Forest Carbon completes Defra research project - January 2016

peat5_compressed_845Throughout 2015 Forest Carbon’s Steve Prior was working with academic Andrew Moxey on a project for Defra developing financial models to assess the efficacy of peatland restoration for climate change mitigation. The final report, which also contains chapters by others on the contribution peatland makes to the national natural capital account, and metrics for estimating the carbon savings from restored peat, was published by Defra on 19th January. One of the key objectives of the research was to establish whether the Peatland Code, akin to the Woodland Carbon Code, is viable.

Peatlands represent the most significant terrestrial carbon store in the UK and maintaining them or restoring them to good condition is important. Peatland restoration for habitat provision and biodiversity, water quality and carbon benefits is increasing, funded by Government initiatives, agri-environment schemes, European funding streams, water companies and the Heritage Lottery Fund. A Peatland Code is being developed as an additional or alternative funding source: a mechanism for businesses to directly sponsor peatland restoration for carbon benefits. The Peatland Code is intended to provide the voluntary standard for peatland restoration projects in the UK to ensure restoration projects deliver tangible climate change mitigation benefits. For the Code to be successful it needs to be founded upon strong scientific and economic evidence to ensure it is attractive to potential investors, peatland managers, and landowners.

Steve and Andrew concluded that:

- The strength of a Peatland Code is that it can demonstrate quantifiable impacts on greenhouse gas emissions which will make it attractive to a wide range of buyers.

- Comparisons can be made between the Peatland Code and the well-established Woodland Carbon Code which shows the Code’s potential for large scale, immediate carbon savings.

- To ensure investors’ confidence in the Code projects will, however, have to demonstrate additionality and build risk buffers into the overall cost of a project. Drawing on experiences from the Woodland Carbon Code, sufficient operational costs will also have to be included in project budgets if buyers are to be confident of the monitoring processes and long term maintenance of a project.

- As a consequence of these essential project costs, currently it is unlikely that the voluntary carbon market alone will provide sufficient funding for peatland restoration projects, with a mix of funding, for instance utilising agri-environment schemes, required.