Written evidence submitted by Aberdeen
Centre for Environmental Sustainability
We would like to submit evidence that draws
on research funded by the Rural Economy and Land Use programme's
Sustainable Uplands project, and a draft report recently submitted
to the IUCN UK Commission of Inquiry on Peatlands http://www.iucn-uk-peatlandprogramme.org/.
This in turn builds on a number of inputs we made to the CRC's
Inquiry into the Future of England's Upland Communities and the
Foresight Land Use Futures project.
Broadly, we think that there are four ways in
which Government could protect hill farmers, the upland communities
they belong to and the ecosystem services they provide whilst
saving taxpayers' money:
1. Link agricultural payments more effectively
to provision of ecosystem services:
Uplands provide important ecosystem services
we do not currently pay land managers to provide, and provide
a strong rationale for keeping people managing uplands.
"Payment by results" schemes
expose land manager incomes to unnecessary risks (eg pests, weather)
and monitoring costs are very high.
More money could be channelled through
agri-environment schemes, targeted:
Towards locations that can most efficiently
provide the ecosystem services we want (eg carbon from peatland
At the relevant scales (eg catchment
management), facilitating cross-boundary collaboration;
Targeting may increase efficiency: more
ES for less taxpayers' money;
Models can guide spatial targeting
2. Remove policy barriers to facilitate peatland
restoration via carbon markets:
The simplest way is to introduce a UK
Peatland Carbon Code to the GHG Accounting Guidelines: an independent
mechanism to regulate CSR activity. This is urgently needed as
a number of industry partnerships are already developing in the
absence of regulation
In order to facilitate restoration at
a larger scale, Defra/DECC could:
Create a registry for peatland restoration
projects to access voluntary carbon markets (this carbon couldn't
then be counted towards national targets); or
Create its own scheme, integrated with
existing agri-environmental schemes (counted towards national
targets)cheaper than energy efficiency measures?
Peatland restoration could help meet
climate mitigating and adaptation targets under UNFCCC as well
as water and biodiversity targets under the Water Framework Directive
and CBD goals
3. Re-consider a levy on extractive uses
Ruled out previously as administrative
costs outweigh returns: worth reconsidering?
According to Which?, the three top performing
composts now are peat-free.
Defra follows the Ecosystems Approach,
so decision should consider wider benefits of preventing peat-cutting
(eg carbon, water quality, biodiversity).
Could significantly reduce administrative
costs of incorporating peat levy into:
The existing Aggregates Levy
Community Infrastructure Levy to charge/discourage
extraction via planning
4. Establish a national partnership of upland
researchers, policy makers and practitioners to share knowledge
and develop a shared agenda for future research
Provide a one-stop shop for information
and exchange to help researchers engage with stakeholders and
identify research needs relevant to policy and practice (Current
networks are region or sector specific).
Deliver more policy and practically relevant
research: Provide a strong evidence base for development of effective
peatland management to deliver government priorities, particularly
in relation to climate change, biodiversity, water and soil objectives.
More efficient: combining functions from
multiple networks, avoiding research duplication, to and promoting
new collaborations for integrated assessments.