Valuing The Climate Mitigation And Adaptation Benefits Of Wetlands

25 Aug 2020 by Staff - Water Diplomat
Washington DC, United States

Experts in climate change and nature-based solutions (NBS) are calling for wetlands to play a much larger role in countries’ climate mitigation efforts going forward. The Alliance for Global Water Adaptation (AGWA) and Wetlands International suggest in a new report that now is the most important time to properly value wetlands for their carbon storage potential, as countries are in the midst of revising and updating their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the Paris Agreement on climate change

"Locking Carbon in Wetlands: Enhancing Climate Action by Including Wetlands in NDCs", produced with support from German Development Agency GIZ, is written for policymakers and national climate planners to provide the scientific rationale behind the integral role of wetlands — and especially peatlands — within the global carbon cycle.

Wetlands are facing the most rapid decline of all ecosystems. At the same time, they offer vast and largely untapped carbon storage potential. By working to safeguard and restore wetlands, countries can both fight the adverse effects of climate change and ensure benefits to human livelihoods and biodiversity. In spite of their large potential for carbon storage, wetlands have not featured prominently within early climate commitments following the Paris Agreement. With wetlands found in nearly every country across the globe, the report seeks to demonstrate the various ways in which countries can tap into the undervalued potential of their own wetland ecosystems. 
In addition to mitigation benefits, wetlands can provide significant climate adaptation, disaster risk reduction (DRR), ecological, and societal co-benefits, the report argues. As the world comes to grips with the need for programmes and policies emphasising human livelihoods in the current COVID-19 paradigm, the safeguarding and restoration of wetlands offer cost-effective and multi-benefit solutions to an uncertain climatic future. To translate science into practical and measurable action, the report includes a series of policy recommendations for national climate planners and Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The recommendations are intended to provide guidance around analysis of costs and benefits, measurement, reporting, and verification (MRV) frameworks, and prioritization of key actions including wetland conservation, restoration, and wise use.

John Matthews, Executive Director of AGWA, said: “Slowing the rate of climate change is arguably the most important action we as a species need to pursue now, today. But in our focus on tailpipes, smokestacks, and forests, we've missed one of our most important levers: how wetlands trap and store carbon. Paleoclimate records show that wetlands can be an accelerator or brake pedal for climate change. With this guide, we show how decision makers and resource managers can slam on the carbon brakes globally -- removing carbon from the atmosphere while storing that carbon from future circulation. At the same time, we will be securing these wetlands for all of our adaptation needs, today and into the future".

Jane Madgwick, Chief Executive Officer of Wetlands International said: “The world is currently headed for 3˚C global warming and is already faced with continuous disasters. To close the emissions gap, land use has to change dramatically. That means changing how we store, manage and allocate water. Wetlands, from source to sea, are the premier land-based water and carbon stores. And safeguarding and restoring wetlands, including river floodplains, marshes, peatlands, deltas and coastal ecosystems like mangroves, is essential to slow climate change and enable adaptation. The science and technical know-how for this is well established. Organisations are ready to support planning and implementation. We urge countries to include wetlands as a focus in their NDCs and reap the reward of a ‘triple-win’: reduced carbon emissions, avoided future emissions and resilient, biodiverse land and water systems. All of this is needed as a basis for a healthy, prosperous society".