DRC updates their NDC to include peatlands
The Congo Basin’s Cuvette Centrale is the largest single peatland complex in the tropics – approximately 145,500 km2 – with a globally significant carbon stock of 30 gigatons. Its immense areas of untouched rainforest, swamp forests, grasslands, floating prairies, seasonal lakes, ponds and rivers account for the most biologically diverse wetland landscape in Africa. Historically inaccessible and relatively undeveloped, the landscape is still pristine, but exploratory concessions for minerals, oil and gas have been granted and the country has been taking action to protect this international treasure.
Democratic Republic of Congo and International climate commitments
As part of the global fight against climate change, the Democratic Republic of Congo has been a member of the UNFCCC since 1997 and by ratifying the Paris Agreement has committed to keeping the global temperature increase “well below 2°C” and striving to limit it to 1.5°C, while taking into account the challenges of modernization and sustainable development.
Prior to the drafting of the Paris Agreement in 2015, the DRC submitted its NDCs, committing to reduce its emissions by 17% by 2030 (70 Mt reduction of CO2e) compared to business-as-usual. This commitment targeted the Energy, Agriculture, and Forestry and Other Land Use sectors which, according to their greenhouse gas inventory carried out in 2015 (MEDD, 2015), were the major emitting sectors in the country. At the time, peatland protection, restoration and sustainable management were nowhere to be found in the country’s commitments. Since then, the DRC has come a long way in peatland action, becoming an example to follow for many.
In October 2021 the DRC updated its NDC to include a strong focus on peatland protection. The revised NDC sets the new conditional target to reduce national emissions by 21% compared to business as usual by 2030. From the Agriculture, Forestry and Land Use sector specifically, the revised NDC set the target of a reduction of 28% in emissions by 2030.
DRC and international collaboration for peatlands
This action follows four years’ collaboration between the DRC and the Global Peatlands Initiative – led by UNEP and generously funded by the International Climate Initiative (IKI) – to develop and put in place policies, laws and institutional frameworks that take account of the uniqueness of peatlands, the pristine conditions of those in the Cuvette Centrale, and the need for urgent action to avoid developmental threats and prevent their drainage and destruction.
After the discovery in 2017 of the extent of peatlands in the Cuvette Centrale, the DRC became one of the four partner countries of the Global Peatlands Initiative together with the Republic of Congo, Indonesia and Peru. It also became one of the small (but growing) number of countries to establish a dedicated peatlands unit to work towards the protection, restoration and sustainable management of this ecosystem, and is now developing a National Peatland Strategy. While most of its peatlands are still pristine, they are increasingly coming under threat, and the country has decided to take a proactive approach to addressing this challenge.
Some important peatland protection measures taken by the DRC with the support of the Global Peatlands Initiative are the signing of the Brazzaville Declaration on Peatlands in 2018 during the GPI 3rd partners meeting in Brazzaville, an ensuing South-South exchange with Indonesia and key involvement in the formation of the interim Secretariat for the International Tropical Peatlands Centre (ITPC). During the ITPC launch, the GPI countries signed MOUs and Inter-Institutional Agreements with Indonesia committing to work together on peatlands globally and furthering the implementation of the Brazzaville Declaration on Peatlands. The DRC also supported and signed the UNEA4 resolution on the “Conservation and Sustainable Management of Peatlands in 2019 and has taken part in many high-level events in collaboration with the GPI to raise awareness about the importance of their peatlands for the planet, the climate and people – including at the Global Peatland Pavilion at COP26 in November 2021. For more information on these achievements, see Annex 1.
Peatlands in the NDC
In the new update of the NDC, peatland areas are recognized as playing a role in reducing emissions in the Forestry and Other Land Use sector. One of the levers is to “Restore wetlands, including peatlands used for agriculture and livestock” at an estimated cost of $1.3 billion. Another one is to “Map and assess peatlands” at an estimated cost of $0.52 billion. In recent years, the GPI has supported the direction of increased international funds to finance such activities for the protection of the DRC’s peatlands, and with its partners is carrying out mapping activities both in the DRC and globally, with the Global Peatland Assessment due to be published later this year.
Furthermore, the role of peatlands in the Agriculture and Livestock in Forestry sector is also recognized. Under this category, the DRC reaffirms its commitment to “not allocating industrial agricultural concessions in high-value forests and in peatlands; to direct agricultural development as a matter of priority to the savannahs”, a commitment that is embedded in the framework of the Letter of Intent scheduled to be signed between the DRC and the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI) for the period 2022-2031.
