CO2 target to be boosted by peat bog rules change

WORLD leaders are expected to sign an agreement this week on carbon emissions from peat bogs that will see Scotland move a major step closer to meeting its ambitious targets on climate change.

Experts and policy makers will gather in the Mexican city of Cancun tomorrow for the United Nations' annual Climate Change Conference.

Scotland is host to around 60 per cent of the UK's total peat bog land. Bogs that have been damaged by poor forestry, farming or drainage systems cause "carbon leakage", sending millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year.

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Climate rules at present do not allow emissions reduced by the mending of peat bogs to count towards a country's carbon reduction ambitions.

But scientists believe legislation will be signed this week that will allow any reduction in carbon emissions from damaged bogs to be applied to the targets.

Scotland has the most ambitious carbon reduction targets in the world, aiming to slash carbon output by 42 per cent by 2020. Figures earlier this year showed emissions have dropped by 21 per cent since 1990, meeting the halfway mark.

But experts believe the Cancun agreement could allow Scotland to slash carbon emissions by a further 2.7 million tonnes a year - around 5 per cent of the annual carbon output of 68 million tonnes north of the Border.

Scientists estimate peat bogs in Scotland store three billion tonnes of harmful gases, most stored deep underground. When the bogs are damaged, the carbon leaks to the surface and some of it is released into the atmosphere. Figures compiled by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Peatland Programme (IUCNPP) show that the the UK's peat bogs emit as much carbon dioxide UK-wide as 1 million homes.

IUCNPP director Clifton Bain said: "There is a new proposal going through the land use part of the discussions that will allow countries to include the restoration of damaged peat bogs in carbon reduction targets. The impact of all of the past damage to the peat bogs is certainly emitting carbon into the atmosphere. If the bogs are mended, that can help significantly."