New €12m peatlands fund signifies ‘clear benefits’ of EU membership, says Defra

A new €12m fund from the European Union (EU) to restore and preserve blanket areas of peatlands is an example of how the Government can protect and enhance the environment by remaining in the EU, Environment Minister Rory Stewart has claimed.

The MoorLIFE 2020 project has received €12m in funding from the EU to protect thousands of acres of South Pennines peatlands to provide new habitats for wildlife and boost local tourism. Peatlands across the UK are considered “internationally rare” and account for around 50% of the UK’s carbon stores.

The five year scheme, run by the Moors for the Future Partnership – which has previously protected 2,500 hectares through a separate €5m EU fund – will see the Environment Agency (EA) and Natural England work to improve water quality in the area, while also working to reduce flood and fire risks.

For the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), this fund not only provides another example of how it is following through with its newly established five year plan, but also how the UK can enhance the environment by remaining in the EU.

“EU membership provides clear benefits for our natural environment, both at home and abroad,” Defra’s Environment Minister Rory Stewart said. “Funding provided from the EU to the Moors for the Future Partnership, will ensure the protection of our distinct landscapes and priority international habitats across the South Pennines.

“Through partnership working, crucial conservation and scientific work, alongside innovative techniques, we can fully understand and protect our moorland habitats for future generations. We can protect and enhance the environment far more effectively if EU countries continue to work together as part of a reformed European Union.”

Uncertain environment

The funding, which is a part of the EU’s LIFE platform, will see Defra and the EA work to protect peatlands, which could cut UK emissions by 200 million tonnes by following the Peatland Code to get businesses to fund restoration projects.

But with the Environment Protection Agency using areas in Ireland to explain how peatlands can combat climate change, Defra has again attempted to stoke the “No Brexit” fire.

Speaking exclusively to edie, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said that demand for environmental experts would drop and Britain’s voice on international climate change negotiations would be lost if the nation votes to leave the EU.

Lucas echoed the sentiments offered by a group of high-level environment experts in claiming that Britain’s membership has had a “hugely positive effect” on the quality of Britain’s environment. The group, which penned a letter to Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss earlier this year, warned that policies ranging from energy efficiency to natural capital could be threatened by leaving the EU.

Even edie readers have been having their say on next month’s referendum. With reports noting that the UK could ‘exercise global leadership’ on climate change in a reformed EU, 74% of edie readers have revealed that they will be voting to remain in the EU.

Matt Mace

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