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Indonesia: emissions to rise 50% by 2030, 3rd largest GHG emitter

A report released by the Indonesian government shows the country is the world’s third largest greenhouse gas emitter, largely as a result of the destruction of rainforests and carbon-dense peatlands. Indonesia accounts for 8 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions.

The ‘National Council on Climate Change’ report reveals that degradation and destruction of peatlands (45 percent) and forests (35 percent) account for 80 percent of Indonesia’s 2.3 billion tons of CO2 emissions per year. It projects Indonesia’s emissions will rise 57 percent to 3.6 billion tons by 2030, mostly due to continuing logging and conversion of natural ecosystems for agriculture and industrial plantations.

Last year Indonesia announced it would allow the development of more than two million hectares of peatlands for oil palm agriculture. The policy would generate billions of tons of emissions based on a 2007 study that found that producing one ton of palm oil on peatland generates 15 to 70 tons of CO2 over 25 years as a result of forest conversion, peat decomposition and emission from fires associated with land clearance.

Marcel Silvius, Programme Manager of Wetlands International, a NGO that campaigns for the protection of wetlands around the world, says that Indonesia’s acknowledgment of emissions from drainage and destruction of peat swamps is a step forward, but it needs to do more to limit development of these carbon-dense lands.

“Wetlands International welcomes the recognition by the Indonesian government of the impact of peatland degradation on greenhouse gas emissions,” he said in a statement. “Now it is time to act and we therefore call on the Indonesian government to end policies that allow further deforestation and reclamation of peatlands.”

Compensation strategy

Draining and clearing of peat forest in Central Kalimantan. Photo by Rhett A. Butler.

By forecasting a substantial rise in greenhouse gas emissions from land use over the next 20 years, the report positions Indonesia to benefit handsomely from a proposed scheme that would reward tropical countries for reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD). Indonesia stands to earn tens of billions of dollars from the initiative should it successfully reduce deforestation over that period. It could earn even more if the U.N. includes reductions in emissions from peatlands degradation in the final climate agreement.

“This Indonesian report illustrates how enormous the contribution of peatland loss to climate change is, but also how cheap it is to avoid these emissions,” said Alex Kaat of Wetlands International. “This illustrates the need to address peatland loss in a new climate treaty.”

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