Peatland rewilding can mitigate climate change and benefit people and nature in myriad other ways. A new grant from the US-based Grantham Foundation will see Rewilding Europe work to fund landscape-scale peatland rewilding through the sale of nature-based carbon credits.
The power of peat
When peatlands are restored through rewetting they change from carbon sources to carbon sinks. This means that instead of emitting carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere, they start to absorb and lock up atmospheric carbon. This makes rewilding them a hugely attractive climate solution. Restoring peatlands can also enhance biodiversity, support nature-based economic development, and help to regulate water flow in times of drought and heavy rainfall.
Yet despite this array of benefits, only a tiny fraction of Europe’s 12 million hectares of degraded peatland are currently being restored, mostly with the support of public funds or philanthropic donations. For European peatland rewilding to be scaled up to the point where it can really make a meaningful difference, private sector finance will be critical.
Boosting the investability of large-scale peatland rewilding initiatives is the ultimate aim of “Rewilding Climate Solutions”, a platform being developed by Rewilding Europe with the support of a new two million euro grant from the Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment.
The aim of the platform is to enhance the commercially viability of peatland rewilding initiatives by enabling them to sell nature-based carbon credits to private investors. Such credits would differ from more traditional carbon credits in that their focus would be to facilitate the restoration of peatland habitats in line with rewilding principles. In addition to facilitating higher levels of carbon capture, such restoration would generate a range of other co-benefits, such as increased biodiversity, clean air, and better health and wellbeing in rural communities.
Enhancing the commercially viability of peatland rewilding initiatives by connecting them with private finance would invariably see further initiatives begin, delivering a growing level of benefits to people and nature right across Europe.
“This a really exciting venture with huge scalability potential,” says Rewilding Europe’s Head of Enterprise Timon Rutten, who will lead platform development. “We want to make peatland rewilding initiatives commercially attractive, which will unlock a lot more funding on an ongoing basis. We will be looking to leverage the already significant and growing demand in the private sector for nature-based carbon credits.”
Nature and climate positive
Most companies recognise the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to guarantee a liveable and prosperous world for all – both now and in the future. For environmentally, ethically, and socially aware businesses, this means acting on their net zero and beyond net zero pledges today. While they cut emissions in their own operations and supply chains to realise these pledges, an ever growing number are looking to purchase carbon credits to support their climate ambitions.
Yet traditional carbon credits typically fail to take nature restoration into consideration. The sale of nature-based carbon credits through the Rewilding Climate Solutions platform would not only have a beneficial impact on climate change, but biodiversity too, enabling investors to meet both their climate positive and nature positive ambitions at the same time.
A multi-stage process
The new Grantham grant follows on from preliminary (Phase I) funding awarded to Rewilding Europe by the foundation in 2021. It will see Rewilding Climate Solutions put together experienced teams in a number of Rewilding Europe’s rewilding landscapes (initially the Oder Delta and Swedish Lapland), secure land, and begin large-scale peatland restoration. Phase II funding will also help the teams define the optimal standards for carbon credit development in these landscapes, as well as the best “route to market”, and to begin identifying lead carbon credit buyers and entering contracts with them.
“In short, Phase II will create the enabling conditions for a transition from a grant-funded initiative to an investment-ready business that is prepared and structured for large-scale commercial investment in pilot landscapes and beyond,” explains Timon Rutten.
The Rewilding Climate Solutions team will also investigate three new geographical areas to see whether the carbon credit business model could be a good fit there – strong potential candidates include two peatland sites in Scotland, and one forested site in Portugal.
Last but not least, Phase II will see the team work to assemble a group of businesses and individuals eager to invest in the third phase of the initiative.
“We are looking to be ready for Phase III within 18 months,” says Rutten. “Developing relationships with potential investors during this time will reduce investment lead time, increase the likelihood of successfully fundraising the 10 million-plus euros we are looking for, and enable the team to identify investors who are excited to balance financial returns with nature and climate impact.”
In 2021, Phase I funding allowed Rewilding Europe to subcontract Wetlands International – a global NGO with huge experience in the conservation and restoration of wetlands – to carry out the evaluation of 10 possible peatland restoration sites across Europe. These were then narrowed down to the two optimum sites involved in Phase II – peatlands in the Oder Delta and Swedish Lapland rewilding landscapes. Wetlands International will remain a critical partner for Rewilding Europe in Phase II and we look forward to ongoing collaboration.
Want to know more?
Those interested in finding out more about the exciting opportunities associated with Rewilding Climate Solutions should contact Timon Rutten at firstname.lastname@example.org.