The UK’s biggest carbon store is going up in smoke, and it is an issue that really concerns the North West BT Unions Health & Safety Cor-ord member Brian Coupland. Brian is a Union Safety Rep in the Greater Mersey Amal Branch.
He highlighted a new investigation by Friends of the Earth that reveals that landowners of moorland appear to be flouting voluntary agreements to stop burning them for grouse shooting, telling Unionsafety that he is appalled that land owners are acting with such dismissal of global warming and the fact that they are releasing millions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere, which adds to the global warming we are seeing today.
In the article on the FoE website, Guy Shrubsole and Alasdair Cameron published a report detailing the issues and problems concerned:
The ground is black and burned. For miles around the hills are quiet and almost bare, covered in a patchwork of heather and access roads. Distant plumes of smoke rise from a neighbouring valley, evidence that one of the UK’s most important ecosystems is on fire.
This was the scene we witnessed recently on a Yorkshire moor – and it’s something that we believe is not supposed to be happening any more.
Friends of the Earth has uncovered evidence that moorland estates managed for grouse shooting are still burning on protected blanket bogs – potentially in breach of a recent voluntary agreement to end the practice – and the government’s green watchdog Natural England is now investigating further.
Blanket bogs, a threatened moorland habitat, are one of the UK’s biggest carbon stores, locking up millions of tonnes of climate-altering gases. They cover a vast expanse of the country’s uplands, and should be ideal spaces for wildlife.
Burning on blanket bogs has a devastating ecological impact: studies show it damages a rare ecosystem, worsens climate change by drying out the peat and releasing carbon dioxide, and increases flooding downstream. The government’s Committee on Climate Change says that damage to UK peat soils is causing a staggering 18.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) to be released to the atmosphere every year – more than all the oil refineries in the UK emit annually. The damage is such that the European Commission is undertaking legal proceedings against the UK government for allowing landowners to damage blanket bogs in this way, following complaints by local residents and the RSPB.
But, predictably, the government has been slow to act. Last year, Environment Secretary Michael Gove belatedly acknowledged the damage being done, and encouraged landowners to sign voluntary agreements to cease rotational burning on blanket bog.
How many would keep to their word?
Friends of the Earth decided to investigate this and you can read the full report here