Heathrow announces investment in its first peatland restoration project as part of carbon neutrality target
Heathrow and the Lancashire Wildlife Trust staff visit peatlands
Mon 24 Sept 2018 – As part of plans to be carbon neutral by 2020, Heathrow Airport is to invest £94,000 ($124,000) in a peatland restoration pilot project in the north-west of England. Peatlands represent the UK’s biggest store of carbon despite 94% of natural peatland having been either destroyed or damaged. The airport believes that by supporting research into the climate benefits of peatland restoration, the pilot project will help explore opportunities for peatland to deliver cost effective carbon offsetting alongside a range of other benefits such as biodiversity, water quality and flood protection. It also hopes similar projects would make a good option for airlines as part of their CORSIA carbon offsetting commitments. Heathrow says it aims to operate zero carbon airport infrastructure by 2050 and has announced Terminal 2 is now powered entirely by renewable means.
Heathrow will be working with the Lancashire Wildlife Trust and the government’s environment ministry DEFRA to restore an area of peat bog land west of Manchester that has been subject to commercial peat extraction for over 15 years. Restoration will take place over three years and the restored site will continue to be publicly accessible for cycling, walks and community events. It will involve pumping water to the site, planting native plant species and eventually allowing the area to restore its habitat and wildlife.
According to the IUCN UK Peatland Programme, deep peat covers an estimated 3 million hectares – 12% of the UK land area – and provides a store of at least 3,000 million tonnes of carbon, which is 20 times as much carbon stored in the whole of the UK’s forest biomass. However, 10 million tonnes of CO2 per year are being lost to the atmosphere from the UK’s damaged peatlands, it says.
The Little Woolden Moss pilot project will restore 70 hectares of peatland and DEFRA indicators show restoration could lead to savings of 22,427 tonnes of CO2 over 30 years, which Heathrow says is the equivalent to nearly 64,000 passenger journeys from the airport to New York.
Following this pilot project, Heathrow says it plans to invest in more peatland restoration projects over the next two years and is already exploring other locations.
“We are very excited to announce our partnership with the Lancashire Wildlife Trust and explore how UK peatlands can be used as a carbon offsetting tool,” said Heathrow Airport CEO John Holland-Kaye. “Climate change is the greatest challenge our generation is facing and while this is just the first of many projects, we hope it will be a model for the aviation industry to follow.”
To achieve its aim of operating zero carbon airport infrastructure by 2050, day to day operation of the infrastructure must result in no emissions of greenhouse gases, explains the airport. With all of the airport running on 100% renewable electricity since April 2017, Heathrow claims it is already nearly 80% towards it zero carbon goal. Terminal 2 has 124 solar panels on its roof, an on-site biomass boiler using locally sourced forestry waste, and renewable gas and electricity supplies.
Heathrow has recently joined the global Science Based Targets initiative, pledging that it will align its emissions targets with the goals of the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees. It says it is one of only 11 companies to be accredited and the first airport at the Level 2 Carbon Trust Supply Chain Standard, which recognises work with suppliers to target year-on-year reductions in supply chain carbon emissions.