The UK Government has announced its intention to ban the sale of peat to amateur gardeners by 2024. It is understood that this ban will apply to bagged peat compost, but it not yet clear whether peat-containing products, such as plants, will also be subject to a 2024 ban.
The ban follows a public consultation, which ran from December 2021 to March 2022, and marks the first occasion that any UK government has considered legislative action to tackle the use of peat in horticulture.
The Wildlife Trusts, alongside key nature charities, has campaigned for an end to the destruction of peatlands since the 1990s. Peatlands have a global cooling effect when they are in their naturally wet state, and lock away carbon from dead plants for hundreds or even thousands of years. However, when peatlands are drained and dug up for use in gardens and greenhouses, stored carbon is released in the form of CO2
The Wildlife Trusts estimates that peat extraction for horticulture has caused up to 31 million tonnes of CO2 to be released since 1990.
In the run up to COP15, the UN Biodiversity Conference due to take place later this year, the UK Government led with calls to protect nature, including putting an end to biodiversity loss globally, and protecting at least 30% of land and seas, by 2030.
Ailis Watt, peat policy officer at The Wildlife Trusts, says: “It is fantastic to see tangible progress on this critical issue after decades of campaigning. Using peat in gardens is bad news for our climate and leads to the destruction of beautiful wild places on which many of the UK’s rarest and most threatened species depend.
“The ban is expected to apply to around two-thirds of peat currently sold in England. What we need to see now is the Government taking action towards a total ban on peat extraction and its use in horticulture – only then can we put an end to the decline of peatlands both in the UK and further afield.”
Some uses of peat will remain legal beyond 2024, though, so The Wildlife Trusts is calling upon the UK Government to ban the extraction and commercial trade of peat immediately. It is also calling to all horticultural uses of peat to be banned as soon as parliamentary timeframes allow or by 2024 at the latest, and for all bogs damaged by the removal of peat to be restored by 2035.