Last week the government announced new legislation which will prevent peatland burning, including those in Hallam.
The practice of burning heather-covered peatland releases millions of tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere, damaging biodiversity and increasing the threat of flooding. Yorkshire campaigners have credited the practice with recent increased flooding in the region.
“For the sake of our environment, the Government must announce an immediate ban on this destructive practice and restore our peatlands to their natural bog habitats so that they can deliver for biodiversity and carbon sequestration.
There is no way that this Government can tackle the climate crisis without ensuring that our peatlands continue to store this colossal quantity of carbon. It would be an absolute catastrophe if it is released.”
According to the government, the new legislation announced this week “will prevent the burning of any specified vegetation on areas of deep peat (over 40cm depth) on a Site of Special Scientific Interest that is also a Special Area of Conservation or a Special Protection Area unless a licence has been granted or the land is steep or rocky.”
This is a hugely welcome victory for campaigners who have been pushing the government on this for years now. It is a positive step that Ministers have finally recognised that a ban is necessary, rather than the voluntary agreements which they have favoured in the past.
However proposing the legislation is just the first step. It is vital that we look at the detail, to see how much peatland this new legislation will protect, in what circumstances peatlands will still be allowed to be burnt, and what the actual environmental impact will be. I have already submitted a number of questions to the Minister to try and get clarity on this.
Banning peatland burning is also only part of the picture. The government must do more to restore our peatlands. I have asked the Government several times when we can expect their long-awaited strategy for peatland restoration and I will continue to hold them to account on this.
One thing is clear: the climate and nature emergency demands action. We urgently need a strategy for our peatlands that will lock CO2 in the ground, protect biodiversity, and help restore this precious natural resource.