George Hepburne Scott of Forest Carbon discusses finance mechanisms for peatland restoration work, including an update on the first peatland code registered restoration project at Dryhope in the Scottish Borders.
“Restoration of peatlands is a low hanging fruit, and among the most cost-effective options for mitigating climate change” Achim Steiner, Executive Director UN Environment Programme (UNEP)
Blanket and raised bogs peatlands account for approximately 9.5% of the UK’s land mass (IUCN, 2011). Healthy peatlands can accumulate carbon, in the form of peat, at a rate of approximately 1mm a year, as well as continuing to store carbon from millennia before. Unfortunately, more than 80% of UK peatlands are in a damaged condition (IUCN, 2011).
The vast majority of degradation is a result of direct and indirect anthropogenic causes including peat removal, farming, heather burning and acid rain. This degradation causes a significant release of carbon to the atmosphere and into watercourses, a heavy loss of habitats and species and an exacerbation of flood events. The costs associated with restoring peatlands now are significantly lower than on-going costs to society of leaving them in a damaged condition. There are many highly successful examples of landscape scale restoration projects having been delivered across the UK.
Whilst there is public funding available to help stimulate further restoration, it is highly unlikely to be sufficient to deliver the level of restoration required to meet Government targets. There is growing recognition that without the necessary funding, landowners and land managers simply do not have the financial resources (and in some cases the motivation) to tackle restoration.
The Peatland Code
The Peatland Code, launched in November 2015 by IUCN, seeks to link up landowners with private funding, providing additional or alternative funding to any available public funding streams such as the Scottish Rural Development Program (SRDP) for peatland management. The Peatland Code is a voluntary standard for UK peatland projects wishing to market the climate benefit of peatland restoration. It is hoped that the Peatland Code will follow the path set down by the Woodland Carbon Code by achieving full ISO14065 audit status, and having its credits listed on the internationally recognised Markit Registry.
Case study – Dryhope, Selkirkshire
This September, the first Peatland Code registered restoration project, at Dryhope, Selkirkshire, achieved validation. Piloted though the process by leading Woodland Carbon Code project developer Forest Carbon, the emissions benefit of the restoration activities at Dryhope was quantified and checked against the requirements of the Peatland Code by an independent certification body. Forest Carbon worked in conjunction with Tweed Forum, who managed the successful implementation of the restoration work. The restoration project was funded via SNH Peatland Action Fund and SRDP alongside carbon funding.
Committing to the Peatland Code validation process signalled both the quality of the project and commitment of the land owner, Philiphaugh Trust, to deliver the expected benefits over time. It ultimately resulted in an investment in the emissions benefit by long-time Forest Carbon partner NEX Group in recognition of their 2017/18 carbon footprint. NEX Group have led the way in land-based CSR mechanisms over the past few years being among the first to invest in the Woodland Carbon Code and now the Peatland Code. Although pioneering in the area NEX Group makes only one small reference to their activities – in their Annual Reports – as they see carbon mitigation as a minimum requirement for doing business.
By attracting carbon finance, the restoration project at Dryhope has ensured that it will remain well managed and maintained for the next 45 years. This is crucial to protecting the initial investment of drainage ditch blocking and hagg reprofiling and putting the peatland landscape firmly on the path to good ecological condition. It is this long-term view that will result in the delivery of real ecosystem service provision within the wider catchment. In recognition of this, the project won the 2018 Scottish Land and Estates Environment Award, sponsored by Bell Ingram.
The blanket bog at Dryhope retains, releases and filters the water that flows down the Kirkstead burn into St Mary’s Loch and from there into the Yarrow Water, a tributary of the Tweed. The Kirkstead burn is one of many vital spawning burns for trout and salmon in the upper Tweed (and in particular the rare spring salmon component). Keeping the river and its tributaries in a healthy condition is vitally important. The restoration work will also help reduce flash flooding events in the lower catchment.
Forest Carbon are hopeful that this will be first of many restoration projects their partners will help fund under the Peatland Code.
SNH Peatland Action
Peatland ACTION is the project helping to restore damaged peatlands in Scotland. Since 2012, 15,000 hectares have been put on the road to recovery with funding provided by the Scottish Government. Peatlands in good health are valuable and have many benefits. SNH are currently offering pre-application advice for the next funding round. If you have a peatland restoration project that you think might be eligible and would like to speak to one of their advisors please contact them at email@example.com
Tweed Forum was formed in 1991 “to promote the sustainable use of the whole of the Tweed catchment through holistic and integrated management and planning”. In close partnership with our members, Tweed Forum staff work to protect, enhance and restore the rich natural, built and cultural heritage of the River Tweed and its tributaries. The Forum works at both the strategic level and the project level in order to achieve tangible benefits on the ground. From our inception as an informal liaison group, we have grown to become a leader in the field of integrated land and water management. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
IUCN Peatland Code
The Peatland Code is a voluntary standard for UK peatland projects wishing to market the climate benefit of restoration. It sets out a series of best practice requirements including a standard method of quantification which when validated by an independent body will give assurance to buyers that their purchase will return verifiable climate benefit over the project duration. Contact: email@example.com
Forest Carbon leads the way in voluntary carbon woodland creation and peatland restoration in the UK. Through the planting of over 7.5 million new trees in 135+ new woodlands in the UK since 2006 their partners’ projects are removing over 1,500,000 tonnes of CO2 from the nation’s atmosphere, as well as providing a host of other benefits to society, including flood mitigation, river improvement and public access. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org