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Peatlands conference comes to Scotland

| Written by Hans J Marter

THE CHAIRMAN of Sustainable Shetland, the group that opposes the large scale Viking Energy wind farm project, has welcomed the news that Scotland is hosting a high powered international conference on the role of peatlands in meeting climate change targets.

Experts from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will be in Scotland at the end of January next year.

Billy Fox said that the Under-Secretary General for the United Nations’ Environment Programme, Achim Steiner, had already in 2007 acknowledged the importance of peatlands in combating climate change.

“Scotland has a large part to play in mitigating climate change by protecting and conserving its peatland habitat,” Mr Fox said on Sunday.

Stewart Stevenson, the Scottish government minister responsible for tackling climate change, said the meeting would be an important step towards better understanding of the role carbon-rich peatlands has in contributing to the nation's climate change ambitions.

"Scotland has iconic, internationally significant peatland resources, and we need to manage them not only to help meet our climate change ambitions, but also as important reservoirs of biodiversity that stretch from the Borders to the outer islands of our country.

"The IPCC is currently finalising a programme of work which will look to allow wetland management - including peatland restoration - to be incorporated into international greenhouse gas reporting - a position the Scottish Government fully supports,” he said.

Professor Des Thompson, principal adviser for biodiversity in Scottish Natural Heritage added: "In Scotland we have some of the very best examples of peatland restoration in Europe, and we are delighted to share this experience with IPCC experts. 

“By improving the state of peatlands we can make a significant contribution to reducing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere."

Peatlands are significant stores of carbon, which if allowed to dry out through drainage or disturbance, will release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. 

It is possible to restore damaged areas of peat, although the process of restoration is complex and variable in effectiveness. 

The Viking Energy wind farm, consisting of 127 large turbines, is proposed to be built in its entirety on peatlands. A planning application is awaiting a decision depending on ongoing talks between the developer and Scottish Natural Heritage over the project’s impact on the rare whimbrel population.

The developer has always maintained that building the wind farm would allow for the restoration of areas of damaged peatlands, while opponents argue that building a wind farm on peatlands would release more CO² than could be saved over the lifetime of the wind turbines.

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