The project has 16 partners from Government, business, research and landowners’ groups spread across the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Germany, Ireland and the United Kingdom. The Rivers Trust, The North Pennines AONB Partnership on behalf of Durham County Council – supported by Wear Rivers Trust – form the UK partner organisations.
3% of the world’s land surface is covered by peatlands that store almost twice as much carbon as all of the Earth’s standing forests. Europe contains 265,000 km² of various peatland types and when drained, they transform from being a carbon sink to a carbon emitter; One-third of the global CO2 emission is caused by the degradation of peatlands where land practices drain and strip the peat for energy use, crop production, and animal husbandry.
Carbon Connects aims to reduce the degradation of and carbon loss from peatlands in North-West Europe through implementing innovative business models that drive a more sustainable management of the land. Such business models include the development of blue and carbon-credit schemes that can lead to the restoration of water levels on peatland, thereby locking in the carbon. A transnational Farmer-2-Farmer learning programme will allow landowners to directly share knowledge and experiences, while actively targeting new adopters with an online toolbox of sustainable practices. The project also aims to influence policy and legislation with respect to the protection of peatlands.
Under Carbon Connects, The Rivers Trust is involved in the development of business models, including those that address flood risk from carbon-rich soils, mapping of peatlands, and restoration techniques.
The Rivers Trust is also working with Coca Cola, Kent Wildlife Trust and Canterbury University on an ancient but degraded fenland on the Kent Coast, restoring water levels and monitoring wetland carbon.
The success of the initial phase of Carbon Connects led to additional budget being secured to undertake a ‘Capitalisation’ phase that runs through to autumn 2023. Workstreams focused on market creation, access and engagement, unlocking financing mechanisms, and matchmaking between buyers and sellers have yielded investment into peatland restoration across the project partners. This has been supported though the development of innovative materials including a carbon toolbox, Storymaps and a coaching programme.