Launch of the IUCN UK Peatland programme

An event was held today at the Royal Society to launch the IUCN UK Peatland Programme, which aims to promote peatland restoration in the UK, through evidence gathering and providing advice for policy making and effective practice.

At the launch, the chair of the programme, Rob Stoneman from the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, explained that degraded peatlands are responsible for releasing at least 10% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere, so conservation and restoration of peatlands could be instrumental in delivering international obligations on climate change. Indeed, peatland restoration is an element of the Copenhagen accord, but it is important to ensure that this voluntary commitment is realised through legislation. Peatland restoration also avoids loss of valuable services such as water storage and filtration, and supports biodiversity.

The UK is currently among the worst 20 of the world’s 175 peatland nations for carbon emissions, but Rob Stoneman emphasised that peatland restoration is very cheap in comparison to other strategies for carbon reduction, and given the large number of peatlands in the UK, this country could become a world leader in peatland restoration.

The practical output of the programme will be delivered through the Commission of Inquiry into Peatland Restoration, run by the IUCN as part of the peatland programme. Martin Howatt, chair of the Inquiry’s advisory committee, explained that this will involve a review of key issues relating to peatlands which will be used to produce a list of recommendations for action.

There are three upcoming conferences as part of the programme, focussed on stakeholder engagement, funding peatland restoration, and considering UK overseas territories.