Peat use offers limited scope for carbon target joy

Horticultural use of peat amounts to just 0.2% of the carbon the UK needs to reduce to meet climate change commitments, a stakeholder Defra-led growing media forum heard last week.

The meeting first looked at non-horticultural upland peat. HTA business development director and Growing Media Initiative (GMI) manager Tim Briercliffe said that highlighted the "tiny fraction" of peat that is used for horticulture from lowland bogs.

The new Department of Energy and Climate Change and Defra said the benefit from reducing the use of horticultural peat may seem like a small contribution to the UK's carbon-reduction targets but is still important.

Natural England looked at biodiversity, while the RSPB called for more action but backed the GMI.

Briercliffe said carbon rather than biodiversity was behind Government policy to reduce peat use. He presented availability, quality, cost and consumer demand issues as core barriers to change.

Briercliffe said the Government is planning an Act on CO2 campaign this February to engage with retailers. He added: "There will be an increased need for retailers to provide information and support for consumers in buying reduced-peat products."

- Also last week, Defra secretary of state Hilary Benn heard HTA director general David Gwyther talk on barriers to meeting the peat replacement target and the work of the GMI on peat reduction.

Gwyther said Benn was surprised about the shortage of woodchip and green waste that is holding back change. The UK uses four million cubic metres of growing media annually and 73 per cent is currently peat. Two million cubic metres of alternatives are available.

"More R&D is needed to fund and develop alternatives of the quality needed," he added.

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