of climate change. So far, theyappear to have ignored pleas to address one of the greatest single sources ofcarbon emissions: the destruction of South-east Asias peatlands and forests.The annual emissions from annual peat and forest fires are about five times asgreat as the total annual emission cuts which the Kyoto Protocol aims to make by2012, from 1990 levels.
Indonesia alone holds 60% of all tropical peat, containing some 50 billiontonnes of carbon. This is equivalent to 7-8 years of global fossil fuelemissions. Timber and oil palm plantations are draining the peatlands and alsopushing local communities and small-holders into peat areas and rainforests.Once this peat is drained, all this carbon will eventually be released into theatmosphere, unless the peat is subsequently re-flooded and restored. Annualfires, many of them set deliberately by plantation owners, speed up the process.This years fire season has been one of the worst on record. WetlandsInternational warned earlier this week that the boom in biofuels is speeding upthe destruction, and further that one tonne of palm oil grown on peat is linkedto the release of around 20 tonnes of carbon dioxide released from that peat.Due to its low cost, palm oil is set to become the prime feedstock for biodiesel.
Biofuelwatch member Andrew Boswell says from Nairobi: Over 6600 peoplefrom 75 countries have emailed governments to call for real action to addressthe causes of the annual peat and forest fires. So far, there are no signs thatdelegates have listened. UNFCCC exists to prevent dangerous climate change andto stabilise levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This will be evenharder to achieve unless tropical peatlands are protected and restored.
Ecological Internet, Biofuelwatch, Save the Rainforest (Germany) and WatchIndonesia are calling on the Conference to agree to international assistancewith fighting the fires which are still burning on Borneo, and to set up aworking group which will draw up proposals for the protection and restoration ofthe peatlands which must report back within a year. They stress that thoseproposals must be developed in close co-operation with local communities and theSouth-east Asian NGOs representing them and must take full account of the needs of local people, and also of the need toprotect those forests which are not part of the peatlands.