A Government-backed peatlands restoration initiative could put in place the structures needed to verify and measure carbon storage resulting from peatland restoration measures, paving the way for an income opportunity for farmers rewetting peat soils, the National Biodiversity Conference in Dublin Castle heard.

An overview of the progress made by the UK Government-backed Peatlands Code was provided by the project’s coordinator, Renée Kerkvliet-Hermans, who explained that the UK initiative was doing exactly that by diverting private company funds to farmers and landowners restoring degraded peatlands.

The UK project is based on privately sourced finance funding the rehabilitation of damaged peatlands to offset companies’ carbon emissions in a biodiversity-friendly manner while helping the UK meet its net emission reduction targets at a national level.

The farmer actions that are incentivised under the restoration efforts include drain blocking, raising bogland water levels and reintroducing suitable vegetation to the restored sites.

“Very, very quickly” the peat can be turned from a source of carbon to an emissions sink, with vast quantities of carbon sequestration resulting from properly overseen restoration efforts, the Peatlands Code coordinator explained.

14,000ha rewet

To-date, 97 projects have undergone various stages of implementation and validation under the peatlands Code, with 14,000ha of peatlands in the restoration process so far.

Some 15 of these projects have been fully validated and are set to see over 560,000t of CO2 emission reductions result over the entire lifetime of these validated rewetting and restoration projects.

“In the UK, we have got a lot of peatlands - like you have in Ireland - but 80% of our peatlands are in a degraded state,” said Kerkvliet-Hermans at the conference.

“That is shocking and a degraded peatland emits vast amounts of carbon but if you have a healthy peatland, you can store a lot of carbon as well.”

Assurances needed

Central to securing private sector funding for the initiative was ensuring “trust and confidence” in the system, as well as the accurate measuring of the carbon sequestered by the restored peatlands, stated the expert.

“The Peatlands Code is a very robust standard that give assurances to buy carbon credits, that what you’re buying is real, quantifiable and measurable,” Kerkvliet-Hermans continued.

“It helps companies to reduce their net greenhouse gas emissions, it helps the UK reach its national net emissions reduction targets.

“It is about peatland restoration only, so it’s not about healthy peatlands or carbon already stored in the peatlands, because that is not additional.”

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