GHG mitigation of agricultural peatlands requires coherent policies

Kristiina Regina*, Arif Budiman, Mogens H. Greve, Arne Gronlund, Asa Kasimir, Heikki Lehtonen, Soren O. Petersen, Pete Smith, Henk Wosten

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)
24 Downloads (Pure)


As soon as peat soil is drained for agricultural production, the peat starts to degrade, which causes emissions to the atmosphere. In countries with large peatland areas, the GHG mitigation potential related to management of these soils is often estimated as the highest amongst the measures available in agriculture. Although the facts are well known, the policies leading to diminished emissions are often difficult to implement. We have analysed the reasons why the mitigation potential is not fully utilized and what could be done better in national implementation of climate policies. Four cases are used to illustrate the necessary steps to reach mitigation targets: determining the amount and properties of peat soils, estimating the potential, costs and feasibility of the mitigation measures, and selecting and implementing the best measures. A common feature for all of the cases was that national and international climate policies have increased the public interest in GHG emissions from peat soils and increased the pressure for mitigation. Basically the same factors restrict the implementation of mitigation measures in all countries with significant peat soil areas. The most important of these is lack of policy coherence, e.g. ignoring climate policies when planning land use or agricultural policies. We conclude that GHG mitigation is achieved only if other policies, especially national regulations and strategies, are in line with climate policies.

Policy relevance

Agricultural peat soils could be used to help reach GHG mitigation goals in many countries, but the full potential of mitigation of peat soils is not used. Although peatland cultivation inevitably leads to loss of the whole peat layer and high emissions, there are few incentives or regulation to effectively minimize these losses. This article discusses the possibilities to reduce GHG emissions from agricultural peat soils, with specific emphasis on the barriers of implementing mitigation measures nationally. The lessons learned from the selected cases emphasize the role of all policy makers and their cooperation in planning coherent policies for achieving the goals determined by climate policies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)522-541
Number of pages20
JournalClimate policy
Issue number4
Early online date24 Mar 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Bibliographical note

The authors thank the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases for facilitating this work. The contribution of P.S. contributed to the EU-funded GHG Europe project.


  • policies
  • peat
  • agriculture
  • GHG
  • land use
  • mitigation


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