A NEW certification scheme for landowners is designed to protect and improve UK peatlands.

The Peatland Code has been devised by Organic Farmers & Growers (OFG) and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (UCN) UK Peatland Programme.

It sets out best practice for projects seeking to market the climate and environmental benefits of peatland restoration, and helps landowners secure private funding for projects by providing investors with assurance through third party verification that expected climate benefits are credible and deliverable.

Roger Kerr, OF&G chief executive, said: "A recent report from Green Alliance suggests we have an opportunity to achieve the 2030 reduced emissions targets, in part, by restoring the UK’s 2.7m hectares of peatland by at least 26 per cent.

"We aim to help landowners restore much of the UK’s peatlands, which cover 12 per cent of the total UK land area, reverting damaged peatlands from large sources of carbon to fulfilling their carbon sequestration potential, and support the wider environment."

Jillian Hoy, Peatland Code coordinator at IUCN UK Peatland Programme, said there are many environmental benefits to maintaining peatlands. She said: "In a healthy condition, peatlands don’t just act as a carbon sink. They provide unique habitats for biodiversity and are great for water quality, acting as a natural filter. The vegetation matrix on peatlands in upland areas also helps to slow the flow of water into catchments, aiding efforts to combat flooding.

"However, only 20 per cent of peatlands in the UK are in good condition, and instead of storing carbon, 80 per cent of our damaged peatlands are currently a source of greenhouse gases, releasing the equivalent of 20 megatonnes of CO2 each year. This equates to four per cent of UK’s total yearly greenhouse gas emissions, as shown in a recent study led by the Centre of Ecology and Hydrology, and James Hutton Institute."

Ms Hoy said that although peatlands are currently a climate risk, they have the ability to be an asset in addressing the problem. "Degraded peatlands can be difficult to restore. It’s not an easy task but the UK peatland community have the knowledge and skills needed and the benefits are significant. It’s important we act now as they will be harder to restore in the future."

The new scheme is available to all farmers and landowners, regardless of their farming system. See https://ofgorganic.org.