Ending the sale of peat: consultation
We are consulting on ending the sale of peat in Scotland. Responses to this consultation will inform plans and timescales for moving away from using peat products in order to protect peatlands from further damage. Their protection and restoration form important components of our Climate Change Plan.
Scotland's peatlands have a critical role to play in responding to the twin crises of the global climate emergency and loss of biodiversity.
In good condition, peatlands are a significant natural carbon store. They hold around 1.8 billion tonnes of carbon, equivalent to around 145 years' worth of Scotland's total net carbon emissions. Covering about a third of our country, peatlands support important ecosystems and biodiversity, improve water quality and reduce flood risk.
However, when degraded or in poor condition, these benefits are lost and peatlands become a net source of carbon emissions. This is why the Scottish Government is dedicated to protecting and restoring our precious peatlands, supporting a Just Transition to Net Zero by 2045.
In 2020 we set out ambitious plans to invest more than £250 million to restore at least 250,000 hectares of degraded peatlands by 2030, scaling up our restoration efforts which have already seen over 30,000 hectares of peatland restored since 2012.
Our fourth National Planning Framework, which the Scottish Parliament approved on 11 January 2023, will introduce new national planning policy whereby proposals for new commercial peat extraction, including extensions to existing sites, are not supported except in very limited circumstances. We expect to formally adopt NPF4 in February 2023, at which time it will become a part of the development plan and will be influential in all planning decisions.
We are aware that around 1,000 hectares of Scotland's peatlands are being used to produce peat for horticulture. In 2021, Scotland supplied around 300,000 cubic metres of peat used in UK horticulture or exported. This represents 16% of the total with 22% originating elsewhere in the UK and 62% coming from outside of the UK. Ending the sale of peat in Scotland would help to protect our own peatlands as well as peatlands elsewhere in the world.
The horticulture industry has made commendable efforts to move away from peat in recent years. In 2011, peat accounted for 62% of all growing media used in UK horticulture (both retail and professional) or exported, declining to 36% in 2021. Whilst those efforts cannot go unpraised, we recognise that clear targets are needed to eliminate peat from horticulture entirely. The professional horticulture sector is finding it harder to overcome its dependency on peat and, in 2021, peat accounted for over half of the growing media used in UK professional horticulture compared with around 30% of growing media used in UK retail horticulture.
In September 2021, we pledged, through our 2021-22 Programme for Government, to take forward work to develop and consult on a ban on the sale of peat-related gardening products as part of our wider commitment to phase out the use of peat in horticulture. Using this two-step approach, we intend to ban sales for the retail sector (amateur/hobby gardeners), which uses most peat, followed by the professional sector, which may need more time to transition to alternatives. We welcome a wide range of views to help shape our policies on the use of peat.
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