The IUCN UK Peatland Programme (IUCN UK PP) welcomes the long-awaited publication of the England Peat Action Plan (EPAP). We are pleased to see the Plan outline a suite of policy and management interventions for England’s peatlands released alongside complementary woodland plans in a bid to halt the decline of nature and wildlife. The EPAP has been developed to align with the broad principles of the IUCN UK PP’s UK Peatland Strategy (2018): the connectedness of UK, National and regional strategic planning for peatlands set out in these documents is in itself is a world leading approach, helping other countries who are developing a strategic approach as required by IUCN, UN and Ramsar resolutions. This is a global challenge and the UK as a top ten peatland nation has to show leadership.
The England Peat Action Plan outlines measures to:
- Develop an updated peat map by 2024
- Fund 35,000ha of restoration by 2025 with ELMs schemes (Sustainable Farming Incentive, Local Nature Recovery and Landscape Recovery) to deliver beyond 2024.
- Continue to convene the Lowland Agricultural Peat Task Force to identify a more sustainable future for lowland agricultural peatlands.
- Ban the sale of peat and peat containing products in the amateur sector by 2024.
- Continue to protect our peat from fire by both phasing out managed burning and reducing the risk of wildfire.
As of 2020 peatlands are now accounted for in the UK greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory and it is important that peatlands continue to be seen as nature-based solution to climate change and play a key role in our green recovery. The scale and urgency of the biodiversity and climate crises demands an urgent move from peatland planning to implementation. While the Plan does not include long-term targets for peatlands we recognise the ambition to publish national and regional implementation plans to detail the future trajectory of recovery for England’s peatlands. These plans will need to engage across different land use sectors to tackle current policy challenges and threats to peatlands. Policy intervention needs to be secured with blended public and private finance and a long term approach to providing economic support (e.g. through agriculture payments) to land managers who maintain and restore peatlands.
The Plan recognises the need for funding which goes beyond capital grant support and acknowledges the role that private finance, such as that achieved through the Peatland Code, will play a role in delivering restoration at scale. While long-term plans for restoration and associated funding beyond 2025 remain unclear, funding for approximately 10% of England’s peatlands is secured through the formal launch of the Nature for Climate Peatland Grant Scheme. The scheme is currently open to applications for Restoration and Discovery Grants. The application window will close at midday on 25th June 2021. Details of the scheme and how to apply can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/nature-for-climate-peatland-grant-scheme.
See also Defra press release: Environment Secretary to set out plans to restore nature and build back greener from the pandemic