Southeast Asia’s Peat Fires and Global Warming
Southeast Asia's Peat Fires and Global Warming
By EcoInternet and Biofuelwatch
October 18, 2006
(Madison, WI, USA) – Hundreds of peat and forest fires are once again burning across Indonesian Borneo and Sumatra, releasing vast quantities of greenhouse gases and destroying the livelihoods of local communities and rainforest habitats of countless species. Those annual fires release as much carbon as 15% of all emissions from burning fossil fuels worldwide.
So far some 2,500 people from 75 countries have written to the UK, US and other governments from http://www.climateark.org/shared/alerts/send.aspx?id=indonesia_peatland to demand urgent international action at the forthcoming UN Climate Change Conference in Nairobi. The ongoing campaign is organized by EcoInternet and supported by the British campaign group Biofuelwatch. It calls for urgent measures to stop the conversion of peat forests into timber and oil palm plantations, or agriculture, and to restore the peatlands which have already been drained and degraded.
Almuth Ernsting, a member of Biofuelwatch, states: “The destruction of south-east Asia’s peat forests is a major threat to the global climate, as well as to local people in Indonesia and Malaysia, and to global biodiversity. This is not simply somebody else’s problem to solve: Across south-east Asia, millions of hectares of land are being converted to timber and oil palm plantations, and the UK is a major importer of timber products and palm oil from this region. Ironically, Britain, as part of the EU, is trying to meet some of its commitments under the Kyoto Protocol through the use of biodiesel, and much of this is made from palm oil. Far from reducing climate change emissions, we are subsidizing the destruction of one of the Earth’s most important carbon sinks. We are therefore calling on UK citizens to support the EcoInternet appeal.”
Scientists estimate that the 1997 peat and forest fires emitted up to 2.5 billion tonnes of carbon and that the average is around 1 billion tonnes a year. By comparison, the Kyoto Protocol aims to reduce emissions from all Annex 1 countries by only 188 million tonnes a year from 1990 levels. Once the peat has been drained, all the carbon will enter the atmosphere