10 Nov 2022, 13:34
Benjamin Wehrmann

Moorland strategy aims to reconcile German farmers with reviving natural carbon sinks

Clean Energy Wire

A new protection strategy for moorlands adopted by Germany’s government aims to better reconcile the natural carbon sinks with land use for agriculture and other purposes, including renewable power generation. The national moorland protection strategy is supposed to re-establish drained moorlands used as dry land for for livestock grazing for example, so that biodiversity and natural carbon absorption processes in these areas can be improved. “Moorlands absorb as much carbon as all woodlands taken together. That’s why they are so important for natural climate protection,” said Germany’s environment minister Steffi Lemke, whose ministry (BMUV) devised the strategy. At the same time, about 7.5 percent of the country’s emission, roughly 53 million tonnes of CO2-equivalents, are currently caused by dried-up moorlands. Intact moorlands could not only reduce emissions, but also help protect against other dangers, such as droughts, Lemke added, calling the rewetting of vast stretches of moorland “an inter-generational task” that will take a very long time. The ministry hopes to save up to five million tonnes of CO2-equivalents until 2030. “Strong financial incentives” for rewetting are supposed to convince land owners to cooperate.

Germany’s farmer association (DBV) said affected businesses should be given a “durable perspective” for their land, which had been made arable in a “cultural-historic” effort over centuries to grow food production capacity. The lobby group head, Bernard Krüsken, said participation had to remain voluntary, pointing out that the state had supported draining projects until a few decades ago. A long-term perspective for families, businesses and communities in the region could include solar PV installations in rewetted areas as well as continued food production wherever this is reconcilable with water management aims.

Germany’s Commission for the Future of Agriculture (ZKL) found in its 2021 report that rewetting all agricultural moorlands in Germany would cost 1.35 billion euros per year. The previous government initially failed to agree a protection strategy due to a dispute between the environment and agriculture ministries but agreed on a protection programme at the end of last year.

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