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Better accounting of peat and mangrove carbon to help Indonesia's climate policies

Mongabay - June 12, 2024

Hans Nicholas Jong, Jakarta – Researchers looking into how Indonesia calculates its greenhouse gas emissions from peatlands and mangroves say they've identified ways for a more accurate accounting that will help the country meet its emissions reduction goals and refine its climate policies.

Indonesia is a major emitter of GHGs, mainly due to the deforestation and burning of its rainforests. To help limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels, as set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement, Indonesia has committed to slashing emissions by 31.89% by 2030, or by 43.2% with international support.

About half of Indonesia's GHG emissions come from deforestation, forest and peat fires, and land-use changes, so the bulk of the country's emission reduction is expected to come this sector, known as FOLU, or "forest and other land use." The government aims to do this by curbing forest loss and fires and by intensifying reforestation efforts. The goal is for Indonesia's forests to absorb more carbon than they release by 2030, a target known as Indonesia's FOLU net sink 2030.

Accurate and transparent measurement of carbon emissions and removal is crucial, especially for Indonesia's vast wetland ecosystems, which include 14% of the world's tropical peatlands and 22% of its mangroves. These ecosystems store large amounts of carbon and are central to Indonesia's climate policies.

Daniel Murdiyarso, a principal scientist at the Center for International Forestry Research and World Agroforestry (CIFOR-ICRAF), calls peatlands and mangroves "key ecosystems" due to their significant carbon storage, sequestering a combined total of around 31.2 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.

Daniel and other researchers from CIFOR-ICRAF examined Indonesia's current GHG accounting system to see if it could accurately measure emissions from these ecosystems. In 2022, Indonesia updated the system, but the researchers still found gaps, particularly in how it measures emissions from peatlands and mangroves. They documented these findings and suggested improvements in a recently published study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

For instance, the system doesn't consider the differences of carbon in drained and undrained peatlands, leading to inaccurate counts of both emissions and sequestration, the researchers found. Additionally, Indonesia's accounting system for drained peatlands doesn't follow guidelines developed by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said contributing author and CIFOR-ICRAF senior scientist Kristell Hergoualc'h.

This, she said, has "significant implications for GHG accounting."

The researchers also called for improvements in measuring emissions from forest fires and in the consistency of mangrove data. Some of the data show lower carbon storage in primary mangrove forests than in secondary ones, which shouldn't be the case.

It's also important to distinguish the different types of mangroves, the researchers found. Mangroves that grow in mineral soils might have a different carbon profile from those growing in organic soils, for instance. More studies are also needed for mangroves that grow on peatlands, the researchers said. Around 10% of Indonesian mangroves fall into this category, yet they remain understudied, making it difficult to get an accurate accounting of GHG emissions from the ecosystems, the researchers said.

"This unique combination of two wetland ecosystems located in the same landscape is currently understudied, posing technical challenges for high quality GHG inventory and reporting, and should be prioritised for future research," said study co-author Sigit Sasmito, a senior research officer at James Cook University in Australia.

By identifying the gaps in Indonesia's current GHG emissions accounting system, the study provides a road map for reducing uncertainty when it comes to tallying emissions and sequestration by the country's peatlands and mangroves, said study co-author and CIFOR-ICRAF researcher Erin Swails.

This will ultimately support Indonesia's emissions reduction target and position the country as a global leader in emission reductions in the FOLU sector.

"We suggest that these refinements will be essential to support Indonesia in achieving [FOLU] net sink by 2030 and net zero emissions targets by 2060 or earlier," the study says.

Improved data quality and transparency will also boost confidence in financial investments into climate initiatives and support Indonesia's reporting on its Paris reduction commitments when the next assessment comes up in 2028, Daniel said.


Murdiyarso, D., Swails, E., Hergoualc'h, K., Bhomia, R., & Sasmito, S. D. (2024). Refining greenhouse gas emission factors for Indonesian peatlands and mangroves to meet ambitious climate targets. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 121(17). doi:10.1073/pnas.2307219121

Source: https://news.mongabay.com/2024/06/better-accounting-of-peat-and-mangrove-carbon-to-help-indonesias-climate-policies