Northern peatlands have cooled the global climate by accumulating large quantities of soil carbon (C) over thousands of years. Maintaining the C sink function of these peatlands and their immense long-term soil C stores is critical for achieving net-zero global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 2050 to mitigate climate warming. One-quarter of the world’s northern peatlands are in Canada, with these mostly intact ecosystems providing a global C service that is increasingly recognized as a critical part of nature-based solutions to combat climate change. However, land-use change and other disturbances threaten these globally important stores of “irrecoverable C” (that is, soil C lost to disturbance that will take centuries to recover). Inadequate policy safeguards to avoid conversion and degradation, and the limited quantification and reporting of peatland greenhouse-gas emissions and removals, increase the vulnerability of these peatlands. Targeted policies from local to global scales will be needed for improved decision making and incentivizing long-term C management of northern peatlands.