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MP calls for ban on destructive moorland burning to be widened

Olivia Blake has said that new legislation to curb the practice doesn't go far enough.

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Moorland heather is burnt to create the ideal conditions to breed grouse.

Chris J Walker on Unsplash.

A Sheffield MP has called for tougher restrictions on moorland burning, which releases stored carbon into the air and exacerbates flooding in Yorkshire's towns and cities.

Labour's Olivia Blake, who has just been appointed Shadow Minister for Nature, Water and Flooding, said that new legislation doesn't go far enough to protect the UK's peatland.

Only 32% of peatland is protected by the new rules, despite being considered a habitat of international significance.

“260,000 tonnes of CO2 are released from burning on peat in England every year. To reach net zero and tackle the climate emergency we must protect this vital habitat," said Blake.

"But the government has continually failed to do this."

Heather-covered peatland is burnt to engineer the ideal habitat to breed grouse, which are then shot as a blood sport by wealthy landowners and their customers.

Taking part in a shoot can cost participants £3,500 a day, but anti-burning campaigners say the land management techniques required worsen flooding downstream from the moors.

This is because rainwater runs off bare peatland much quicker, causing rivers to rise to dangerous levels and creating flash floods in towns like Hebden Bridge.

Burning also releases carbon stored in the peat, increasing greenhouse gas emissions and accelerating climate breakdown.

The government's new Environment Bill prohibits burning on areas of deep peatland, but this only covers 32% of the 355,000 hectares of peatland in the UK.

Blake has sponsored a Labour amendment to the bill, which would extend the ban to all peatland, saying that it's time to ban the practice "once and for all."

"It is about time the government put party politics aside and support a full ban,” she added.

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