31 Jan 2019

Venue: World Meteorological Organization

Organization: Geneva Environment Network

Wetlands and Climate Change, the theme for World Wetlands Day in 2019, draws attention to the vital role of wetlands as a natural solution to cope with climate change, one of the most pressing problems facing humanity and our planet.

A high level discussion aiming at highlighting wetland conservation and restoration as a sustainable solution for climate action to help reduce carbon emissions and adapt to climate change took place at the World Meteorological Organization on 31 January 2018. The event also addressed the opportunities and share examples of practical steps countries can take to include wetlands as part of their Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Climate Change Agreement.


Welcome and Introduction
Pavel Kabat, WMO Chief Scientist and Director of Research Department
Martha Rojas Urrego, Secretary General, Ramsar Convention on Wetlands

Panel discussants
Stuart Crane, Programme Management Officer, Fresh Water, UN Environment
Bernard Giraud, President Livelihoods Fund
H.E. Amb. Socorro Flores Liera
Martha Rojas Urrego, Secretary General, Ramsar Convention on Wetlands
Oksana Tarasova, Chief Atmospheric Environment Research, WMO
Awidya Santikajaya, Counsellor, Permanent Mission of the Republic of Indonesia to the United Nations, WTO and other International Organizations in Geneva


Among the key points discussed:

  • Greenhouse gases are one of the drivers of climate change. The levels of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) are increasing at a rapid pace and, we will reach the 1.5 °C rise in 15 to 20 years if we keep our current rate of emissions. “Every bit of warming matters. Every year matters. Every choice matters.”
  • Wetlands provide us with various ecosystem services. Their value has not been recognized, even less its important role in the fight against climate change. Indeed, these ecosystems help us cope with climate change by:
    • Absorbing and storing the carbon,
    • Reducing floods,
    • Relieving droughts,
    • Reducing storm surges and protecting coastlines.
  • Yet, in the last 40 years, we have lost 35% of the wetlands, which is faster than forests degradation rate.
  • Since 1998, World Wetlands Days celebrated every 2 February, date of the adoption of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, aims at raising global awareness about the vital role of wetlands for people and our planet.
  • Mexico is very active in the implementation of the Ramsar Convention.  The latter recognizes the lack of water as detrimental to the ecosystem. H.E. Amb. Socorro Flores Liera underlines the need to include this dimension in national policies like Mexico did with its National Water Reserves Programme. Indeed, the objective of this programme is to create enough water reserves for the conservation and restoration of the wetlands, in addition to guaranteeing the functionality of the water cycle and its environmental services. The work done in the framework of the plan was to ensure that 198 rivers could be used to guarantee the water requirements of 97 protected natural areas, including Ramsar sites. Another example of good practice done by the country is wetlands monitoring through inventories for example. Unfortunately, very few countries have included wetlands in their NDCs under the climate change conventions. Yet, wetland conservation and allowing them to fulfill their role as carbon stock is a cost-effective solution to reach different goals in the climate change agenda.
  • The panelists highlighted the need to engage different stakeholders such as the private sector with the example of the Livelihoods Funds. The Livelihoods Funds in an initiative from companies that wanted to lower their carbon footprint and support carbon storage. They conducted mangrove restoration projects in Senegal, India and Indonesia. In Casamance, Senegal, 10.000 hectares of mangroves have been restored and 200.000 persons involved. Benefits such as an increase in the shrimp, oyster and fish catch has been observed. In addition, 605.000 t of CO2 has been removed from the atmosphere in 10 years.
  • Peatlands cover only 3% of the world’s land surface, but they store twice as much carbon as forests. These ecosystems are drained, reconverted for activities such as mining and agriculture. UN Environment coordinates the Global Peatlands Initiative, an effort to save peatlands as the world’s largest terrestrial organic carbon stock and, to prevent the stored carbon to be emitted in the atmosphere. The initiative has worked with countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Indonesia, Peru, and with MEAs like the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). According to Stuart Crane, UN Environment, strategies addressing climate change must include wise use of peatlands.
  • Indonesia’s forests fires in 2015 destroyed 2.6 million hectares of land, of which 35% were peatlands. The government has prioritized the restoration of peatlands through two important policies: the creation of the Peatland Restoration Agency and the moratorium on primary forests and peatlands conservation. The restoration process was pursued in three steps:
    • Rewet the depleted peatlands
    •  Revegetation
    • Revitalization of the livelihoods
  • The policies used 3 main methods: (1) canal blocking which aims at increasing the water capacity in the peatlands, (2) canal backfilling to increase sedimentation in order to reduce the drainability power and (3) building deep wells to rewet the peatlands and, keep them moist to prevent fires.
    Besides its contribution to the sustainable development goal (SDG) 13 on climate action, wetlands can influence the achievement of the following SDGs:
    • SDG.1: No Poverty
    • SDG. 2: No Hunger
    • SDG. 6: Clean Water and Sanitation (target 6.6)
    • SDG. 15: Life on Land
  • Panelists emphasized on the need to link knowledge from different areas to policies, but also to have more integrated solutions and collaboration between stakeholders (government, communities, private sector).



The event was live on Facebook.