Northern Peatlands store 20-30% of the world’s soil carbon, and a quarter of these peatlands are in Canada. Maintaining and protecting these critical carbon stores is essential, but peatlands have limited protection despite the tremendous benefits they deliver for communities, climate, and biodiversity. Global models that evaluate emissions reduction pathways for 2050 assume intact northern peatlands will continue to absorb and store carbon at their current extent and rates. However, they are not accounting for the risks from industrial development, fires, permafrost thaw, and land use change that can dramatically influence GHG storage and emissions from peatlands.
This policy brief highlights findings from a recent study, The essential carbon service provided by northern peatlands, and examines this underappreciated national climate policy challenge: Canada can invest billions in climate mitigation and adaptation, but if we do not address policy and data gaps associated with emissions from boreal peatlands in particular, national obligations and global climate targets could become out of reach.