Although they occupy only 3% (4,000,000 km2) of the land area of the world, peatlands contain 500 gigatons of carbon in their peat, i.e. an amount greater than twice the total biomass of all the world's forests. If a peatland is drained, the peat is no longer saturated with water, oxygen enters the peat, and substantial CO2 emissions are generated.
The drained peatlands of the world are responsible for a substantial proportion of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. It is estimated that 500,000 km2 of drained peatlands emit 2 gigatons of CO2 annually worldwide. This means that 0.3% of the global land area is responsible for 4% of global anthropogenic CO2 emissions. The major hotspots of these emissions are Indonesia, the European Union, Russia, China and the United States. Peatland rewetting, in contrast, can reduce greenhouse gas emissions substantially.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is increasingly acknowledging the importance of peatlands. While the conditions for peatland rewetting within the compliance market are being negotiated, the voluntary carbon market is reacting fast. The Verified Carbon Standard (VCS, www.v-c-s.org), the global benchmark standard for voluntary land use projects, is the first standard which has developed its own programme for peatland projects. While forest and land use projects have been allowed within VCS since the beginning of 2007, this has been true for peatland rewetting and peatland protection projects only since March 2010 through the introduction of 'Wetland Rewetting and Conservation' (WRC). The first VCS methodology for assessing emission reductions in peatlands will likely be validated in 2014, and a project document for a peatland rewetting project in Belarus is soon to be finished.
Next to such developments under global standards, regional voluntary activities are also emerging. In 2011, MoorFutures® were introduced in Germany as the first carbon credits from peatland rewetting. MoorFutures have been developed in the federal state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and follow the regional MoorFutures standard. The MoorFutures criteria are clearly defined, scientifically validated, transparent, and are based on the principles of the Verified Carbon Standard and the Kyoto Protocol. Operational costs related to validation, verification and certification are minimised through the involvement of regional specialist expertise. The quality of the MoorFutures credits is guaranteed by the relevant Ministry and related state institutions as well as regional scientific institutions/universities.
The credits are sold via the platform www.moorfutures.de. Emission reduction assessments are based on a regionally validated tool that uses vegetation as a proxy. Other ecosystem services of peatland rewetting, such as water quality improvement, flood retention, increased regional ground water storage, evapotranspiration cooling as well as the provision of mire typical biodiversity, were also recently quantified. Both simple and premium approaches to assess these additional effects were tested in the recently rewetted first project site polder Kieve. The extended MoorFutures standard was presented in October 2013 in Berlin.
To date 9,471 credits have been sold in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Currently, remaining credits from the first MoorFutures sites are being sold and new sites are under preparation. In future sites, productive wet land use ('paludiculture', see e.g. http://www.fao.org/docrep/015/an762e/an762e.pdf) will also be encouraged.
A recent project of EUROPARC Germany has investigated the opportunities for developing CO2 mitigation measures, corresponding credits and marketing structures in biosphere reserves and nature parks in the country. The final project report has identified proposals for activities in grasslands, peatlands and forests and outlined suitable methodologies for emissions reduction assessments. A follow-up project currently under preparation aims at elaborating these methodologies and at setting up a marketing platform for combined carbon and conservation credits from pilot protected areas in Germany.
Further information will be available at www.moorfutures.de