Recognition of peatlands as a nature-based solution (NBS)
For the first time, the DRC also recognized the role of peatlands as nature-based solutions “enhancing the country’s climate ambitions as well as its contributions to policies, commitments and conventions”, based on preliminary estimates by Greifswald Mire Centre that the Democratic Republic of Congo has other forms of peatlands not yet assessed, in addition to those of the Cuvette Centrale. In doing so, the DRC recognizes that the presence of peatlands on their territory allows them to be more ambitious in their emissions reductions, as the protection of identified peatlands as well as the identification of new peatland zones represents an opportunity to leverage nature-based solutions to offset emissions.
The NDC also highlights the link between peatlands and other sectoral policies and strategies that support government action on climate change adaptation and mitigation including land use planning, land reform, REDD+ strategy.For the full list, see Annex 2.
The DRC’s commitment to protecting its pristine and globally significant peatlands is an example for other countries to follow. Its ambition and actions to achieve protection on the ground and all the way up to national-level policies including its NDC point to an encouraging future for the valuable Cuvette Centrale, and its keen collaboration with other peatland countries and actors is another promising sign. The Global Peatlands Initiative is already looking forward to supporting the DRC and other ambitious countries on their journey to protect, restore and sustainably manage their peatlands.
For more information, please visit the official website of DRC’s Peatlands Unit: www.tourbieres.cd
Annex 1: Peatland protection actions by the DRC
- In March 2018, Global Peatlands Initiative partner countries, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Republic of Congo (RoC) and Indonesia signed Brazzaville Declaration on Peatlands to work together to protect the Congo Basin Cuvette Centrale peatlands.
- As an immediate follow-up, the Indonesian Minster of Environment and Forestry invited RoC and DRC to spend a working week in Indonesia to exchange information on current policies and best practices for peatland protection, management and restoration. The South-South Exchange included knowledge sharing on Indonesia’s experiences in management best practices, peatland fire detection and suppression, and alternative livelihoods that do not cause drainage and degradation.
- During the meeting, Indonesia and ROC signed the first ever agreement on the protection and management of peatlands between an African and an Asian country.
- One of the highlights of the meeting was the soft launch of the interim Secretariat for the International Tropical Peatlands Centre (ITPC). The Centre’s launch is a trailblazing step towards the Global Peatlands Initiative’s aim to bridge the gap between science and policy for peatland management, protection and restoration. The Centre will be an institutional hub for forestry research, committed to demand-driven collaborative research, outreach and technology transfer between regional, national and international partners.
- UNEA4 Resolution on peatlands:in March 2019, UNEA4 resolution on the “Conservation and Sustainable Management of Peatlands was adopted. The resolution is a commitment by all member states in the world to “give greater emphasis to the conservation, sustainable management and restoration of peatlands worldwide in support of the sustainable practice of the peatland management”. The DRC supported and signed the resolution.
- The DRC also collaborated with the GPI on multiple occasions to raise awareness about the importance of their peatlands for the planet, the climate and people at several high-level events including the GLF digital conference “Why peatlands matter for food security” ; the High-level Ministerial Dialogue: Peatlands a super nature-based solution, and more recently at the UNFCCC COP26 Global Peatlands Pavilion, at the events “Peatlands in climate commitments – Exchange of experience on NDCs and Long-Term Strategies”; “Managing Carbon-rich Peatlands: from Research to Policy Action”; “Technology and data collection for peatlands management” ; “State of peatland knowledge – Global Peatlands Assessment & Mapping”; “Protecting the Congo peatlands for climate mitigation and adaptation” ; “Governance frameworks for peatland conservation and sustainable management in the Congo Basin”; “Leveraging Multilateral Environmental Agreements synergies: Peatland protection and restoration for climate outcomes”.
Annex 2: Peatlands in other sectoral policies and strategies
- Clearly define legal protection principles and protocols for overlapping land uses in peatland areas in the National Peatland Strategy and/or include them in ongoing land use planning reform;
- Adopt clear peatland protection provisions in the proposed revision of the Forestry Code, capitalizing on the DRC’s Sustainable Forest Management Program (SFMP) and new REDD+ investment plan for 2021-2030, as part of the National REDD+ Framework Strategy, supported by CAFI, with the objective of considering the high value of peatland forests in carbon sequestration and the provision of other key ecosystem services;
- Through the National Peatland Strategy, clarify and implement, to the extent possible, the commitments made through international conventions and initiatives for the protection and sustainable management of peatlands, including the Ramsar Convention;
- Invest in building national capacity and expertise, both institutional and technical, for the sustainable management of peatlands;
- Build on the current interest in peatlands in the Congo Basin to advance the DRC government’s current program and priorities for peatland development and protection;
- Define a Communication, Information and Education plan in connection with the national peatland capacity-building program;
- Ensure a better connection between the National Peatland Strategy and the various international, sub-regional and national initiatives related to the management and valorization of peatlands.
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