Germany has committed just under €2 million (£1.7m) in funding to support the sustainable management and protection of some of the world’s most vulnerable peatlands.
Peatlands – a form of wetlands that cover around 3% of land – are said to be the most effective carbon sinks on Earth, storing twice as much carbon as all the world’s forests.
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 – they equate to around 10% of all annual fossil fuel emissions.
Germany is backing the Global Peatlands Initiative, a multi-partner UN Environment Programme project launched in 2016, which aims to bring together countries and partners to save peatlands and prevent carbon being emitted into the atmosphere.
Leading experts and institutions work within their respective areas of expertise to improve the conservation, restoration and sustainable management of the peatlands.
In Germany, more than 90% of peatlands are classified as drained – drainage was carried out in particular in the 1960s and 70s to cut peat and gain additional land for agricultural and forestry uses.
UN Environment says with the frequency of disasters worldwide having doubled and up to 90% of these disasters being water-related as well as predictions of even more extreme weather, protection and restoration of peatlands “is more important than ever”.
Dianna Kopansky, UN Environment’s Global Peatlands Co-ordinator adds: “For the world to keep the global average temperature increase under 2°C, 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.”