To: Rt Hon Alok Sharma MP, Secretary of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Rt Hon George Eustice MP, Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
15th October 2020
Re: Young nature conservationists urge the government to ban the burning of peatlands
Dear Secretaries of State
We are writing to you as a network of young people passionate and alarmed about the decline of our natural world. We urge you to take the necessary steps to bring an end to the burning of peatlands in England.
Peatlands are one of the most precious habitats in our country, and we are home to an important proportion of Europe’s peatland habitat, and of the world’s blanket bog. Peatlands have formed over thousands of years and hold 20 years’ worth of the UK’s annual emissions. But, at present these greenhouse gas storage machines have been put into reverse gear and are pumping out carbon into the atmosphere. The UK’s peatlands currently release the equivalent of 6% of our annual emissions.
One of the main causes of this, releasing 260,000 tonnes of CO2 per year in England, is the practice of burning peatlands, which also destroys their ability to store water and their status as a home to rare biodiversity too.
As the UK prepares to host the world’s climate conference in 2021, banning this practice is one of the most basic steps that could be taken to bolster our reputation on climate change. We cannot lecture other countries on their practices (such as Brazil’s burning of the Amazon – in 2019 the Prime Minister said he was “deeply concerned” by the fires) while we continue to intentionally set fire to our own vast carbon stores.
Our international diplomatic leverage and credibility will be undermined if we do not tackle this issue.
Your Government must do three things:
- Ban the burning of peatlands. This practice is unnecessary and environmentally destructive. Your Government wants to be the first to hand on the environment in a better state – if you do not ban peat burning then this alone will mean you have failed your own test.
- Include peat emissions in the UK’s greenhouse gas inventory (at present they account for 6% of annual UK emissions but are not included in our accounts, removing any real incentive to get to grips with them).
- Ban the use of peat compost, so as we stop using peat dug up from the rare peatlands of other countries.
On behalf of young people across the UK passionate about nature and wildlife, we urge you to take these steps. If these measures can be put in place, they will be the cornerstone of a flourishing, healthy future for our peatlands. We dream of that future and hope to be the generation that ushers it into existence.
We would be grateful for the opportunity to discuss this issue with you or your departments.
Matt Williams, Director, UK Youth for Nature (www.youthfornature.uk)
Lauren Cox, Policy and Campaigns Officer, A Focus on Nature (www.afocusonnature.org)
Jamie Walker, Re-Peat (www.re-peat.earth)