Indonesia, partners lead peatland preservation efforts with new research center

Jakarta, 31 October 2018 – Environment ministers responsible from three peatland-rich countries in the tropics said they would work to preserve and manage peatlands sustainably in their respective nations.

Representatives of Governments of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, and Republic of Indonesia met in Jakarta on Tuesday (30 October 2018) and agreed to cooperate on establishing the International Tropical Peatland Center (ITPC). An interim secretariat will be hosted by Indonesia and assisted by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

The launch event was attended by some 400 people, including the Republic of Congo Minister of Tourism and Environment, Mrs. Arlette Soudan-Nonault and the Democratic Republic of Congo Forest General Director and Personal Representative of the Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development, Mr. Jose Ilanga Lofonga, in addition to representatives from international organizations, universities and research centers, the private sector, civil society, funding partners and practitioners.

Indonesian Minister of Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya Bakar said that her country is ready to share its experiences in managing its over 15 million hectares of peatlands. “Indonesia’s experience goes back to early in the last century when tribes in Kalimantan managed peatlands in a sustainable manner for subsistence purposes.”

From the 1970s, when Indonesia started to commercially utilize peatlands for timber, agriculture and plantations, the ecosystem started to degrade significantly. “The current era can be labeled as the corrective era,” Bakar said, adding that now Indonesia is confident that the world has acknowledged the country’s successful management of peatlands.

The ITPC will serve as a hub to connect different stakeholders, coordinating and supporting collaborative international relationships in strategies and practices for tropical peatland management in the context of a South to South cooperation. The center will also carry out and disseminate scientific research and become a center of excellence for tropical peatland research to support policy development and provide capacity building and technical services.

In the draft plan for the ITPC through 2025, the center aims “to govern peatland knowledge to ensure sustainable ecosystems and human wellbeing for national and international benefits.” In the first year, the center plans to consult all stakeholders to map challenges and opportunities, contributions and commitments and the establishment of the secretariat in Bogor, Indonesia. In 2019, the center will also begin research on broad aspects of peatland management and establishing demonstration plots in Indonesia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo and Peru.

Tropical peatlands hold about 30 to 40 per cent of the world’s carbon storage in an area covering about three per cent of the land surface, thus preserving it is crucial in the efforts to fight adverse impacts of climate change.