“Eat, sleep, re-peat, repeat”: taking care of peatlands is working to tackle climate change…

Peatland partners across the planet give a global welcome to the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration.

Peatland organisations and experts from across the globe have joined together to pledge their collective commitment to tackling climate change, protecting nature and forging ahead for the health of our planet. Restoring and conserving peatlands is the most effective way to naturally capture carbon and lock it away. The Global Peatlands Initiative (GPI) and its wide network collaborators hopes to convey the importance, value and opportunity that peatlands offer to accelerate climate action with a worldwide audience as we enter into the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration.

The GP3 campaign shares experiences and celebrates the successes of ongoing work with a champions relay of stories from peatland projects from countries all across the world. Starting with the UK as the host of the UNFCCC COP26, each stage of the campaign will highlight the many different types of peatlands and the different ways champions are working for their conservation, restoration and sustainable management across the world. Through the campaign, we urge partners to increase global investment in peatlands restoration and conservation as a valuable nature based solution.

Mid April, in the middle of the corona crisis, we were confronted with hopeful news. The EU Commission approved its European Climate Law. A 55% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and negative emissions from 2050 were cast into legislation. Remarkable: nature and land-use were also given an important place. European regulation will be drawn up this year to strengthen the natural carbon sinks in Europe. By the end of 2021, legally binding nature restoration goals will be set, including restoration of more peatlands and wetlands. 

In fact, we are not surprised that peatlands are also being looked at as a way to achieve a climate-neutral society. Even more so: it is a no-brainer that climate policy also looks at nature-based solutions. After all, Northern hemisphere peatland soils contain about a third of global soil carbon, while accounting for only 3-5% of total land area. Many of these peatlands are degraded and emit rather than store carbon. Global annual greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) emissions from drained organic soils are about 1,600 MT CO2 eq., twice that from aviation. In North-West Europe this is about 150 MT/year, more than Belgium’s annual emissions. Yet emission estimates from degraded peatlands are inadequate and there is a lack of effective strategies and methods to combat degradation and promote recovery. 

 “And it is precisely at these points that Care-Peat wants to make a difference”, according to Katrien Wijns, who manages the Care-Peat consortium on behalf of Natuurpunt. We are a  consortium of five knowledge institutes (Manchester Metropolitan University, BRGM – French Geological Survey, National University of Ireland Galway, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Université d’Orléans) and three nature organisations (Natuurpunt, Natuurmonumenten, Lancashire Wildlife Trust) from Belgium, France, Ireland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, plus one umbrella nature organisation (Eurosite). 

Our main goal is to set up and demonstrate innovative technologies for new restoration and carbon measurement techniques and involve local and regional stakeholders. Therefore we are restoring peatlands of five different pilot sites ranging from 10 to 250 hectares and demonstrate the carbon savings of the restoration. For each pilot site different restoration techniques are used - from manual labour to growing additional peat moss. The organisations are supported by knowledge institutes that work together to develop and test new equipment, methods and models to predict carbon flows. Care-Peat also works with innovative companies in the field of restoration and develops partnerships with local and regional stakeholders to increase the impact of pilots and maximise socio-economic benefits.

And we are ambitious. By the end of the project in 2022, we expect that about 7800 tonnes of carbon emissions per year are prevented from losses and stored in the five pilot sites (in total approximately 630 hectares). After 2022 we hope that organisations all over the North-West Europe region will take further measures, resulting in the restoration of many more peatlands. And the more peatlands are restored, the more carbon is saved. In this way peatlands can become an important natural partner in climate policies across North-West Europe. And we look ahead with hope. The UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration and the imminent COP26 in Glasgow offers unprecedented opportunities to make the importance of peatlands restoration as a crucial factor in our European climate policy clear to our policy makers once and for all. 

Next time we will highlight our restoration work at our pilot sites and go deeper into our European peat-policy work and our scientific insights on land-based greenhouse gases

The GP3 campaign is supported by the United Nations Environment Programme’s Global Peatlands Initiative. Dianna Kopansky, Global Peatlands Coordinator said: “Linking up to raise awareness of the potential of healthy peatlands for climate action, nature protection and our overall well-being is super important. Peatlands are a neglected ecosystem and by profiling the incredible peatlands restoration efforts across the globe we hope to awaken opportunities and inspire action. Peatland conservationists from around the world are coming together to share their stories about the work they do and the work that needs to be completed to fight climate change during the Decade of Ecosystem Restoration which starts this year. GPI welcomes this coordinated communications effort from our peatland partners as we head to UNFCCC COP 26 in Glasgow in November and beyond’.

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