This year, as the UK hosts the global climate conference, COP26, all eyes will be on the UK’s own action to tackle climate change.
The Wildlife Trusts believe that the Government’s failure to address a key issue – how to end the damage to carbon-storing peatlands and restore a significant proportion of those that are already harmed – will be a major embarrassment.

PEATLANDS are the UK’s largest on-land store of carbon, holding three times as much as woodlands.

They store around 3.2 billion tonnes of carbon, but in their current degraded condition they release the equivalent of 23 million tonnes of CO2 every year.
That's five percent of the UK’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.

They are a precious wildlife habitat and vital for holding back and filtering water.

Their benefits to society are immense. But a high proportion of UK peatlands have been damaged, drained, extracted and burnt over decades of misuse.

Steve Trotter, CEO of Cumbria Wildlife Trust says: “In the UK at least 80 percent of peatlands are damaged.

"Unfortunately, the condition of peatland soils in Cumbria is in a similarly poor condition.
"Our survey found that over 95 percent of peatlands surveyed were in poor management condition, so it’s crucial that we do what we can to repair them, for the sake of wildlife and the environment.”

Stephen explains why damaged peatlands need to be repaired: “Damaged peatlands release CO2 into the atmosphere, so it’s hugely important to address this for the climate crisis.

“We estimate that in their current condition, the Cumbrian peatlands are releasing the equivalent of 222,769 tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere every year. To put this figure into perspective, the carbon cost of visitors, coming to and from the Lake District annually, is estimated to be 941,356 tonnes CO2.

“Here in Cumbria, the Cumbria Peat Partnership has worked to put some 4000ha of peatland into restoration.

"We’re very grateful for the funding we’ve received from Defra, the Environment Agency, Natural England, the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, Landfill Tax operators, EU Life programme and the members of Cumbria Wildlife Trust – which has made this work possible in recent years.

“Most recently, the Trust has been awarded a £250,000 grant from the Green Recovery Challenge Fund for peatland work on Shap Fells and Armboth Fell.
"An estimated £30-40million is still required to complete the task of restoring Cumbria’s bogs which form part of the Great North Bog of Northern England so we’re pleased with progress so far but we need to sustain and increase the amount we invest in peat.’

“As well as helping to reduce CO2 emissions, repaired peatlands will also improve the water quality on the sites and reduce the risk of flooding downstream.

“The work will also benefit wildlife that peatlands support: plants like sundews, butterwort and bladderworts have evolved on peatlands to be carnivorous, getting nutrition from small insects and flies.

"Curlew, golden plover and snipe breed in summer on Cumbria’s peat bogs, and short-eared owls and hen harriers hunt across these areas too.

“Peatland restoration can be done by blocking up drainage ditches, rewetting and replanting with sphagnum mosses that help form new layers of peat and trap moisture."