Letter to Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Thursday 1st April 2021

Dear Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs,

We ask you to announce a complete ban on the sale of peat compost in the UK before the end of 2021. If the Government wants to show global leadership on the climate crisis before it hosts the COP26 climate conference, this is a vital step.

When it comes to carbon storage, protecting our peatlands is critical. Globally, peatlands store half a trillion tonnes of carbon, twice as much as the world’s forests. Unearthing this precious store of carbon store to use in the garden is needless given that there are high quality peat-free alternatives available.

It has recently been discovered that our own UK peatlands are in such a dire state that they are a net source of carbon rather than a store of carbon, according to a Government report from January 2021 which was highlighted last week by Dr Simon Evans of Carbon Brief. The effect of draining peatland and its use for agriculture is implicated here.

In 2011, the Government set voluntary targets to end sale of peat-based compost for domestic use by 2020. This has been an abject failure. A survey by the Wildlife Trusts of leading garden retailers to be published tomorrow highlights how much an enforced ban is needed. Any of the big garden centre chains or supermarkets could make a bold decision and go peat-free.

Research shows the first lockdown in 2020 created three million new gardeners – many of whom would be dismayed to realise that in unwrapping the plastic of their shop-bought compost, they are exposing carbon-dense peat to the air which oxidises and produces CO2.

We’re also asking gardeners to join the #PeatFreeApril campaign by choosing peat-free compost alternatives – or better still, by making their own compost.

Now is the time for leadership on this and to introduce legislation to completely ban the sale of peat-based compost in the UK.

Signed,

Dave Goulson, Professor of Biological Sciences and author
Alan Titchmarsh MBE
Isabella Tree, author and conservationist
Caroline Lucas MP
Kate Bradbury, TV presenter and garden writer
James Wong, TV presenter and author
Natalie Bennett, Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle
Dr Mark Avery, conservationist and author
Cleve West, landscape designer
Mark Diacono, food writer, grower and photographer
Andy Sturgeon, garden designer
Heather Martin, chairperson of Mediterranean Plants and Gardens
Mike Dilger, naturalist and broadcaster
Matt Shardlow, conservationist and writer
Jack Wallington, landscape designer and author
Brigit Strawbridge Howard, conservationist and author
Sally Nex, garden writer
Kate Blincoe, nature writer and author
Jane Perrone, podcaster and garden writer
Laurence Rose, writer and conservationist
Nic Wilson, garden and nature writer
Sara Venn, garden writer and horticulturalist
Sally Morgan, gardener and author
Fay Edwards, horticultural journalist
Derek Niemann, conservationist and author
Dr Amy-Jane Beer, naturalist and writer
Gill Lewis, author
Beth Otway, horticulturist and garden writer
Diane Sammons, For Peats Sake
Hannah Rogers, Garden Organic
Stephanie Hafferty, gardener and author
Huw Edwards, gardener and author
Sarah Wilson, horticulturalist
John Walker, gardening and environment writer, author
Dr Mark Cocker, author and conservationist
Ben Hoare, naturalist and author
Sara Hudston, writer
Nicola Chester, nature writer and naturalist
Kim Stoddart, gardener and writer
Mary Colwill, author and conservationist
Jake Rayson, forest gardener
Richard Chivers, gardener and garden writer
Becky Serle, gardener and garden writer
Lucy Hutchings, gardener and garden writer
Dr Paul Evans, nature writer, radio broadcaster and senior lecturer
Andrea Cooper, WI Climate Ambassador
Pauline Handley, WI Climate Ambassador
John Cossham, Low Carbon Living exponent and Master Composter
Mark Binnersley, campaigner
Ian Carter, ornithologist and author
Mary Montague, poet and nature writer
Ed Douglas, writer and journalist
Harriet Mead, sculptor and president of the Society of Wildlife Artists
Cal Flyn, writer
Mark Hood, professional gardener and Green Party Councillor