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Natural Capital update: Peatland is vital to the planet – help is available to restore it

The value of peatland as a carbon sink and wildlife habitat has become increasingly recognised in recent years, and the Scottish Government has committed to investing more than £250 million over the next 10 years towards peatland restoration projects. This funding is administered via the Peatland Action project, managed by the heritage body NatureScot. 

Peatland is vital for preserving global biodiversity, providing safe drinking water, minimising flood risk and helping address climate change.

There are two elements to access Peatland Action funding. The first, a funded feasibility study, will identify areas of peatland on land holding, the condition of the peatland, and recommended steps for restoration if applicable. Should the landowner then wish to proceed with carrying out the restoration work, they can apply to Peatland Action for funding the cost of the works, which could include blocking ditches and re-profiling of peat hags.

A further funding opportunity for peatland restoration comes in the form of the Peatland Carbon Code. This is a certification standard for UK peatland projects, which will quantify the carbon benefit of restoration projects, allowing the carbon credits to be registered and marketed. The carbon benefits are measured over a minimum period of 30 years, so it’s important to bear in mind that the landowner will have the responsibility to ensure the restoration work is managed and maintained for at least that timescale.

Once registered and verified, carbon credits can be sold upfront or in stages over time, or indeed retained for the landowners own carbon offsetting purposes. Careful consideration will be required to ensure that this valuable opportunity is used wisely and that any agreements are properly structured.

Landowners can benefit from both funding opportunities; though should they wish to register a project under the Peatland Carbon Code, they will be eligible for only 85% funding from Peatland Action in order to meet additionality requirements. However, it may be still be possible to obtain 100% funding when maintenance costs over the longer term period of the Carbon Code are taken into account. Landowners will also need to ensure that works are carried out in line with the requirements of both schemes, which vary slightly. It’s important to note that registration under the Peatland Carbon Code must be done before any works are carried out on the ground.

Peatland Action is currently open for applications to fund projects in the 2022-23 financial year. There is currently high demand for funded feasibility studies, and some landowners may wish to consider funding their own feasibility study which could expedite the process and allow them to get a restoration plan in place to present for Peatland Action/PCC approval. Galbraith are able to advise clients on the various options for getting a peatland project up and running and how to maximise value.

 

• Natural Capital: The expert advisers at Galbraith guide our clients in realising value in all land uses – by assessing and measuring natural assets, furthering opportunities in biodiversity net gain, and ensuring stakeholders are rewarded fully for their investment in and contribution to delivering ecosystem services and net-zero outcomes.