Marina Škunca | 19.06. 2023

In the words of one of Britain’s greatest writers, J. R. R. Tolkien: “The world is changing: I feel it in the water, I feel it in the earth, and I smell it in the air”. Of course, for those less sentimental and more inclined to believe the cold, hard facts, the same conclusion can be drawn from the reports of eminent global and European agencies studying the current twin crises of biodiversity loss and climate change.

And then there are peatlands. Peatlands that, in a conserved or at least restored state, play a vital role in achieving global and pan-European climate and sustainability goals. Peatlands are in the spotlight every year, especially during those spring and summer months when extremely high or extremely low water levels make national headlines and summer wildfires threaten human lives and livelihoods. These are the same peatlands that are massively degrading in Europe.

Cooperation at the European level is urgently needed to conserve European peatlands, halt their degradation, and scale up their restoration. At COP26, an initial dialogue was held to set up a Europe-wide initiative for peatlands, and our EUKI project recently started to help build this initiative.

On 8-9th May in Dublin, the European Peatlands Initiative (EPI) Development Meeting was hosted by the Irish Government and facilitated by Bax & Company. Representatives of the European governments of Germany, Latvia, Ireland, the Netherlands, Iceland, Lithuania, and the UN Environment Programme attended the meeting.

Eurosite Director Harm Schoten presented the EUKI project, “Building the European Peatlands Initiative: a strong alliance for peatland climate protection in Europe”, during the meeting. At the same time, Jan Peters, Managing Director of our implementing partner Succow Foundation/Greifswald Mire Centre (GMC), gave an insight into the peatland’s distribution and status in Europe and their utilisation in the European Union.

After a series of roundtable discussions and an inspiring field visit to a blanket bog restoration project in the Wicklow Mountains National Park, Ireland, participants, each with their own unique perspective, reaffirmed the need for the EPI and an agreement was reached:

A preparatory group should be established to carry forward the European Peatlands Initiative (EPI) work, comprised of representatives from the national governments and stakeholders. This dedicated task force should introduce the next phase of the EPI development process by leading the consultations on the aims and vision of the future initiative, developing its governance structure and work plan, and identifying resourcing options and test-bed activities, among others.

A few days before this event, the EUKI project was a popular topic at another meeting – the LIFE Peatland Platform (the benefits of peatland restoration for Europe, hosted by NABU – Naturschutzbund Deutschland e.V. in Berlin, Germany).

As one of the few non-LIFE projects present, we greatly appreciated the opportunity to present our project to a wide audience of experts, researchers and decision-makers. During the two-day meeting, we had the opportunity to learn more about the main challenges for peatland protection and restoration in Europe, discuss possible future actions of the European Peatland Initiative, and explore potential synergies with other European peatland projects.

All in all, we have had a busy first half of the year. And if the European peatland calendar is anything to go by, this year’s adventures are only just beginning. Stay tuned for more peatland news!