Who owns our carbon?

A new investigation by Who Owns England has found that 1 million acres of England’s deep peat, our single largest carbon sink, is owned by just 124 landowners.

That amounts to 60% of England’s total area of deep peat, meaning that the majority of our largest carbon sink lies in the hand of a vanishingly small number of landowners.

This startling fact has huge implications for what happens to our deep peat. Will the owners continue to set alight our moorland peat for grouse shoots, or damage it through intensive farming, as is the case in the Fens?

Given that the UK Government has committed to only restoring 40% of our deep peat, going by the peat restoration figures in its Net Zero Strategy, its future as a carbon sink – or net source of carbon emissions – rests with this tiny elite of landowners, who have great influence on government policy.

Guy Shrubsole, environmental campaigner and author of Who Owns England?, said:

“England’s single largest carbon store is owned by a vanishingly small number of landowners, whose mismanagement of this ecosystem by burning and draining it is currently adding to the climate disaster.

“The public urgently needs to challenge these landowners to protect and restore our peatlands, so that they help fix climate breakdown rather than making it worse.

“And the UK Government must tighten its peatland burning legislation, so that landowners can no longer set fire to our carbon.”

You can download the full report, containing maps of the owners of upland and Fenland peat, here:

An accompanying Google spreadsheet of grouse moor owners is here.

An interactive map of the owners of grouse moor estates is here.

The Guardian has covered the report today here.

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