I know that healthy peatlands have an important role to play in cutting greenhouse gas emissions and helping the UK reach its net zero target, so I am pleased that £640 million has been committed through the Nature for Climate Fund to restore 35,000 hectares of England’s peatland by 2025.
My Ministerial colleagues have always been clear of the need to phase out rotational burning of protected blanket bog to conserve these vulnerable habitats. You will be reassured to know that Ministers have decided to bring forward legislation that will limit and regulate the burning of peatland, protecting around 62% of the blanket bog habitat. This legislation will prevent the burning of any specified areas of peat on a Site of Special Scientific Interest that is also a Special Area of Conservation or a Special Protection Area, and will be considered as soon as Parliamentary time allows.
However, there will be some exceptions to the ban, such as wildfire prevention, which I believe are appropriate, and I understand that the impact of rotational burning of vegetation on blanket bog continues to be debated by academics, scientists, and land managers. I have been assured that Ministers will work with landowners to develop local plans.
I agree that restoring and better managing our peatlands is essential for nature recovery and meeting our target of net zero emissions by 2050. The Committee on Climate Change has highlighted the particular need to restore blanket bogs. For that reason, the Government is committed to publishing an English peat strategy that will set out the direction for restoration, protection and sustainable management. I look forward to the strategy’s publication.