Tropical peatlands are among the most carbon-dense ecosystems but land-use change has led to the loss of large peatland areas, associated with substantial greenhouse gas emissions. To design effective conservation and restoration policies, maps of the location and carbon storage of tropical peatlands are vital. This is especially so in countries such as Peru where the distribution of its large, hydrologically intact peatlands is poorly known. Here field and remote sensing data support the model development of peatland extent and thickness for lowland Peruvian Amazonia. We estimate a peatland area of 62,714 km2 (5th and 95th confidence interval percentiles of 58,325 and 67,102 km2, respectively) and carbon stock of 5.4 (2.6–10.6) PgC, a value approaching the entire above-ground carbon stock of Peru but contained within just 5% of its land area. Combining the map of peatland extent with national land-cover data we reveal small but growing areas of deforestation and associated CO2 emissions from peat decomposition due to conversion to mining, urban areas and agriculture. The emissions from peatland areas classified as forest in 2000 represent 1–4% of Peruvian CO2 forest emissions between 2000 and 2016. We suggest that bespoke monitoring, protection and sustainable management of tropical peatlands are required to avoid further degradation and CO2 emissions.