Environment Minister Edwin Poots has visited the Peatland Pavilion at COP26 in Glasgow to see the "global significance" of peatlands in tackling climate change.
The minister has noted the "critical role" that restoration of Northern Ireland’s peatlands "to a healthy state will play in reversing carbon and biodiversity loss".
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Peatland Pavilion, which is supported by DAERA, aims to bring together climate negotiators, peatlands experts and enthusiasts from around the world to exchange their knowledge and experiences on peatlands policy, practice, research, and innovation.
A virtual Peatland Pavilion is also available for people to access, showcasing peatland projects from around the world, including Northern Ireland case studies.
These include the Cooperation Across Borders for Biodiversity (CABB) and Collaborative Action for the Natural Network (CANN) projects, funded through the INTERREG VA programme, to restore important lowland raised and blanket bog sites; as well as the National Trust’s restoration work on Divis and Black Mountain.
Peatlands one of most valuable ecosystems
Globally, peatlands are one of the "most valuable ecosystems, holding more than twice as much carbon as the world’s forests and providing a wide range of benefits for biodiversity and society".
Restoration of Northern Ireland’s peatlands "will be key to plans to address the climate and biodiversity crises, with peatland habitats and peat soils covering 18% of Northern Ireland".
Minister Poots was invited to visit the Peatland Pavilion in Glasgow by John Martin, NI head of policy and advocacy with the UK's largest nature conservation charity RSPB, who presented the findings of the RSPB 'Valuing our Peatlands' report at the pavilion.
The minister said he was "delighted" to see the "importance of Northern Ireland’s peatlands and some of our exemplar peatland restoration projects showcased on a global stage".
"Working collaboratively with partner organisations, such as RSPB, demonstrates how we can protect and restore these valuable ecosystems," the minister said.
"Peatland restoration will play a key role in our plans to reduce carbon emissions and lead to a low-carbon, high-nature future, as envisioned through the draft Green Growth Strategy, which I recently launched on behalf of the NI Executive.”
NI Peatland Strategy
The minister added that his department has also recently consulted on a draft Northern Ireland Peatland Strategy.
"This strategy, which we hope to publish in the new year, will provide a framework for peatland conservation and restoration in Northern Ireland over the next two decades."
John Martin of the RSPB said that peatlands "are our rainforest".
"They provide vital ecosystem services such as water filtration, habitat for wildlife, and are an important carbon sink when functioning correctly," Martin explained.
"Peatland restoration is a clear example of a nature-based solution which can help us in the fight against climate change and research has also shown that peatland restoration is value for money."