Peatlands are a type of wetland that develop when partially decomposed plant materials accumulate over centuries or millennia, which help provide safe drinking water, supply food, and prevent flood damage in ecosystems by regulating water flow. Peatlands cover just 3% of the Earth’s land surface, yet by some estimates store more carbon than all the world’s forests combined.
Since 1900, 64% of the world’s wetlands have disappeared, releasing massive amounts of carbon dioxide. 6% of global anthropogenic carbon emissions each year are from damage to peatlands. Protecting and restoring peatlands is a huge opportunity for climate change mitigation and helping countries meet their emissions reductions targets.
Peatlands can appear as bogs, swamps or even tropical landscapes depending on where they are located. Categorized by the peat soil found in them, peatlands must remain wet in order to continue storing carbon.
Major peatland concentrations are mainly found in Canada, Northern Europe, Western Siberia, Southeast Asia, and the Amazon basin.
Loss of peatlands can have severe impacts on both the environment and the economy.
Peatlands are not only useful in storing carbon, but offer a variety of ecosystem services that support the environment and the people who live there.
InforMEA, the United Nations portal on multilateral environmental agreements, organizes and synthesizes relevant global legal provisions for protecting environmental resources like peatlands.
Searching for key terms like bogs, wetlands or carbon sinks on InforMEA will retrieve relevant texts and provisions related to MEAs working across the spectrum of environmental issues, from climate and atmosphere to chemicals and waste.
Beyond core MEA treaty texts, the database will also bring up peatland-relevant documents like major MEA decisions, action plans, national reports, or related laws and court cases.
Users can use this network of laws, plans, and regulations, searchable and cross-referenceable through the database, to research the issues, advocate for national and concerted international action, and work toward peatland conservation and restoration.
The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, for example, aims to achieve the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. It provides a framework for national action and international cooperation. Its resolutions create a legal basis for the restoration of degraded peatlands to mitigate and adapt to climate change, enhance biodiversity, and reduce disaster risk.
These resolutions also connect to the work of other MEAs. For example encouraging Parties to restore peatlands in order to increase greenhouse gas removals, thereby contributing to their Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement.
Understanding the full spectrum of MEA actions on peatlands, with the help of InforMEA, enables governments, environmental organizations, and researchers to create synergies, identify complimentary needs, and seize opportunities offered by environmental law.