“Thank you very much – this is exactly what we needed.”

RESAS commissioning officer

  • ClimateXChange’s extensive work on peatland restoration demonstrates our ability to manage a wide-ranging, multi-year programme of research with diverse stakeholders – from farmers and landowners to government bodies such as NatureScot and Scottish Water.
  • Our research has helped ensure peatland restoration – a strategic priority which has received substantial government funding – is well designed, correctly targeted and achieves results on the ground.
  • Since 2017, we have published eight substantial pieces of research on peatlands (on top of extensive work in the related field of soil). We have evaluated previous restoration initiatives; provided advice on how practices might be improved; and examined cost-effectiveness and economic impacts.

Why peatlands matter

Scotland is a global pioneer of peatland restoration, an important element of addressing the climate emergency in Scotland and beyond. Peatlands cover nearly a quarter of Scotland and contain over half of Scottish soil carbon. However, a high proportion is degraded, causing substantial greenhouse gas emissions. To mitigate this and boost carbon storage levels, the Scottish Government has made substantial commitments: in 2020 it pledged £250m to help restore 250,000 hectares of peatland by 2030. This builds on the Peatland ACTION programme, launched in 2012 and administered by NatureScot (formerly Scottish Natural Heritage – SNH)

What we did

  • Built strong relationships with key policy officials in the Scottish Government and SNH/NatureScot.
  • Facilitated a research priorities workshop for stakeholders to design robust research that would explore available data (through Peatland Action and other sources) and report the findings in plain English.
  • Contributed understanding of the broader issues, to help officials refine and define the questions that could usefully be asked – and answered – to inform practical action and delivery.
  • Helped access extensive knowledge and expertise in a complex scientific area while simultaneously helping researchers understand the policy context and the perspective of the officials charged with delivering to very tight timescales.
  • As the project portfolio progressed, recognised the breadth of interest in this area, encouraging input from all stakeholders at an early stage. This led to a stronger cross-sectoral approach and delivered clearer outputs.
  • Explored the potential for emissions savings from re-wetting peatland currently used for agriculture in Scotland.
  • Delivered substantial portfolio of research, including on: peatland drainage; the impact of muirburn; potential emissions savings from restoration; wider use of Peatland ACTION data; cost-effectiveness of restoration; use of peat for horticulture; physical limitations to restoration; and stakeholder experiences of restoration work.

“The CXC project on the emissions saving potential on agricultural land is directly helping to shape the Scottish Government’s policy and analytical thinking on where to target and prioritise peatland restoration in the future.”

Scottish Government policy team member

Evidence for restoration spend

Our work helped to meet challenging targets in a priority area by understanding what works and where practice might be improved: clear, well-directed and wide-ranging research has directly informed strategic development of Peatland ACTION and practice on the ground. Our extensive portfolio of work has given us the knowledge and oversight to brief the Scottish Government’s expanded team, helping new members get up to speed quickly and set research priorities. Our track record on peatlands means we can immediately support delivery of the commitments in the Climate Change Plan Update (CCPu) and help government agencies target significant restoration spend effectively.