Peatland restoration targets to tackle climate change can be met through partnership with estates and business, Scottish Land & Estates has said.
Speaking following evidence provided to the Scottish Parliament’s Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee on the Draft Climate Change Plan, Anne Gray from the organisation said existing mechanisms of funding and advice should be stepped up in order for the ambitious annual 20,000 hectare restoration target to be met.
Anne Gray, Senior Policy Officer (Land Use & Environment) at Scottish Land & Estates, said: “Peatland restoration is one of the important means by which the Scottish Government can meet its climate change targets and forming productive partnerships with estates and business on this issue can pay dividends for the environment.
“Many of our members have already taken part in innovative peatland restoration programmes but the rate of progress needs to be quickened. We are pleased to see that the draft Plan does focus on collaborative effort and recognises the need for partnerships, tools, information, and capacity building.
“Scottish Natural Heritage’s Peatland Action Programme which has just received a new £8 million injection of Scottish Government funds, represents a very successful model for this type of work. Another type of structure, The IUCN UK Peatland Code, seeks to match potential private funders with peatland restoration projects.
“However, the 600,000 hectares identified as in need of restoration is substantial. The funding needed to undertake this could be estimated to be around £20 million a year to deliver the annual 20,000 hectare target – that is assuming an average restoration cost of around £1,000 per hectare.”
Scottish Land & Estates added that engaging private businesses, looking to offset carbon emissions as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility, could be a mechanism by which new funding for peatland projects is found.
Ms Gray continued: “Private businesses looking to offset their carbon emissions as well as contribute to natural flood management, water quality and improved biodiversity may represent the best long-term means of funding peatland restoration and maintenance.
“It would reduce reliance on the public purse and offers a route by which private businesses could undertake natural capital accounting, thus ensuring their business model is truly sustainable. The Scottish Government may wish to think about whether some funding to develop this model would be a good investment to decrease the future burden of restoration on the public purse.”
Ms Gray also highlighted the need for the Scottish Government to push on with catchment-level implementation of its Land Use Strategy. This, she said, would be important in finding solutions to the tensions between land management sectors, such as forestry, farming, conservation and renewable energy, which new climate change targets might exacerbate.