In a letter to the Secretary of State for the Environment, experts are today (16 February) warning that the Government’s new partial peat burning ban contains gaping loopholes that could be exploited and could leave the ban almost completely ineffectual.
Around 70% of upland peat will be excluded from the ban, with exemptions allowing further burning even in areas ‘protected’ under the ban. Unless remedied, this will mean more CO2 emissions and more damage to peatland ecosystems (which capture around three times as much carbon as all of England’s trees). This leaves the problem of protecting the UK’s biggest carbon sink smouldering on ahead of our leadership of global climate talks. England’s peatlands could potentially be ablaze amid COP26, as it is scheduled in the traditional peat-burning season.
New YouGov research released today by Wildlife and Countryside Link, shows a high public appetite for stronger peat protections:
This follows polling from the end of January which revealed that: two-thirds of Brits want promises to protect peatlands included in UK pledges for COP26 (with only 1% opposed).70% want the government to ensure our natural carbon stores, like peat, are healthy and capture as much carbon as possible.
Professor Rosie Hails, Director of Nature and Science at the National Trust said: "This partial ban on burning vegetation on upland peatland is welcome but much of the best habitats for nature and carbon lie outside the existing protected areas where this ban applies. As such it leaves many areas exposed to future burning and fails to deliver the ambition set out in the Government’s 25 year plan. This partial ban fails to reflect the vital role all our peatlands play in tackling the climate and nature crisis and we call on the Prime Minister to expand the ban to other areas and demonstrate the UK's climate and nature leadership this year."