The purpose of this PPS is to promote CIWEM's views on the
environmental damage caused by the unsustainable extraction and the
use of peat and to encourage the use of alternative renewable
CIWEM calls for:
- The Government's ambition to reduce the use of peat to zero by
2030, as set out in the Natural Environment White Paper, to be
achieved in a shorter timeframe.
- Those industries which use peat, for whatever purpose, to
continue to find renewable alternative resources within the
shortest timeframes possible and to continue to foster a
partnership approach in achieving these aims.
- The urgent restoration of all damaged peat reserves to a
natural habitat and function which will result in the recovery of
some of the benefits we gain from the peat resource.
- Increased monitoring of restoration schemes and the publication
of new information.
- The Government to protect those peat reserves that are deemed
to be scientifically and/or environmentally important through
existing legislation or new legislation where current measures do
not provide the proper protection.
- Defra to continue to promote and develop public awareness
campaigns which will lead to a better understanding of all the
issues relating to the use of peat and the environmental damage
commercial extraction, along with other pressures on the peat
resource, is causing.
The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental
Management (CIWEM) is the leading professional body for the people
who plan, protect and care for the environment and its resources,
providing educational opportunities, independent information to the
public and advice to government. Members in 98 countries include
scientists, engineers, ecologists and students.
Peat should be considered a non-renewable natural resource
within the UK and Republic of Ireland due to its slow rate of
formation. Peatlands include upland blanket bogs and lowland
raised bogs, as well as drained peatlands currently in agricultural
use. Peat soils provide a number of essential services and
functions for society; supporting rare wildlife and biodiversity,
storing reserves of carbon, producing food and playing an important
role in the water cycle.
The UK has 15% of Europe's peat resource, covering around three
million hectares. However, the majority of our peatlands are
significantly degraded as a result of human activities and
pollution, including extraction for horticultural use, forestry
planting, agricultural improvement and erosion. It is estimated
that around half of the UK peatlands have been drained and
converted from their natural state to improve conditions for crops,
livestock and to expand commercial forestry.
The use of peat as a domestic fuel and as a construction
material can be traced back thousands of years. However, the scale
of use was comparatively low, contained within small communities
and had little environmental impact. It is only over the last forty
years that its properties as a growing and packaging medium for the
horticultural, agricultural and related industries has led to
extraction and use on a massive scale (originally use in
horticulture was to find a use for the waste peat overlying
burnable peat). The consequent impact on peat reserves, the
wildlife they support, the landscape quality and wider
environmental considerations, in particular carbon sequestration,
has been irreparable in some cases.
According to the National Ecosystem Assessment, it is estimated
that £9.4M of UK peat was extracted in 2009, equating to carbon
emissions worth >£10m (at £25/tonne carbon). Degraded peatlands
are prone to erosion and gullying, resulting in suspended and
dissolved organic matter entering watercourses. It is
estimated to cost water companies approximately £0.5m per year in
water treatment costs as a result of this. Degradation of
peatlands impacts on the whole range of services provided by this
resource, many of which are much harder to put a clear value on,
such as the loss of habitats and associated species of conservation
concern and increased wildfire risk.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)
has a long-term aim to protect peat soils and to promote management
and restoration so future generations benefit from them. Importing
peat into the UK and Eire from abroad, over longer distances, is
not considered as a suitable alternative given the associated
carbon cost of transporting these materials over long distances,
and the potential environmental impacts in their country or
CIWEM believes that, wherever practicable, we should maximise
the use of renewable resources. Peat extraction, whilst recognised
as not being the only pressure on the peat resource, may have a
wide range of impacts, including the destruction of natural
habitats and the loss of peat reserves within sites which are often
of significant scientific interest, reductions in water storage and
consequent increased flood risk and the loss of potential carbon
CIWEM recognises that to be efficient and economic, a
significant amount of plant production requires a non-soil based
growing medium. Whilst peat may, in some instances, provide the
best option for such a medium, the continued use of peat cannot be
supported particularly with the development of alternative waste or
renewable materials for this purpose.
Restoration of damaged sites to a natural habitat and function
can result in the recovery of some of the benefits we gain from the
peat resource. Restoration to a condition which recreates as
much of the original function of the peat resource as possible
should, therefore, be a requirement for all extraction sites.
CIWEM recognises the Government's ambition to reduce the use of
peat to zero by 2030, as set out in the Natural Environment White
Paper, but calls for the achievement of this aim in a significantly
shorter timeframe. CIWEM also recognises the contribution
made by the UK growing media industry, the professional
horticulture sector and retailers to develop alternatives and urges
that these efforts are continued and increased. This Institution
believes that the building of a fund of knowledge on the use of any
alternative must be continued and the further research and
development in this area is necessary.
CIWEM supports the Government's ambition to reduce the use of
peat to zero but call for this to be achieved in a significantly
shorter timeframe than currently proposed (by 2030, as set out in
the Natural Environment White Paper).
CIWEM calls on those industries which use peat, for whatever
purpose, to continue to find renewable alternative resources within
the shortest possible timeframes. In the interests of
sustainability and environmental protection, CIWEM supports the use
of renewable alternatives (preferably locally sourced) to replace
peat as a plant growing medium.
CIWEM supports the Sustainable Growing Media Task Force and its
remit to foster a partnership approach.
CIWEM welcomes the efforts of the Growing Media Association
(GMA) to support the Government targets for reducing the use of
CIWEM calls for the urgent restoration of damaged peat reserves
to a natural habitat and function which will result in the recovery
of some of the benefits we gain from the peat resource. Plans
to enable restoration to a condition which recreates as much of the
original function of the peat resource as possible should,
therefore, be a requirement for all extraction sites.
Implementation of such plans should be monitored.
CIWEM urges the Government to protect those peat reserves that
are deemed to be scientifically and/or environmentally important
through existing legislation or new legislation where current
measures do not provide the proper protection.
CIWEM urges Defra to continue to promote and develop public
awareness campaigns which will lead to a better understanding of
all the issues relating to the use of peat and the environmental
damage commercial extraction, along with other pressures on the
peat resource, is causing.
Note: CIWEM Policy Position Statements (PPS) represents the
Institution's views on issues at a particular point in time. It is
accepted that situations change as research provides new evidence.
It should be understood, therefore, that CIWEM PPS's are under
constant review, and that previously stated views may alter and
lead to revised PPS's.