There is four times as much carbon stored in our peat bogs as in our woodlands.  And yet the save our bogs campaign has hardly got off the ground - or should that be into it?

In fact, 60% of the peat we use is imported from Ireland so we are now trashing somebody else's bogs.  But the carbon released from oxidised peat affects us all and every other living thing on Earth. We should let sleeping bogs lie rather than stir up their carbon stores.  Our annual peat use is the equivalent of a staggering 300,000 cars on the road.  And it does count in the UK carbon inventory so reducing these emissions would help towards the legally binding 80% reduction target by 2050.

I was on the Today programme on Radio 4 yesterday talking about this stuff.  Having been in our little studio at the Lodge at 7am I finally got to have my chat with John Humphrys at around 0840.

A group of organisations is calling for a peat levy - a tax on peat sales.  The government claims to be keen on green taxes so here is one that will raise a small amount of money but help habitat conservation and climate change all in one go.  Previous governments have tried a voluntary approach which worked a bit but not nearly as much as hoped.  A ban on peat use seems a little heavy handed but but would be simple and effective.  If a voluntary approach can only go so far and regulation is not flavour of the decade then a peat levy may be the only effective alternative to sticking your head in the peat.

Anonymous
  • The comment that we are "trashing the Irish peat bogs" is absolutely rediculous.  The Irish peat bogs are being trashed by the Irish - one company in particular has been stripping the Irish bogs for decades and achieving great profits through the export of Irish peat and peat briquettes.

    One only has to look at the forecourt of a great number of filling stations where PEAT BRIQUETTES are piled high for customers to buy and use as solid fuel.

    The rspb depends on donations from the public for survival and yet they are now calling for a £1 levy from the very people who finance their activities. How about going to the actual source of the stripping of the bogs?  The answer to that is that it is much harder to fight Industrial Companies than the ordinary man in the street.

    Moriarty  16th March 2011

  • A real response mirlo. One item that has never been covered is about 'the Solway bubble'. This is a peat bog near Longtown which exploded in 18th century due to the peat holding too much water. Peat was washed into the Solway and lumps were washed up as far away as the Isle of Man. When do you know that a peat moss has too much water in side it!!

  • This is a repeat of something I posted on an earlier blog but maybe not many people saw it;

    There is never any mention about the vast peatlands which are farmed in SE England. Some of these cultivated peat areas have shrunk in volume by a huge amount since the soil has been aerated by ploughing  and fertilisers spread which  increase the rate of  peat breakdown. The total peat loss here must be much greater than that ever used in horticulture. But maybe we shouldn't upset the farmers by stopping this activity !

    Our UK peat resources are a drop in the ocean compared to those of the more northern lands and here a decline in the permafrost  areas of this peat has led to a vast increase in CO2 releases as this peat thaws and decays.Our emmissions of CO2 from peat are miniscule in comparison.

    And what about the irish solid fuel electric generators which burn peat as a source of fuel. I am sure that no attempt  will have been made to stop  this.

    And what of the solutions? : perhaps ship  a finite quantity of coconut fibre half way around the world at even higher environmental costs.

    Most of the  horticultural industry has attempted to lower the amount of peat used. Growing compost can be composed of sterilised loam, composted bark, chippings and a much lower proportion of peat. It is possible to use  30% of previous peat usage without much problem. Composts with no peat cause massive problems with water retention and many horticultural firms have tried peat free composts and found that they were unsuitable.

    There is a type of solution and this is to use blond peat from russia. This peat is only a year or two old and can be harvested on a sustainable basis, in that the sphagnum is growing and is being replenished  as fast as it is being harvested. It still has the same water retention properties.

  • Interesting note Britain is way behind on its tree planting programme so lots less carbon captured. Many woodlands are being clear felled to put up wind farms which is where the rich are making their money from the poor.

    www.independent.co.uk/.../worrying-slump-in-tree-planting-prompts-fears-of-deforestation-1997344.html

  • Where I work part time we have taken delivery of bags of peat free compost and would hope they are not all like this but I have not seen any decent peat free compost yet,think for sure myself and other keen gardeners would not need any persuading to use it if we could find something decent.At the moment completely wrong way round i.e.produce rubbish and try and force people to use it.Should be produce good stuff and people will definitely buy it have no fear of that.Of course some of the big organisations get given some to make us look idiots for not using it but come on surely you are not taken in.

    All us keen amature gardeners would like nothing more than a good peat free compost and almost without exception we cannot find one.