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Restoring peatland helps cut damaging emissions

A leading climate change body does not recognise the important role restoration of our peatlands can play in offsetting greenhouse gases.

Restoring poor-quality peatlands could cut Scotland’s emissions by as much as decarbonising the country’s entire housing stock. But, ironically, the most influential climate change body advising large corporations does not recognise peatland restoration as a legitimate means of offsetting greenhouse gas emissions. 

A group of companies and charities has written to the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) to say this stance is holding back the flow of private finance. They accuse the organisation of constraining international efforts to restore peatlands and sending an “unscientific message to investors that peatland restoration is not a legitimate way to tackle the climate crisis”. 

SBTi has insisted it does encourage companies to invest in peatland restoration on top of cutting their emissions. 

Waterlogged peatlands provide anaerobic environments that prevent dead plants from decomposing, locking carbon into the landscape. Damaged peatlands that have been drained for agriculture or forestry can dry out, releasing greenhouse gases. 

In 2020, the Scottish government pledged to restore 250,000 hectares of peatland by 2030, but has been slow to do so, with only 18,500 currently restored. It is felt that public funding alone will not be enough to protect the vast carbon stores locked up in peatlands and that private finance is needed. 

SBTi works with around 5,000 businesses globally, including Tesco, Kellogg’s and the BBC, advising them on how to reduce their greenhouse gases, primarily through planting trees. 

Eleanor Kay, senior policy adviser for agriculture and climate change at Scottish Land & Estates told Shooting Times: “Peatland restoration extends far beyond the usual focus on carbon sequestration. By restoring peat, we not only capture carbon but also significantly enhance natural flood management and support biodiversity. With the new Peatland Action assessment criteria prioritising projects that incorporate private finance, it’s essential to prevent potential investors from being deterred by conflicting information,” she added. 

“For Scotland to achieve its net-zero targets and adapt managed land to climate change, diverse actions are needed beyond tree planting. The Scottish government must provide strong leadership to meet the growing expectations placed on land managers and ensure successful, holistic environmental strategies.” 

Chief executive of the Moorland Association, Andrew Gilruth, said: “Perhaps we should stop fighting nature — and work with it? Since gamekeepers are already working in these amazing landscapes, it does not require a conservationist to turn up and tell them what to do.”