Destruction of Indonesian Wetlands ‘Fuels Climate Change’

NAIROBI ~ “Shocking” destruction of wetlands in Indonesia is fuelling global warming with the emission of huge amounts of greenhouse gases into the earth’s atmosphere, an environmental group said here.

Wetlands International, a Netherlands-based NGO, said massive amounts of peat bogs had been drained, logged and burned in Indonesia, producing large quantities of carbon dioxide.

“New research shows the enormous impact of peatland degradation on climate change,” it said in a statement released to coincide with the opening of a UN climate change summit in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi.

Such activity in Indonesia, largely caused by growing global demand for hardwood, paper pulp and palm oil, is emitting some two billion tons of carbon dioxide into the air each year, the group said.

“These amounts change the global picture concerning carbon emissions,” it said.

Layers of peat, normally wet, dry and begin decomposing and emitting carbon dioxide when swampy areas are drained for commercial agriculture use. The process is rapid in the tropics and is often accelerated by fires.

In Indonesia, fires have caused massive amounts of acrid and polluting smoke to disrupt air travel, create health problems and cause regional anger as the haze has billowed across neighbors Singapore and parts of Malaysia.

The group said if peat emissions were taken into account, along with industrial emissions, they would bring Indonesia from the 21st-largest carbon dioxide producer in the world to the third, ahead of India, Russia and fully developed economies like Britain and Germany.

Peatland emissions are not now calculated under the Kyoto Protocol that seeks to limit the amount of greenhouse gases countries produce and so there is little incentive to reduce them, the group said.

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