Healthy peatland is a fantastic store of carbon – in fact, 40% of the UK’s soil carbon is found in our peat.
But for decades our peatland has been degraded and destroyed. Peat for horticulture or for energy in the UK is removed at up to 100 times faster than it can form. Almost all our peatland has been cultivated, grazed, drained or burned for game management, excavation or agriculture. Of over 1.4 million hectares of peatland in England, less than 1% remains undamaged. In fact, our peatland has become so degraded it is now a net emitter of greenhouse gases, particularly in the lowlands which accounts for just 7% of our peatland area but a shocking 40% of their emissions.
To reach net zero emissions by 2050, as the government have legislated to do, the Committee on Climate Change have called for us to make 55% of peatland in good condition by 2050, up from just 25% today.
To see how this could be possible, Barry visited a peat restoration site run by Scottish Natural Heritage, where years of mismanagement are being undone to create a healthy peat ecosystem that plays a crucial role in tackling climate change and providing a habitat for biodiversity.