20. Given that peat extraction destroys irreplaceable habitats and causes greenhouse gas emissions, there is a lamentable lack of ambition in the White Paper’s proposals to phase out peat use. We recommend that the Peat Task Force finalise an approach that ends the use of peat as soon as practicable and that a review of progress is brought forward to 2014. (Paragraph 70)
21. We recognise that it is important to enable those growers still dependent on peat to minimise the economic impact of the phase-out on their businesses. Defra should undertake an awareness campaign that promotes those alternatives to the use of peat that are already available and to encourage the public to grow plants which do not require the use of peat. (Paragraph 71)
As we have said previously, from an environmental perspective it is clear that an earlier target date for reducing horticultural use of peat to zero would be preferable. However, we also know that the replacement of peat in products sold to the amateur gardener market and used by professional growers is not without significant challenge. It is also important to ensure that the shift from peat to peat alternatives does not have perverse impacts either on the environment or the long term sustainability of the UK horticulture industry.
Since publication of the NEWP, the Sustainable Growing Media Task Force, chaired by Dr Alan Knight, has made excellent progress in improving the quality of the debate around this issue. In early July, Dr Knight submitted his report to Defra (see http://www.defra.gov.uk/peat-taskforce/work/chairmans-report) which includes a draft roadmap setting out the steps that industry, government and other organisations need to take to move towards sustainable growing media in the shortest time possible. We welcome the report and are grateful for the work of Dr Knight and the Task Force, and will provide a full government response to its findings by the end of 2012. We remain committed to a policy review before the end of 2015, which will be based at least in part on an assessment of progress against the roadmap.
We note with interest the Committee’s recommendation for a public awareness campaign. It is important that this is viewed in the context of Dr Knight’s report, based on conversations with industry experts, which recommends that “transformation should be encouraged through choice editing rather than consumer education or campaigns”. We have not yet formed a view on this issue, but will cover this in our response to the Task Force report later in the year.
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