A new era for peatlands

Tuesday 10th September 2013

Ballynahone bog is cared for by Ulster Wildlife Ballynahone bog is cared for by Ulster Wildlife

A new era for peatlands will be announced today with a million hectare peatland challenge issued by the IUCN UK Peatland Programme at its Conference in York.

The Conference will also launch an important new tool, the Peatland Code, designed to support funding from businesses interested in bringing about one of the great environmental outcomes of our time.

We need to see the true value of these peatland benefits reflected in the support given to the land managers who protect and enhance them

The Peatland Code provides standards and robust science to give business supporters confidence that their financial contribution is making a measurable and verifiable difference to UK peatlands. 

Governments around the world recognise the vital importance of our peatlands as part of efforts to tackle climate change, water management and biodiversity conservation. 

The UK has shown leadership in its commitment to safeguarding peatlands and in a number of key sites has demonstrated the benefits of sensitive peatland management, whilst Defra has supported essential research to develop the Peatland Code.

A massive partnership effort is now required to extend this work and bring about urgent repairs after historic widespread damage. The IUCN UK Peatland Programme has issued a call for one million hectares, a third of UK peatlands, to be in good condition or under restoration management by 2020.

Clifton Bain, Director of the IUCN UK Peatland Programme said:

“We are sitting on a compost time bomb with over three billion tonnes of stored carbon in the peat which will be lost to the atmosphere if we don’t return the peatlands to a healthy condition.

"There are clear costs benefits to society in avoiding peatland damage.  We now need to see the true value of these peatland benefits reflected in the support given to the land managers who protect and enhance them.”

Professor Mark Reed, Birmingham City University, said:

“With such an important and urgent environmental challenge we need the support of the corporate sector to help pay for this work now and avoid future far greater costs to society from damaged peatlands.  The Peatland Code is widely acknowledged as a vital tool in giving business the confidence to support peatland management.”

Andrew Walker, Catchment Manager, Yorkshire Water, said:

“As a business that depends on peatlands as part of our natural water supply system we are convinced that maintaining peatlands in good condition is the most cost effective approach for the company and our customers.  Spending on peatland restoration now avoids much greater long term costs of treating drinking water affected by damaged peatland.

Lewis Jones, Future Quality Obligations and R&D Manager at South West Water, said:

"As a business that depends on peatlands for drinking water, we believe that restoring and maintaining peatlands in good condition can save the company and our customers money, whilst protecting the climate and wildlife.  Our Upstream Thinking programme is already improving drinking water quality and reducing water treatment costs by improving land management on the moors.  The Peatland Code offers us an opportunity for this work to be recognised nationally, and work with others to realise the benefits of healthy moorlands for the climate and wildlife."

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) UK Peatland Programme exists to promote peatland restoration in the UK and advocates the multiple benefits of peatlands through partnerships, strong science, sound policy and effective practice.  The work of the Peatland Programme is overseen by a coalition of environmental bodies including the Scottish Wildlife Trust, John Muir Trust, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, RSPB, North Pennines AONB, Moors for the Future and the University of East London.  The Programme is funded by the Peter De Haan Charitable Trust. For more information visit www.iucn-uk-peatlandprogramme.org

Peatlands cover less than three per centof the land surface of the Earth yet they contain twice as much carbon as the world’s forests.  Huge areas of bog have been drained and damaged in the past, and the carbon which was locked in the peat for thousands of years is now rapidly being released to the atmosphere. Damaged peatlands are responsible for at least 10% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions.  Restoring peatlands is an effective and cost efficient way of reversing the carbon loss from damaged bogs.

The UK has the 17th largest peatland area, out of 175 nations with peat deposits and is in the top 20 countries with the most damaged peatlands.  Scotland holds 80% of the UKs deepest peat (blanket bog). See Wetlands International for more information www.wetlands.org/peatco2.

The Commission of Inquiry on Peatlands brought together experts in science, policy and practice to carry out a thorough review of key peatland issues and a deliver clear scientific consensus about peatland restoration, particularly in relation to climate change, biodiversity and ecosystem services.  For more information visit http://www.iucn-uk-peatlandprogramme.org/commission

Research to develop a pilot Peatland Code has been funded by Defra as part of its wider suite of research pilots to test the potential for “payment for ecosystem services” approaches to preserving and enhancing the natural environment.  Defra and the Devolved Administrations are continuing to support the pilot phase of the Peatland Code.

The latest 'Investing in Peatlands' Conference organised by the IUCN UK National Committee Peatland Programme is set for 10-12 September 2013 at York University.  The fourth in the series of conferences, this year's theme is 'Partnership for a New Peatland Era' and will explore how the conservation, government and business sectors come together to meet the challenge of restoring a million hectares of peatlands through partnership approaches.  The conference will highlight examples of good practice, identify barriers that still need to be broken down and highlight opportunities for taking forward partnership action both in the UK and internationally.  For more information visit http://www.iucn-uk-peatlandprogramme.org/news/230

The Pilot Phase of the UK Peatland Code is expected to run from September 2013, and is designed to provide an open, credible and verifiable basis for business sponsorship of peatland restoration projects in the UK. For more information visit: http://www.iucn-uk-peatlandprogramme.org/initiatives/PeatlandCode8.

The IUCN UK Peatland Programme 2020 Opportunity Map is currently in development and will be seeking feedback from conference delegates, please get in touch with Rea Cris, Communication Coordinator at IUCN UK Peatland Programme on rea.cris@iucn.org.uk for more information.

Tagged with: Living Landscapes, Peat, Peatlands, Wetlands