Peatland restoration, woodland creation, habitat improvements and soil management all offer scope to reduce carbon emissions.
Peatland Restoration is an emerging sector in land management and is widely recognised as an effective way to capture carbon. It is estimated that the UK, and Scotland in particular, has a substantial land area of degraded peatland which is actively emitting carbon. Peatland restoration of degraded peatland has the capacity to sequester a significant amount of carbon. This work will contribute to UK and Scottish targets to reduce carbon emissions substantially by 2050.
Peatland Action, administered by NatureScot, makes funds available to applicants to carry out peatland restoration works on approved schemes. For more information on Peatland Action please click on the following hyperlink Peatland ACTION Project | NatureScot
What does Peatland Restoration Work Involve?
The method used for peatland restoration will vary between projects depending on the condition of the peat and the land surrounding it. Some of the most common techniques include ditch blocking, bunding, reprofiling, and surface smoothing. Further information on each of these techniques can be found on the Peatland ACTION YouTube Channel by clicking of the hyperlink SNH Peatland ACTION video 1 Ditch Blocking
Peatland Restoration on Croft Land
Who needs to be involved?
It is likely that most peatland restoration projects will take place on common grazings as opposed to on an individual croft. The stakeholders in a common grazing are the landlord and the crofters with a share in the grazings, and anyone else who has grazing rights.
It is essential that all parties are fully informed at the outset of any restoration proposal as the crofters with rights in common grazing have rights in legislation which must be considered.
In addition there are several other organisations that many need to be enaged with including:
What to consider.
There are a number of different aspects which require careful consideration in advance of a project taking place including:
Crofting legislation provides that the crofters sharing in a common grazings are entitled to half the development value of any development that takes place on a common grazings. Questions could arise as to whether peatland restoration is a development (involving changes to hydrology and building of dams), a conservation activity or an improvement (for instance, reprofiling exposed peat with vegetation).
We strongly recommend that all parties seek independent legal advice.
What are Carbon Credits?
Some peatland restoration projects are also validated under the voluntary Peatland Code, which makes provision for trading carbon units. The Peatland Code provides assurance for investors in peatland restoration projects through independent validation and verification. Further information on the Peatland can be found by clicking in this hyperlink Peatland Code
The potential amount of carbon that a peatland restoration project can sequester is calculated in advance of a project, which can then be validated and registered as “carbon credits” and traded as a commodity. There is increasing interest amongst investors and business, as it is possible to purchase carbon credits to “offset” emissions. Carbon credits must be validated and registered in advance of any peatland restoration work taking place. It is important to note that there is requirement for ongoing monitoring, management revalidation of the restored areas for projects registered with the Peatland Code.
Whether a project should be validated under the Peatland Code, and who would be entitled to the revenue generated from the sale of any carbon credits, is a matter that the parties involved would have to take specialist advice on. There could be risks as well as benefits in validating any project under the Peatland Code, and there can be substantial upfront costs associated with having any project validated. It is likely that any projects that involve commercialisation of carbon sequestration would require the crofters and the landlord to collaborate and possibly to make an application to the Scottish Land Court, for instance if a Scheme for Development under section 19A is proposed.
At the moment, the Peatland Code is the only basis for trading carbon units, but it is possible that other standards could be developed in future that could become commercially acceptable.
You should refer to the Peatland Code for information. The full code can be found via the following hyperlink:
The information included in this page does not constitute legal advice, is it vital that those considering a peatland restoration project on croft land seek their own legal advice.
It depends what is being proposed. It is for the body approving any scheme (Peatland Action) to decide who is eligible to apply, and whether consensus amongst shareholders is required. Should the landlord and crofters wish to collaborate to commercialise any carbon sequestration and make an appropriate application to the Land Court, unanimity amongst the shareholders would be beneficial but not essential for any project to go ahead.
Again, it depends on what is being proposed. It would be for Peatland Action to decide who is eligible to apply. If an application is made to the Scottish Land Court, any crofter having a share in the common grazings would be entitled to object.
Anyone interested should refer to Peatland Action eligibility criteria. If any restoration project is being commercialised for the purposes of carbon trading, it is very likely that the landlord would have to take the initiative and collaborate with the crofters.
It is for the body approving any scheme (Peatland Action) to decide who is eligible to apply, and whether consensus amongst shareholders is required. Should the landlord and crofters wish to collaborate to commercialise any carbon sequestration and make an appropriate application to the Land Court, unanimity amongst the shareholders would be beneficial but not essential for any project to go ahead.
Unless crofters individually agree to suspend their peat cutting rights by way for instance of a section 5(3) agreement under the Crofters (Scotland) Act 1993 or the Land Court issues an order suspending peat cutting rights for the period of the development, peat cutting rights would remain unaffected. However, crofters might choose not to exercise any such rights where Peatland Action has decided to fund a peatland restoration scheme.
This is without prejudice to the Commission’s powers to draw up a scheme regulating the use by crofters of peat bogs in terms of section 52(9) of the 1993 Act and the power of grazings regulations to make provision for the cutting of peat.
Unless crofters individually agree to reduce their souming (grazing) rights by way for instance of a section 5(3) agreement under the Crofters (Scotland) Act 1993 or the Land Court issues an order suspending or restricting souming (grazing) rights for the period of the development, souming rights would remain unaffected. However, crofters might choose not to use, or modify, their souming where Peatland Action has decided to fund a peatland restoration scheme.
This is without prejudice to the power of grazings regulations to make provision for the alteration of individual soumings and the number and kinds of stock which each crofter is entitled to put on the common grazings.
More information can be found via this hyperlink Guidance for land managers - Grazing peatland
The monies made available through Peatland Action are paid to the contractor carrying out the work. Where the landlord and crofters collaborate in the commercialisation of a peatland restoration project, they will have to agree terms on the basis of independent advice.
Crofters are entitled to compensation for any loss of grazing as a result of resumption, and similar provisions relate to any Scheme for Development.
There is no clear answer to this question, and possibly the more relevant question is who has the right to sell carbon credits and how they do so. Should it be intended that carbon credits will be sold, parties with an interest should take their own independent advice on the matter.
You should refer to the Peatland Code for information.
More details can be found at: Peatland Code