Defra secretary Hilary Benn has called for a phase out of peat-based composts for sale in garden centres by 2020.
Benn used a visit to the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew to launch the latest part of the Act on CO2 Peat campaign, which calls for retailers to stop selling peat within 10 years and switch to peat-free alternatives instead.
The campaign is targeting amateur gardeners as they buy the majority of peat (70%) that is used in horticulture.
Defra's new soil strategy, Safeguarding our Soils, which it published in September 2009, highlights Government plans to develop a framework for action on peat this year. Part of this will involve Defra and the industry working on a plan to reduce professional use of peat through a formal consultation document published this summer.
Benn said the plan to phase out peat for amateurs by 2020 would be challenging, but added: "The horticulture industry has made progress in reducing peat use but given the urgency of reducing our emissions we need to go much further."
Kew Gardens director Professor Stephen Hopper and curator Nigel Taylor joined Benn in a tour of the gardens, which have been peat-free since 1992. Benn visited the Kew Diploma students' vegetable plots, the Rock Garden, Davies Alpine House and the Princess of Wales Conservatory. He will also be joining school children from the local Broomfield Primary school in a plant-potting lesson using peat-free compost.