INDONESIA – TEMPO.CO, Jakarta – Indonesia is rewetting over two million hectares of dried out peatlands to reduce fire risk and stop the enormous amount of carbon from being emitted from the soil into the atmosphere while scaling up information sharing on these the carbon-rich wetlands globally.
Globally, the vital importance of peatlands has historically been poorly understood, and they are frequently drained for plantations, farming and forestry. In an effort to reduce the fire risk, the government has stepped up law enforcement to make sure peatland regulations – including a nationwide ban prohibiting new peatland drainage – are enforced.
While knowledge of tropical peatlands has hugely increased in recent years, scattered data and experience on tropical peatlands make it hard to take well-informed decisions on their management. To pursue a more synergized approach to the management of these fragile ecosystems, an International Tropical Peatland Center was launched in Indonesia today, October 30.
“We see the need for gathering the existing knowledge and develop capacity further to be able to step up science-based action ¬– not only in Indonesia, but also in other tropical countries,” Minister of Environment and Forestry Ibu Siti Nurbaya Bakar said at the launch, which saw nearly 600 representatives of government agencies, international partners, private sector, civil society and media in attendance – including government representatives of two other tropical peat-rich countries: the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The launch of the International Tropical Peatland Center culminated the intergovernmental study tour that further included visits to peat restoration sites in Kalimantan.
“Peatlands offer the world enormous wealth in biodiversity, but without careful management of competing conservation and development objectives, the release of their large locked-in carbon reserves will lead to unprecedented greenhouse emissions and devastating wildfires,” Erik Solheim, Head of UN Environment said. “Accelerating global collaboration for preservation is critical, and the International Tropical Peatland Center is a key instrument to ensure a sustainable future for peatlands.”
The Global Peatlands Initiative is an effort by leading peatland countries and organizations to save these fragile wetlands as the world’s largest terrestrial organic carbon stock. CIFOR, FAO, UN Environment, Indonesia and the Republic of the Congo are among the founding members to the Global Peatlands Initiative.
“It is of utmost importance to scale up the efforts improving peatland management to tackle greenhouse gas emissions and fires”, Tiina Vähänen, FAO’s Coordinator for Forestry Policy and Resources said. “FAO continues to support countries to improve monitoring and management of peatlands, and we welcome Indonesia’s efforts to boost exchange between countries. Decision-makers in governments and in the private sector need improved knowledge that allows them to make informed decisions on selecting pathways to sustainable development and reducing deforestation and land degradation.”
The Indonesian Forestry and Environmental Research Development and Innovation Agency (FOERDIA) together with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in Bogor were announced as hosts for the interim ITPC secretariat. The Indonesian Government now invites other tropical peatland countries, resource partners as well as scientific, development and other collaborators to join forces with the help of the ITPC to improve knowledge and to protect through these sensitive ecosystems our shared environment.
“Tropical peatlands play an oversized role not only in the global climate but also in the many ecosystem services they provide,” said Robert Nasi, Director General of the Center for International Forestry Research. “The International Tropical Peatland Center will ensure that the world has the tools it needs to conserve and manage tropical peatlands, backed by credible and independent information and analyses.”