Developing multi-stakeholder partnerships for sustainable peatland management will help to address climate change
BY FATIHAH MANAF
Addressing climate change has become more imperative than ever. Peatlands, one of the critical agents in reducing carbon emissions, have played significant roles in Malaysia’s climate change journey for many years.
However, there’s still a need for the country to conserve and manage its remaining peatlands sustainably. To support sustainable peatland management, multi-stakeholder partnerships must be developed.
Organised by the Global Environment Centre (GEC) and the Ministry of Environment and Water (KASA), a side event titled ‘Multi-stakeholder partnerships in sustainable peatland management for climate change in Malaysia’ was held on Nov 10, 2022, at Malaysia Pavillion at COP 27, Egypt.
During his opening address, the Regent of Pahang Tengku Hassanal Shah said the peatland ecosystem was the most important terrestrial ecosystem globally for carbon storage.
“Although peatlands only cover three per cent of the land surface, they store about 30 per cent of soil carbon, which is more than the biomass of all the world’s forests combined,” said Tengku Hassanal.
“Southeast Asia has about 23 million hectares of peatlands or about 40 per cent of tropical peatlands globally. Of which, an estimated 2.6 million hectares of peatlands are in Malaysia. One hectare of peat swamp forest may store up to 5,000 tonnes of carbon or more than 10 times the carbon stored of tropical forests on mineral soil.”
Because peatlands are critical in global carbon storage, Tengku Hassanal noted that the degradation of peatlands could lead to large-scale carbon dioxide emissions and other greenhouse gasses (GHG).
It is estimated that global emissions from peatland degradation are more than 2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide a year or about 30 per cent of global GHG emissions from the forestry and land use sector.
Scaling up efforts to restore forests and peatlands
“In Malaysia, more than 50 per cent of our peatlands have been cleared and drained for agriculture and plantations over the past 50 years. A large portion of our remaining peat swamp forests has been logged. More than 200,000 hectares of our peatlands have been identified as fire-prone,” added Tengku Hassanal.
Malaysia has recognised the importance of stopping the further degradation of peatlands and managing them sustainably. The efforts to rewet and restore degraded peat swamp forests in Malaysia started in 2008 and are now being conducted in more than 10 sites covering nearly 6,000 hectares.
In 2021, Malaysia set a national target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The country’s Nationally Determined Contribution under the Paris Agreement was enhanced to a 45 per cent reduction of GHG intensity by 2030.
“At COP26 in Glasgow, 141 nations committed to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030. We must scale up our actions in every country to meet our targets.
“We also need to take a whole-of-society approach. We need to engage stakeholders from all levels – from the private sector, state and national government, consumers, indigenous people, and local Communities. All must work together to achieve the common goals of restoring our forests and peatlands and reducing GHG emissions,” Tengku Hassanal emphasised.
He highlighted that indigenous people and local communities (IPLCs) had been the stewards of the land for thousands of years, and their active engagement in preventing and reversing forest and peatland degradation is essential. The recent Report on the State of Indigenous People’s and Local Communities’ Lands and Territories confirmed that IPLCs are vital custodians of the world’s remaining natural landscapes.
“In total, 42 per cent of all global lands in good ecological condition are within IPLCs’ lands, and 91 per cent of
IPLCs’ lands are in good or moderate ecological condition.”
Pahang’s initiatives to protect its biodiversity
“In my state of Pahang, we are blessed with the largest forest cover and the largest area of peatland in Peninsular Malaysia,” he added.
According to Tengku Hassanal, several actions have been undertaken to better protect peatlands and forests in Pahang in recent years, including:
• Establishment of the Pahang State Parks Corporation and the Pahang Biodiversity Council to better conserve natural ecosystems and biodiversity;
• Undertaking a pilot project for rewetting and fire prevention for 1,700 hectares of peatlands in Pekan in partnership with the state government agencies, local indigenous communities, oil palm plantations and NGOs;
• Initiating a project to support the development of a State Action Plan on Peatlands and prepare an integrated management plan for the Southeast Pahang Peatland Landscape;
• Initiating a carbon study of peat swamp forests in Southeast Pahang and lowland forests in the Tekai region to explore options for better protection and rehabilitation of forests and peatlands.
“And currently, as we speak, the state of Pahang is setting up a Royal Tiger Park next to Taman Negara – our national park, where we have nearly 40 tigers.
“Moving forward, we are encouraging the state government, private sector, local communities, and NGOs to enhance and scale up collaborative work to protect better and restore peatlands and forests in the State.”
He ended his note by highlighting the importance of action to urgently protect and restore Malaysia’s remaining peatlands for their essential roles in carbon storage, water management and biodiversity conservation and sustaining the lives of local communities.