The world’s wetlands store more than twice as much carbon dioxide as forests. But their conservation is largely absent from the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) proposed by countries to meet the targets set out in the Paris Agreement. So why, asks Convention on Wetlands Secretary General Martha Rojas Urrego, don’t wetlands get more protection?

In an opinion piece published by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, she proposes large-scale wetland protection as a smart, cost-effective policy, capable of stimulating growth, cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and reducing the risk of future pandemics – in rich and poor countries alike.

Carbon storage is only one of the environmental services wetlands provide. The ecosystems are also essential to water security, as a buffer against sea level rise and storm surges, and for maintaining the biodiversity that scientists say helps protect human populations from zoonotic diseases like COVID-19.

Only a little more than ten percent of the world’s wetlands remain; they are our most endangered ecosystem, and we can’t build back better without them. The time has come to give wetlands the protections and ensure the wise use they deserve: our lives could depend on it.

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