UK: Research reveals impact of horticulture peat use on climate

The campaign to stop peat extraction took off in the 1990s but only now are the UK and Welsh governments conducting a public consultation on ending the use of peat in the retail sector in England and Wales by 2024. The Wildlife Trusts believe we cannot wait this long.

Despite 30 years of campaigning against extraction and increased public outcry, peat continues to be sold in vast quantities for amateur and professional horticultural use, with huge consequences for nature and climate. Industry progress towards peat-free alternatives has been slow and inconsistent, and between 2018-19 peat consumption in the UK declined by just 2.3 per cent before rapidly increasing by nine per cent as lockdown drove more people to buy compost for gardening.

Ailis Watt, peat officer at the Wildlife Trusts, said: “These losses are gigantic, irrecoverable and unjustifiable. Peat and the carbon stored within it simply cannot be replenished within human lifetimes. Each time governments dither over whether to ban peat use in horticulture we risk losing more of this habitat that has taken millennia to develop, as well as losing its huge capacity for carbon storage.

“Extracting peat is bad for our climate and for wildlife. Peatlands provide habitat for a rich diversity of plants and animals. Migrating birds feed on peatland insects, while snakes and lizards also thrive in these special places. The UK is already one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world and extracting peat destroys complex ecosystems that are vital for nature’s recovery. It has to stop. Investing in peatland restoration whilst allowing extraction to continue is an illogical and inefficient use of public funds.”

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