New era for UK's peatlands

United Kingdom’s Minister for the Environment Richard Benyon announced a new initiative for peatland conservation at the IUCN UK Peatland Programme’s conference in York on 10-12 September 2013. The Peatland Code will help companies contribute to peatland restoration.

Blanket bog of the Flow Country, Forsinard, UK

At the conference, Minister Benyon expressed his support for achieving the target initiated earlier by the Peatland Programme to restore up to a million hectare of peatlands in the country by 2020. To help achieve this goal, the Peatland Code was launched at the conference. The Peatland Code is designed to support funding from business interested in bringing about this historic restoration goal. Launching the Code, Mr Benyon asserted that the protection and restoration of peatlands through the Code is an example of how it is possible to protect the environment at the same time as growing the economy.

The conservation of peatland ecosystems is extremely important for achieving the EU Biodiversity Targets and also for mitigating and adapting to climate change. At the EU level, there are several policies which address these ecosystems and offer opportunities for funding conservation action towards them. Luc Bas, Director of IUCN European Union Representative Office, presented some of the opportunities within EU policy for funding action on peatland conservation during the conference.

“The conference organized by the IUCN UK Peatland Programme was a much needed event to highlight the importance of peatlands for biodiversity and climate change mitigation and adaptation,” said Bas “The case of peatlands shows the need for integration and mainstreaming of EU policy instruments when tackling environmental issues and the conference also underlined that a joined up soil policy at EU level is needed”.

Peatland conservation can be supported and funded by a number of EU policies and programmes, including the EU Water Framework Directive, the national programming on the new Common Agricultural Policy, as well as the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020.

The conference as a whole was a call to arms for peatland restoration and partnership working to deliver it. Speakers included a cross-section of people from practioners to policy makers and the business sector.

Governments around the world recognise the vital importance of 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. For example, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has supported essential research to develop the Peatland Code and phasing out extraction of peat for horticultural purposes, and the Scottish Government has announced £5 million new funding for peatland restoration in addition to their existing commitment to spend £1.7 million on restoration as part of their “green stimulus”.

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 peatlands to a healthy condition. There are clear cost 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.”

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