Indonesia—Badan Restorasi Gambut (BRG)-The Peatland Restoration Agency
The president formed the Peatland Restoration Agency (Badan Restorasi Gambut) to restore 2.4 million hectares of degraded peatland by 2020. Last year’s fires released 1.2 billion tons of CO2. The target for 2017 is to restore 400,000 hectares of fire-vulnerable land. Half of this destroyed land is in concessions. Nazir Foed, president of BRG, stated that about 10% of that work has been completed. This slow start is largely due to BRG’s current focus to map Indonesia’s peatlands to improve management and planning as well as the logistical difficulties of working during the wet season, due to flooding and challenges in moving equipment. The seven priority provinces of the BRG are Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan, South Kalimantan and Papua. BRG is also carrying out peatland inventory and hydrological mapping in these provinces. BRG’s mission statement also includes reviewing permits and licensing on peatland management or on concessions built on peatlands which do not properly control peatland degradation and/or fire. The Indonesian government is also pushing concession owners to contribute to peatland restoration by implementing BRG’s practices in their concessions.
BRG uses canals and water blocking to control water flow to restore the waterlogged conditions of peatlands so their carbon-rich soil is not vulnerable to burning. The waterlogged condition is also necessary to allow the land to continue to accumulate peat when the forest is restored, preventing decomposition of plant litter to be released as GHGs. These canals keep water levels stable, preventing fires. BRG plans to build 20,000 blocking canals, working with communities and local governments. In 2016, 16,000 canal-blockings were built. Preventing peat degradation and oxidation will significantly curb Indonesia’s emissions. If BRG concentrates efforts on reforestation of mangroves, these peatland ecosystems can begin to recover. The recovery of mangrove forests on peatlands will ensure the land remains waterlogged, preventing oxidation. Mangroves also provide the forest litter necessary for peat buildup. Forestation projects to develop mangroves will sequester carbon and help Indonesia reach its pledge.
The Pastaza-Maranon swamp in Peru is among the largest peatlands in the world. There are also significant peatlands in Colombia and Brazil. There is an estimated 30 billion tons of carbon in Cuvette Centrale peatland in between the DPRC and the Republic of the Congo. This is the world’s largest tropical peatland. There are also significant African peatlands in Niger inland delta, Okavango and Sudd. Many of these tropical peatlands, which have the highest rates of peat build up, are threatened by degradation from land use change. BRG’s restoration efforts could be applied in many of these countries. Even countries with a non-tropical climate could learn from the BRG; Finland has drained half of all of its peat bogs. Many countries could adopt BRG’s practices to restore their degraded peatlands. BRG’s efforts focus on dam and canal construction.
Indonesia’s INDC pledge includes a unilateral reduction target of 29% below BAU emissions of GHG, including LULUCF, by 2030, plus a conditional 41% reduction target with sufficient international support. The LULUCF sector has contributed an average of 60% of total emissions over the last ten years, based on national data. By 2030, under the Indonesian Government’s official BAU, emissions from LULUCF would be about one-third of GHG emissions.
The BRG could be significantly scaled up to help Indonesia reach its INDC pledge. It addresses the greatest barrier reducing GHGs in Indonesia; preventing the destruction of carbon stocks. Substantial funding should be awarded to BRG as it proves its ability to restore peatlands and mangroves.