There is no Paris Climate Change Agreement without peatlands. Mismanaged, drained peatlands have massive GHG emissions – more than the shipping and aviation industries combined – and cost €400 billion in climate damage annually. However, they are often overlooked and underrepresented. Peatlands, a type of wetland, are one of the most valuable ecosystems in Europe for biodiversity, water quality, flood protection and carbon storage. Rewetting peatlands is a key step to reducing CO2 emissions and mitigating climate change. On the final day of COP26 at the Peatland Pavilion, four European ministers, supported by nine leading experts and forward-thinking farmers, came together to discuss the importance of peatlands and the crucial role European collaboration plays in protecting and restoring them. This momentous event was hosted by the Government of Ireland, and organised and moderated by Bax & Company’s Cisca Devereux and Amber De La Haye. The time is right for Europe’s stakeholders to come together and form a long-called for alliance for peatlands. A dedicated network between countries is needed to create strong synergies, accelerate action and boost impact at scale through a coordinated international collaborative effort. The European Green Deal policies (revised LULUCF regulation in Fit for 55-package, Restoration Law, Carbon farming Initiative) present a huge opportunity to advance commitments and action on peatlands across Europe at this moment.
DIALOGUES TOWARDS A EUROPEAN PEATLAND INITIATIVE
At the COP26 Peatland Pavilion, the event “Dialogues towards a European Peatland Initiative” began with an opening address from the event chair, Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform for Ireland Malcolm Noonan. This was followed by a roundtable discussion on what Europe can learn from each other, and why we must increase cooperation. The Icelandic Minister of the Environment and Natural Resources Gudmundur Ingi Gudbrandsson opened this session, followed by Irish Minister of State for Land Use and Biodiversity Pippa Hackett, and German Minister of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety Svenja Schulze. By bringing together national stakeholders, the event harnessed the energy of COP26 to drive forward collaboration and action.
A European Peatland Initiative will be shaped by many players – member governments, societal and knowledge partners, businesses and ultimately stakeholders’ needs. That is why the next part of the event featured leading directors, ministerial advisors, experts, practitioners, farmers and managers from across Europe including Lithuania, Scotland, Germany, the Netherlands, Ireland and the international community. They all came together to express their interest in a European Peatland Initiative and share their perspectives and experiences; establishing a set of common challenges, shared visions and practical solutions. The event also had a Q&A session where the ministers gave input on the potential benefits of unity, how to achieve a multi-stakeholder approach, and the next steps for a European Peatland Initiative. Diana Kopansky, Coordinator of the Global Peatlands Initiative (GPI) from the UN Environment Programme, delivered a motivating Call-to-Action for peatlands stating that in the coming year, the GPI would like to see a European Peatland Initiative being formed, and that they stand ready to support this journey.
CALLING FOR EUROPEAN COLLABORATION
Peatlands are climate change champions, yet are rarely given the attention they deserve. This year at COP26, the dedicated Peatland Pavilion brought peatlands to the forefront of climate discussions and catalysed action through knowledge-sharing and collaboration. As event hosts, Irish Minister Malcolm Noonan concluded the event by announcing that Ireland will host a workshop in early 2022 to take the first step in shaping a European Peatland Initiative. This event is a distinct example of Ireland’s active role in climate adaptation and how the side events at COP26 can accelerate solutions and drive collaboration. Peatlands are in trouble, the climate is in trouble, and to achieve the COP21 Paris Climate Change Agreement targets, we must collaborate to keep peatlands wet.