The benefits of peatlands were described as ‘near infinite’ at this year’s IUCN Peatland Programme conference. Here CXC Manager at the James Hutton Institute, Rebekka Artz, sum up some of her conference highlights.

This year, I’m attending the IUCN Peatland Programme 2018 conference not just as a peatland scientist, but also as a representative for ClimateXChange Scotland. This meeting brings together the largest quorum of people interested, and invested, in peatlands from all over the UK, including policy makers, NGOs, local government, businesses and of course, scientists.

The 2018 conference focuses on ‘Building Prosperity’, and the programme has the complement of what prosperity can mean. The definition of prosperity, like many definitions, vary according to where you look, but generally includes more than the economic meaning. One particular online dictionary tells me that it is ‘the condition of being successful or thriving’.

Well, it possibly can’t be a better description of the energy I have experienced so far at this conference! For a start, it was sold out and many of my colleagues are sad to miss it. Day 1 started with a Year of Young People reception, followed by talks about the public benefit provision of peatlands. I was thrilled to hear a leading economist, Professor Dieter Helm, describe these multifaceted benefits as nearly infinite. Later sessions then picked up on the generally positive benefit:cost ratio of peatland restoration; and the high value the general public place on peatlands in good condition. I was greatly encouraged to see momentum in the development of policy frameworks to deliver healthy peatlands, as well as the leaps in including peatlands in national level accounting.  Of course, it was fantastic to see so much of the work ClimateXChange researchers have contributed to these areas referred to in these various talks.

There were very interesting panel discussions about the business sector developments, in the food & drink, tourism and the horticultural industry. Sadly, I did not manage to experience the talks on the stories that the peatland historical archive has to tell us, though my colleague told me the images alone would make an inspiring book. We sampled locally inspired food, enjoyed a ceilidh band, some of us here got very wet on their field trips to local peatlands, and we had inspiring posters and films. ‘Successful and thriving’ – indeed!

It is the end of a long day 2, and I am looking forward to Day 3 – hearing more about the Global Peatlands Initiative, and the work of the various IUCN Peatland Programme working groups that are updating the Commission of Inquiry reports.

Read more about ClimateXChange’s work on peatland