Net-zero for land virtually impossible without more ambition on peatlands, says CPRE - CPRE

Emissions from UK peatland could cancel out all carbon emissions reduction achieved through new and existing forests, unless the government takes action on restoring and rewetting our peatlands, according to new analysis from CPRE, the countryside charity.

Government plans to capture carbon emissions through tree planting will be severely undermined unless radical action on peatland emissions is taken, according to new analysis of land use figures from CPRE, the countryside charity. CPRE is therefore calling on the government to view nature-based solutions in the round and maintain current ambitions on tree planting but do much more to invest in peatland restoration and supporting the farming industry to shift to sustainable practices where farming on drained peatlands.

Less than one tenth of peatlands’ contribution to the climate emergency is currently accounted for in overall UK greenhouse gas emissions reporting. But at least 18.5 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, mostly carbon dioxide, are emitted from peatlands every year in the UK. England, with a quarter of the peatland area, is responsible for 55% of these emissions. Based on current government tree planting ambitions (30,000 hectares per year by 2025), an estimated 18.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions would be captured through new and existing forests annually, but not before 2050 to 2055. That’s why action to stop emissions from degraded peatland must go hand in hand with other natural solutions like tree planting.

Peatlands can store vast amounts of carbon in a stable form for millennia if not degraded forming some of the greatest carbon sinks on the planet. But the government’s current commitment to restore 35,000 hectares of peatland by 2025 does not go far enough. CPRE is calling for the government to commit to urgent and sustained action on peat and peatlands in its forthcoming England Peat Strategy by: • Bringing to an end further degradation of peat by 2030 in line with existing commitments to sustainably manage all soils by 2030 • Committing to ambitious national targets for rewetting and restoration of upland and lowland peatlands in England to secure their carbon stores by 2030 • Supporting a managed transition away from destructive use of lowland peat soils over the next decade as part of green recovery by investing in wet farming research, applied projects and developing new markets for wet farming products.

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