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EU is 2nd largest source of peat emissions after Indonesia, finds global peat survey

The EU is the world’s second largest source of carbon dioxide emissions from peatlands drainage, after Indonesia, reports the first country-by-country assessment of peat stocks.

The study, conducted by Wetlands International and Greifswald University, found that drainage of wetlands for agriculture, forestry and peat extraction causes 1.3 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year. Emissions from fires and peat mining (for horticulture and fuel) amount to another 700,000 million tons per year.

Emissions from peatlands degradation are highest in Indonesia at 500 million tons per year. Indonesia’s peatlands are being rapidly converted for agriculture, especially oil palm plantations.

The EU — led by Finland (50 million tons), Germany (32 million tons), and Poland (24 million tons) — is the second largest source of peatland emissions, due largely to agriculture and forestry.

Russia (160 million tons) is third due to peat fires, extraction, and drainage for forestry and agriculture. The United States is fourth.

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The assessment, which estimates that global peatlands lock up more than 1.4 trillion tons of carbon, found the peat emissions have increased by more than fifth since 1990. Most of the increase has occurred in developing countries, with the largest growth occurring in Indonesia, China, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea.

The report shows that in 15 countries emissions due to peatland degradation are higher than emissions from fossil fuels use. For example, Iceland’s emissions from peatlands degradation are nearly 800 percent of its fossil fuels emissions. Uganda (739 percent), Mongolia (480 percent), Papua New Guinea (433 percent), Guyana (265 percent), and Indonesia (150 percent) also have high emissions from peat to fossil fuel.

The report notes that peatland emissions are not currently addressed under the Kyoto climate treaty and concludes that reducing peatlands degradation is one of the most cost-effective ways to help mitigate climate change.

“Peatland rewetting may globally reduce greenhouse gas emissions [by] several hundred million tons of carbon dioxide per year,” the report states.

Developing countries could be among the biggest beneficiaries under a climate agreement that compensates reductions in emissions from peatlands degradation.

The Global Peatland CO2 Picture

CHARTS/TABLES: Peat emissions by country

Emissions from degrading peat 2008 (million tons CO2)

Country/area 2008 peat emissions
Indonesia 500
Russia 161
China 77
USA 67
Finland 50
Malaysia 48
Mongolia 45
Belarus 41
Germany 32
Poland 24
Russia Asian part 22
Uganda 20
Papua New Guinea 20
Iceland 18
Sweden 15
Brazil 12
United Kingdom 10
Estonia 10
Ireland 8
Lithuania 6
Netherlands 6
Norway 6
Vietnam 5
Ukraine 5
Zambia 5
Japan 5
Canada 5

Country rank by peat area (square kilometers)

Country/area Peat area
Russia – Asian part 1176280
Canada 1133926
Indonesia 265500
Russia – European part 199410
USA (Alaska) 131990
USA (lower 48) 91819
Finland 79429
Sweden 65623
Papua New Guinea 59922
Brazil 54730
Peru 49991
China 33499
Sudan 29910
Norway 29685
Malaysia 26685
Mongolia 26291
Belarus 22352
United Kingdom 17113
Germany 16668
Congo 15999
Zambia 15410
Uganda 13640
Iceland 13366
DR Congo 11955
Poland 11528

Country rank by peat carbon stock 2008 (million tons of carbon)

Country Peat carbon stock
Canada 154972
Russia Asian part 117607
Indonesia 54016
Russia European part 19948
USA (Alaska) 15499
USA (lower 48) 13668
Papua New Guinea 5983
Brazil 5440
Malaysia 5431
Finland 5294
Sweden 5000
China 3224
Norway 2230
Germany 2018
Venezuela 1984
Sudan 1980
United Kingdom 1745
Congo 1600
Mexico 1483
Uganda 1321
Belarus 1305
Dem. Republic of the Congo 1190
Falkland Islands / Islas Malvinas 1151
Ireland 1130
Chile 1124