For Peat’s Sake – Peatland restoration is one of the best climate actions we can take

For Peat’s Sake – Let’s Get on With It

Understandably during Covid-19, Small World Consulting’s Carbon Baseline for Cumbria 2020 report got buried under other news, however the report’s recommendation that Cumbria becomes Net Zero by 2037 now deserves some attention.

While Net Zero by 2037 is an ambitious target, for Cumbria the big solution according to the report, will come from a whopping 400% increase from the sing song sounding ‘LULUCF’ (Land Use and Land Use Change and Forestry) (and from their net negative emissions).

Surging to a 400% increase in just seventeen years, will mean a significant rise in land management actions such as peatland restoration, scrub creation, woodland creation and haymeadow restoration.

The report also suggest we need to reduce our energy C02 emissions in 2037 by 13% annually; 5% annual reduction in food and other purchased goods emissions and a 10% annual reduction in visitor travel per visitor day emissions.

Visitors aside, another key issue the report identifies is that Cumbrian residents, right now, drive around 20% more than the UK average, which is probably a reflection of the unaffordable public transport options here and the poor rural coverage. This must change – we need many more EV infrastructure facilities, buses running regularly and going to more rural areas, electrified trains, and far more cycling lanes.

But back to peat. Damaged peatlands are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, but when they are fully-functioning and protected, they also sequester (remove) and store carbon. Peatlands are one of the UK’s largest carbon stores – and about 22.9 million tonnes of carbon is stored in the Lake District’s peatlands – equivalent to 84 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.[1]

Peat, while not as glamorous as say carbon woodland management – should be regarded as a key jewel in Cumbria’s crown in its fight against climate change, but one that sits alongside many others. Already there are various peatbog restoration projects such as those Bampton Commons, Bolton Fell Moss, Wedholme Flow, Roudsea Wood and Mosses National Nature Reserve etc. Many more of these projects are needed and at scale.

Peatland restoration received a funding boost in the UK March Budget 2020 and we are likely to see more funding coming soon as protecting peat is fast rising up climate policy and financing agendas.

For more information on this, see the Committee on Climate Change’s (CCC) recent report that spells out how farming and land use must change to include planting around 30,000 hectares of broadleaf and conifer woodland and restoring at least 50% of upland peat and 25% of lowland peat.

Success will come, in part, by incentivising landowners and farmers to make the switch to carbon farming and ELMS carbon farming payment tests and trials have already started. However, even though peat restoration and other LULUCF projects can help “suck” carbon from the atmosphere – it is also complex – meaning we must also continue to significantly reduce and replace fossil fuel use as top priorities. Ciara Shannon, EdenWorks (www.eden-works.org)


[1] Source: https://www.lakedistrict.gov.uk/caringfor/policies/lowcarbonlakedistrict/carbonlandscape