RSPB Senior Policy Officer Olly Watts calls for RSPB supporters to respond to to Westminster Government's consultation of horticultural peat ... 

An end to peat use in gardening is finally in our grasp, with a Government consultation on a legal ban for England and Wales now open. 

The RSPB and our NGO colleagues have worked towards this since the launch of the Peatlands Campaign Coalition (PCC) in 1990 – yes, that’s more than 30 years ago.  In that time we’ve been successful in ending most of the peat extraction that was then taking place in England.  Thorne and Hatfield Moors in Yorkshire, Wedholme Flow and Bolton Fell Moss in Cumbria, are among the milestone victories playing their part in for nature and climate change, even before these were recognised as national and global emergencies.  

And from the PCC’s start, we’ve been clear that ending peat extraction in the UK also requires a shift to peat free gardening composts as the only sustainable solution to gardeners’ needs.  We’ve worked across business and government for many years to help bring this about, turning initial hostility into productive relationships with those prepared to listen and take our concerns on board.  B&Q was the first major retailer to understand this and others have followed, and in 2011 Defra introduced a policy requirement for retail sales of peat to cease by 2020.   

Yet today, around half the compost sold in garden centres is peat. The gardening industry as a whole has not taken this issue seriously and there are still vociferous opponents to this change for the better.  Government instructed an end to petroleum fuelled cars within ten years – why should the relatively simple matter of peat replacement, also now a significant climate change issue, have taken so long? 

So we’ll be responding positively to the consultation to legally ban retail peat. It’s not a perfect proposal: it does not meet the Climate Change Committee’s advice to end all peat use, consumer and professional, and peat extraction by 2023 – we will be asking for this.  

And whilst we are broadly supporting the government’s proposals, we know that others will be fighting them.  As ever in political matters, the numbers game is important, as well as a firm grounding in science – that’s what makes a democracy.  So we encourage all of you who care about the ongoing use of peat to contribute to Defra’s consultation.  You can read about it here and I hope you’ll want to contribute to the online survey.  This closes on 18 March yet, as most of  questions are quite simple – and you don’t have to answer them all – why not take part right away?   

Ever grateful for our supporters’ essential role in getting the results we need for nature and the environment. This one really is the pivotal moment to act for peat, a moment we’ve been waiting for 30 years – so please do consider adding your contribution for nature and the climate, and for a sustainable solution for our gardens.