EU announces support to Sustainable Use of Peatland and Haze Mitigation in ASEAN
To support ASEAN's endeavours in combating transboundary haze pollution and peatland fires, the European Union (EU) launched the civil society component of the EUR 24 million Sustainable Use of Peatland and Haze Mitigation in ASEAN (SUPA) programme. The overall programme is financed with EUR 20 million in contribution from the EU and EUR 4 million from the German Government.
This new initiative supports the objectives of the ASEAN Peatland Management Strategy (APMS) through collective actions and enhanced cooperation. It aims to improve sustainable peatland management, mitigate the adverse impact of climate change, manage the risk of wild fires, and reduce trans-boundary haze. It also contributes to sustaining local livelihoods and enhancing global environmental management.
The programme is critical in tackling the root causes of peatland fires, especially in the wake of recent peatland and forest fires in the region in 2019, with a total of 857,755 hectares burned, a number higher than the 529,266 hectares that burned in 2018 and on top of the 2.6 million hectares burned in 2015.
The EU's support to ASEAN’s sustainable peatland management is composed of two mutually reinforcing main components: 1) the governmental approach, implemented by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ); and 2) the non-state actor approach, implemented by World Resources Institute Indonesia (WRI) in collaboration with Tropical Rainforest Conservation & Research Centre Malaysia (TRCRC) and the IDH Sustainable Trade Initiative. The two components will work collaboratively to assist ASEAN in addressing the root causes of forest fires.
The EU Ambassador to ASEAN, H.E. Igor Driesmans, hopes that the ASEAN region will become more resilient and proactive in sustainable peatland management through this new programme. Although much has been achieved since 2015, to effectively implement the ASEAN Transboundary Haze Agreement, efforts to combat peatland fires and curb the negative impact of climate change have to be sustained.
The Secretary-General of ASEAN, Dato Lim Jock Hoi, highlighted that the spirit of ASEAN cooperation in addressing regional and transboundary issues remains strong and it is being augmented by this year’s theme of ASEAN: ‘Advancing Partnership for Sustainability’. ASEAN cooperation and its mechanisms will continue to complement and add-value to the ASEAN Member States’ priorities in many fronts, and simultaneously contribute to the implementation of the UN SDGs. Further, he mentioned that together with the ASEAN-EU High-Level Dialogue on Environment and Climate Change held earlier this month in Bangkok, and the project on Biodiversity Conservation and Management of Protected Areas in ASEAN (BCAMP), SUPA programme is another opportunity provided by the ASEAN-EU cooperation framework which will act as foundation of knowledge to help ASEAN Member States and relevant institutions achieving enhanced capacity and regional coordination in sustainable management of forest and peatlands.
Ambassador Driesmans also pointed out that the SUPA Programme marks a significant milestone for the EU and ASEAN, as this is the first regional cooperation initiative under the EU-ASEAN Multi-annual Indicative Programme (MIP) in the area of climate change. In addition, he highlighted that the programme contributes to the EU’s commitment to address global environmental issues. These include cutting carbon emissions from carbon-rich peatland areas, and the conservation of the unique biodiversity of peatland ecosystems – home to highly endangered flora and fauna.
Photo credit: ASEAN Secretariat
The ASEAN region covers approximately 24.7 million hectares or 56% of global tropical peatlands; and is estimated to store 68 billion tons of carbon or approximately 14% of carbon stored in peatlands globally. Human interventions in the past few decades, such as logging, slash and burn, deforestation, drainage for agriculture, unsustainable land-use change, and the consequent increasing wildfires have turned these carbon-rich peatlands from carbon sinks to gigantic carbon emitters. Such human disturbances have now made peatlands in ASEAN a major greenhouse gas (GHG) contributor to global atmospheric carbon; annual emissions are estimated at about 2 billion tons, approximately 5% of global fossil fuel emissions, or the combined total fossil fuel emissions of Germany, the UK and France in 2012. *)
Since the late 1990s, Southeast Asia has been plagued by large scale uncontrolled land and forest fires occurring mainly in peatlands. Such events have caused severe transboundary smoke haze pollution affecting millions of people in terms of health, disruption of transport, huge economic losses, and strained political and diplomatic relations among neighbouring countries. Globally such events have contributed to huge releases of carbon and widespread loss of the unique and valuable peatland biodiversity and ecosystems.
All of the ASEAN Member States (AMS) have signed and ratified the ASEAN Agreement on Trans-boundary Haze Pollution (AATHP) to tackle this perennial problem, and have also adopted the ASEAN Peatland Management Strategy (APMS) to focus attention on the fire prone peatland areas.
*) Hooijer, A., Silvius, M., Wösten, H. and Page, S. 2006. PEAT-CO2, Assessment of CO2 emissions from drained peatlands in SE Asia. Delft Hydraulics report Q3943 (2006)
The EU-ASEAN SUPA Programme champions responsible land use and forestry, working towards mitigating carbon emissions from carbon-rich peatland areas, and the conservation of peatland ecosystems. This Action also aims to build upon and complement several past and planned EU-supported activities related to peatland management in the region. This includes the EU-support for ASEAN sustainable peatland management, which has been established since 2009 through Sustainable Peatland in ASEAN (SEAPeat) project, and successfully completed in 2014.
The Overall Objective of SUPA is "to promote sustainable management of peatlands in the ASEAN region through collective actions and enhanced cooperation to support and sustain local livelihoods, reduce the risk of fire and associated haze and contribute to global environmental management." While the Specific Objective of the programme is to support the achievement of the above overall objective of APMS by "improving sustainable peatland management, mitigating the adverse impact of climate change, managing the risk of wild fires and reducing trans-boundary regional haze in ASEAN."
The SUPA Programme has two mutually reinforcing components, with the following Implementing Partners:
* Component 1: Government Approach - Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).
* Component 2: Non-State Actor Approach - World Resources Institute Indonesia (WRI), in collaboration Tropical Rainforest Conservation & Research Centre Malaysia (TRCRC) and the IDH Sustainable Trade Initiative.