Half of the world’s peatland emissions come from Southeast Asia.

In 2015, Indonesia experienced a spate of peatland fires emitting greenhouse gas vol-umes equalling those of Japan in an entire year. Some estimates put the number of deaths through respiratory diseases caused by particulate matter pollution at around 100,000. Peatland fires have been burning in Indonesia since the early 1980s, when the country started draining measures to create agricultural land.

“At the time, no-one realised the importance of these landscapes in terms of carbon stor-age and other ecosystem services they provided,” GLF President Robert Nasi said in Bonn. “A potential fire in waiting was created.” Nasi recalled that he had been walking in forests in Kalimantan/Indonesia in 1996 where underground peat fires were still burning that had started in 1982. He stressed, however, that the fires had above all been raging in already degraded land. Nasi noted that restoring peatlands was an expensive venture and required more international support.

Lessons learnt

“On most days, the daily emissions from the Indonesian fires in 2015 exceeded the total emissions of the USA on a day-by-day basis,” Satya S.