Protecting peatlands

Conserving peat bogs

Peat bogs are wetlands where dead plants accumulate to make thick waterlogged layers. The layers are so thick that oxygen doesn't really penetrate them, and the plant and moss remains build up over time to form peat. It's a slow process, taking 7,000 to 10,000 years to form about 10 metres of peat. Peatlands have been identified as a critical component of the world's carbon sink and a valuable economic resource. Peatlands are vitally linked to conservation issues such as carbon sequestration affecting global climate change, and provision of key habitat for a diverse range of the world's flora and fauna. They also are the source of a significant portion of the freshwater and many economic resources vital to human survival. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol (1997) are emerging as critical mechanisms to foster wise use of carbon resources and the potential implementation of a global trading mechanism for carbon credits. Peatlands, while the largest component of the world's carbon sink and a valuable economic resource, remain at this time excluded from the international discussions on the [Kyoto Protocol].

The potential to promote joint initiatives among the [Convention on Climate Change], [Ramsar Convention] and [Convention on Biological Diversity] provides opportunities that are widely recognized but not yet realized. A wide range of international cooperation is urgently needed to assist Contracting Parties to global environment conventions (Ramsar, Biodiversity, Climate Change), to understand the importance of peatlands.


In 1991, a £40 million deal was agreed between Fisons and English Nature, the government's wildlife watchdog, to save Britain's remaining peat bogs. When the deal was announced, the Fisons said it would make a £40 million gift to English Nature of 8,000 acres of peat bogs in Cumbria, South Yorkshire and Somerset designated as sites of special scientific interest (SSSI). In return, the company was allowed to continue mining over large areas. However, after a year, the deal was not signed. Many objected it was a sell-out.


A radical way for protection of peat bogs would be a carbon tax on peat to be paid by the commercial extractors.

Facilitated by:
Studying peat
Type Classification:
G: Very Specific strategies
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 15: Life on Land