I thank Olivia Blake for bringing the debate today and giving Members the opportunity to discuss a critical but often overlooked element of the fight against climate change and efforts to rebalance land use.
A key issue that I want to highlight is the effect of muirburn on peatlands and peat bogs, which are critical for preserving biodiversity, minimising flood risk and fighting climate change. Peat acts as a carbon store, storing more carbon than all other vegetation types in the world combined. As a result, 6% of manmade CO2 emissions come from damage done to peatlands. In Scotland’s case, peatland covers more than a fifth of the entire country and stores about 1.5 billion tonnes of carbon, so it is crucial for the environment that steps are taken to protect it from deterioration. I am pleased to say that the Scottish Government have acknowledged that and the important part that peat plays in the ambition to become a carbon-neutral country. They have put 25,000 acres on the road to recovery, with a pledge of £250 million for peatland restoration over the next decade.
Unfortunately, irresponsible muirburn on grouse shooting estates can pose a major threat to the stability of peatlands. Research by the University of Leeds found that burning grouse moors degrades peatland habitat, releases climate-altering gases, reduces biodiversity and increases flood risk.