Peatlands: our greatest source of carbon credits?

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Peatlands are the most efficient carbon stores of all terrestrial ecosystems, containing approximately 455 Pg of carbon, which is twice the amount found in the world’s forest biomass. The majority of this carbon is stored in the saturated peat soil. Pristine peatlands are still sequestering carbon at a rate of 0.096 Pg carbon per year; however, anthropogenic degradation of peatlands through draining, fires and exploitation can increase the production of GHGs, switching peatlands from net sinks to net sources of carbon. Conservation of peatlands throughout the UK and the rest of the world is clearly essential for limiting GHG emissions and it is therefore surprising that accounting for emissions from peatlands does not feature prominently in the UNFCCC’s Kyoto Protocol. Discussions at Conference of the Parties (COP) COP-15 and COP-16 look set to make amends for this oversight in any post-2012 climate change legislation, with peatlands becoming important factors in national GHG inventories, the agriculture, forestry and other land use (AFOLU) sector, and in the creation of internationally accredited carbon credits. Using figures from The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), the world’s peatlands can be valued at up to US$18 billion. However, this sum does not take into account pending UNFCCC decisions. The detailed mandatory inclusion of peatlands in national GHG inventory schemes and in accredited carbon markets could see their value rise even further. This review looks at the current GHG emission-monitoring legislation regarding peatlands, with special focus given to those in the UK. It discusses the importance of peatlands in carbon sequestration, reviews how peatlands feature in current GHG emission-monitoring schemes, concentrating on those associated with the Kyoto Protocol, and considers how peatlands may feature in national GHG emission-monitoring schemes and carbon markets in the future.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)289-301
JournalCarbon Management
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2011
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