South West Water secure £9m funding to tackle climate change alongside the South West Peatland Partnership

Awarded by Natural England’s Nature for Climate Peatland Restoration scheme, funding was secured by South West Water on behalf of South West Peatland Partnership and will help restore 2,634 hectares of damaged peatland in Cornwall, Devon and Somerset, saving a total of 652,625 tonnes CO2 equivalent

A partnership of local and regional organisations in the South West, the South West Peatland Partnership secured the vital funding for a four-year project to protect the natural environment by restoring peatland, making it more resilient to climate change.

The project will support the government’s climate and environment commitments, focussing on helping the rewetting of extensive areas of damaged peatlands.

The work will reduce carbon emissions, restore the ecosystems that support the recovery of associated wildlife and their habitats. It will also improve the quality and quantity of water leaving the peatlands, protect our historic environment and work with farmers and connect people with nature.

The total cost of the project is £13 million and will see significant match funding through South West Water’s Green Recovery programme, the Duchy of Cornwall and the National Trust.

Environment Minister, Rebecca Pow, commented: “Our peatlands are remarkable habitats which provide homes for many precious species and hold enormous amounts of carbon. By restoring 35,000 ha of damaged and degraded peatlands in England, 9 million tonnes of carbon dioxide would be prevented from being released by 2050 which would make a significant contribution to combatting the devastating impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss.

“The projects being awarded funding today will bring about much-needed peatland restoration across the country. We have committed to triple our historic average annual peat restoration figures and these landscape-scale projects will provide a great contribution to achieving this and accessing the wealth of benefits healthy peatlands offer.”

Morag Angus, South West Water’s Peatland Projects Manager, said: “The peatlands in the South West of England are very important for water quality, carbon storage, biodiversity, cultural history, recreation and farming but they are the most vulnerable in the UK to the impacts of climate change due to their southerly position. This funding allows the continuation of valuable work to restore and make our habitats more resilient to climate change whilst empowering people to be involved in this important work.”

Susan Davy, Chief Executive Officer of South West Water, explained: “Urgent action is needed now to tackle the challenge of climate change and protect our planet. We have an opportunity to lead the way in natural carbon sequestration through peatland restoration and this funding will help us achieve that and provides an opportunity to define a legacy here in the South West for protecting our valuable natural environment.”

Alison Kohler, Director for Conservation and Communities, Dartmoor National Park, said: “It’s fantastic to see additional funding recognising the importance of healthy peatlands in the South West and how they contribute to government targets of transitioning to net zero. Peatland restoration is recognised as a priority in the Dartmoor National Park Management Plan and in July 2019 Dartmoor National Park Authority declared a climate and ecological emergency.

“This work, delivered together with landowners, commoners and other organisations, demonstrates a combined commitment to these aims, ensuring an ongoing programme of restoration and delivering a range of benefits for nature, wildlife and people.”

Ben McCarthy, Head of Nature Conservation & Restoration Ecology, National Trust, said: “Peatlands are critical to the global carbon cycle - locking away twice as much carbon as the world’s forests. As well as carbon, these waterlogged soils conserve a rich archive of our past, support internationally threatened wildlife and are instrumental in regulating and supplying water supplies and provide evocative and inspiring landscapes for all to enjoy."

Tom Stratton, Duchy of Cornwall Deputy Land Steward, said: “We are delighted to be able to support this project. As owner of the majority of sites being restored on Dartmoor, we welcome the opportunity to continue our work with the South West Peatland Partnership over the next four years to achieve the restoration of an extensive area of peatland with the attendant benefits that this provides.

“We are grateful to all those who have contributed towards the success of the funding application including the farming community who have been instrumental in helping."

Emma Browning, Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Partnership Manager, said: “This funding is vital and will contribute significantly to conserving, restoring and enhancing our landscape. Peatland habitats provide multiple benefits such as, diverse habitats which aid in recovering nature, improvement of water quality and increasing carbon capture. This critical work will build resilience to climate change, raise awareness and encourage people and communities to be actively involved.​"

Rob Wilson-North, Head of Conservation & Access, Exmoor National Park Authority, said: “We are committed to peatland restoration and pioneered restoration work on its own land on Exmoor in the 1990s and has been involved ever since. We welcome the additional funding that will enable the South West Peatland Partnership to continue its valuable work.”