Land managers, businesses and government are being urged to continue their vital work in tackling climate change and flooding through restoration of Scotland’s peatlands.
At an event at the Royal Highland Show at Ingliston, Scottish Land & Estates and IUCN UK Peatland Programme joined forces to promote the Peatland Code as peatland restoration enters a new era in Scotland.
Peatlands cover around 10% of the UK’s land mass – a total of two million hectares. Once seen as land that was unproductive, the benefits peatlands can provide through carbon storage and water management – as well as helping wildlife – are now well-recognised.
Restoring peatland is seen as a vital part of meeting climate change targets. It is estimated that 70% of blanket bog and 90% of raised bogs are currently damaged, but through restoration, carbon can be stored effectively in peatland for thousands of years.
Land-based businesses, including farming, sporting and conservation, have been at the forefront of peatland restoration for a number of years.
Government funding is available through the Scotland Rural Development Programme (SRDP), which has a £10 million funding stream devoted to peatland restoration. Additional funds are being sought from the private sector from businesses interested in the carbon and other benefits of peatlands. The recently launched Peatland Code, which provides investors with reassurance as to the carbon savings a peatland restoration project can realistically achieve, is a key tool to help support this initiative.
The business community is being approached on the basis that tackling climate change and a healthy environment are of benefit to businesses economic bottom line, and funding peatland restoration is a great way for them to contribute to tackling these important issues.
David Johnstone, chairman of Scottish Land & Estates, said: “Landowners and managers across Scotland have already shown great enthusiasm and willingness to restore damaged areas of peat to ensure the wide-ranging benefits from this work is realised.
“More needs to be done, however, and Scottish Land & Estates fully supports the Peatland Code and supports efforts to see this happen. In particular we are keen to make members aware of an exciting new partnership between business, government and landowners and managers that provides restoration opportunities.
“What we can deliver from the land for the good of wider society is of vital importance and I see no greater opportunity for land-businesses than to lead on efforts on carbon capture and flood prevention.”
Jonny Hughes, Chair of IUCN UK Peatland Programme, said: “Scotland’s magnificent environment underpins our economic wellbeing and peatlands are no exception, acting as great stores of carbon. Climate change, which is exacerbated by damaged peatlands that release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, rather than storing it, represents a real threat to this wellbeing, making the state of nature a cause for concern for all business and society at large. The Peatland Code provides a fantastic opportunity for the corporate sector to make a real difference by investing in peatland restoration, working with land managers, to deliver one of the greatest environmental outcomes of our time.”
A number of members of Scottish Land & Estates have already worked with Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) to restore peatland on their ground: one such member is Malcolm Hay of Edinglassie Estate near Huntly.
Malcolm said: “This exciting project will not only leave an environmental legacy but will also serve as a demonstration of what can be achieved by estates working with partners.
“Restoring peatland is not done for a short-term economic benefit to an estate - but the long-term value of the public benefits is immeasurable. We have undertaken the restoration not for commercial reasons but to repair damage from many decades ago. It is good stewardship and estates want to maximise the public benefits that they can provide, with Scottish Natural Heritage providing invaluable advice.”