CPRE, the countryside charity, has welcomed the newly announced ban of all sales of peat to amateur gardeners in England by 2024 – but stresses the urgency of ending the commercial trade of peat for professional use by 2025.
Given the failure of the voluntary approach and the urgent need to end the commercial trade of peat in horticulture for environmental and climate reasons, this ban could not have come sooner.
‘The negative impact of peat use in horticulture has been discussed for decades. This ban is therefore a step in the right direction and will have the backing of the British public. When the issues are set out, most consumers want to see peat-based compost banned, with only 5% of those polled oppose the banning of peat-based compost.’
‘It is now essential that the government goes further and sets a date for ending the commercial sale of peat for professional uses before 2025.’
‘It’s estimated that there are over three billion tonnes of carbon stored in the peatlands in the UK – equivalent to all carbon stored in the forests of the UK, Germany and France put together. Only 22% of the UK’s peatlands are estimated to remain in a ‘near-natural’ state and so not contributing to global heating. Peatlands’ capacity to store carbon, floodwaters and provide a haven for wildlife is immense. So much so, the ONS reports that restoring 55% of peatlands to near-natural condition is estimated to have a present net benefit value of around £50 billion.’
Head of policy at CPRE, the countryside charity
The voluntary target agreed between industry and government in 2011 to end sales of peat for the amateur horticulture sector by 2020 was missed, by a wide margin.
In 2019, peat still made up over 40% by volume of the growing media sold in the retail sector despite the 2020 target.
Recent data show that 900,000 cubic metres of peat were extracted from UK soils for use in UK horticulture in 2020, comprising 39% of peat used.
When combined with peat imported from the European Union for use in UK horticulture, the combined total of peat extracted for UK horticulture in 2020 could have stored approximately 238,000 tonnes of carbon for millennia to come.
Instead of such storage, the extraction could release up to 880,000 tonnes of CO2, equivalent to driving an average passenger car 2.2 billion miles.
The government’s current commitment to restore 35,000 hectares of peatland by 2025 does not go far enough, CPRE warns.
The charity says the government needs to commit to a more urgent and sustained programme to restore this precious habitat.
This should include an ‘absolute red line date’ for ending the commercial trade of peat for professional uses, before 2025; an end to further degradation of peat by 2030, in line with existing commitments to sustainably manage all soils by 2030; ambitious national targets for rewetting and restoring upland and lowland peatlands in England to secure their carbon stores by 2030; support for a managed transition away from the 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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