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Our programme goal:

To catalyse enabling conditions for ambitious policy change in the EU to
protect and restore peatlands.

Our work in Germany focused on:
Catalysing public and private sector support and action for the implementation of peatland restoration in Germany.

What happened

As we scoped our programme to restore Europe’s peatlands, we quickly identified peatland-rich Germany as a key country. Not only was it a potential advocate for the Nature Restoration Law – a piece of legislation passing through the European Parliament in 2022 and 2023 – but it was also working towards a national level Natural Climate Protection action programme (ANK), a key opportunity to strengthen domestic action for peatlands rewetting. Working with organisations active on the ground in Germany we identified two pathways to deliver action for peatlands: building a public base of knowledge and support for these ecosystems, and strengthening business advocacy for their protection.

Building public awareness

Firstly, we partnered with Greifswald Mire Centre (GMC) and Eurosite on a communications campaign to raise the profile of peatlands across Germany, to build a shared understanding of the ecosystem’s importance, and drive public support for their protection and restoration. By bringing GMC – Europe’s foremost scientific body on peatlands – together with the creative campaign expertise of Eurosite we hoped we could bridge the gap between the scientific community and the public.

We brought new perspectives into the conversation, such as communities actively living and working on or around peatlands, while also linking this back to the critical benefits of peatlands, including for water table management, food security and carbon storage. In total our communications campaign reached over five million people across Germany, and over 1.4 million thruplays across platforms (thruplays indicate the number of times a video is played to completion or at least 15 seconds). We also supported the release of the Peatland (Moor) Atlas 2023 – both in German and English internationally – further raising the profile of this critical ecosystem. The Atlas was widely covered through the media, and used by the broader peatlands community and key politicians.

Building business support

Our mission to build business support for peatland protection focused on showing that environmentally friendly usage of peatlands isn’t at odds with business goals. Paludiculture, the cultivation of plants on rewetted peatlands, is a little-known solution that needed to be communicated to businesses — and
implemented at scale.

To that end, we supported the Environmental Foundation Michael Otto in building an Alliance of Pioneers that would pave the way for paludiculture to be integrated into the market. The Foundation conducted a feasibility study to demonstrate which economic sectors had the best potential to establish value chains with paludiculture, and launched an informational campaign to educate candidate companies
on the opportunity. The result: eight major German companies joined the Alliance, with the ambition of introducing materials cultivated on rewetted peatlands into their value chains.

We also supported GMC in promoting paludiculture at the Power to the Peatlands conference, the largest gathering of peatland conservationists in Europe. At the Paludifair, presentations from startups like sustainable insulation maker Ponda and construction material maker Wetland Products Foundation amazed even the most knowledgeable peatland experts in attendance with the range of possible applications for paludiculture — shedding light on another powerful tool in their toolbox in the fight for peatland protection.

Wins and Losses

  • GMC was able to boost its social media presence and leverage digital channels to share their work and educate their audiences on peatlands.
  • Throughout the communications campaign GMC was able to reach 5 million people across Germany and gather over 5.6 million impressionsacross all platforms.
  • We saw significant interest to learn more about the topic of peatlands in Germany. For example, video content from the paid campaign resulted in over 1.4 million thruplays (thruplays indicate the number of times a video is played to completion or at least 15 seconds) and total minutes viewed came in at around 414,000.
  • By centering our communications campaign around the stories of those working and living on or around peatlands, we were able to bring new and relatable perspectives to the conversations around peatland protection and restoration.
  • Peat Atlas resulted in a strong boost in the mainstream awareness of peatlands in Germany. It gained significant media coverage
  • Our partners reported that collaborating with other peatland advocates through our programme helped them make new connectionsand think outside the box, overall strengthening action on peatlands in Germany.
  • The Environmental Foundation Michael Otto succeeded in securing eight companies for its Alliance of Pioneers for paludiculture, thus laying the foundation for value chains to be built up using materials grown on sustainably managed peatlands.
  • Running a significant digital campaign takes significant time and resources that can add strain to smaller organisations, which can impact the speed of campaign delivery.
  • Peatlands are difficult for a general audience to connect and resonate with. Communicating the science behind why peatlands matter and theneed to be rewetted proved to be a significant challenge.
  • Peatlands are difficult for a general audience to connect and resonate with. Communicating thescience behind why peatlands matter and the need to be rewetted proved to be a significant challenge.
  • The argument that food security supersedes climate concerns was loud and clear in response to our content across social media. This was heightened by the war in Eastern Europe and the oil, gas, and grains crisis that followed. Countering this narrative was challenging due to its connection with people’s livelihood and survival, but we prioritised creating informative content to provide more data showing how climate damaging agriculture subsidies compares with the costs to society caused by climate change.
  • Getting candidate companies for the Alliance of Pioneers to understand the issue of peatland degradation and the potential for paludiculture required a steep learning curve. More effort must be put into educating businesses on the potential for the sustainable use of rewetted peatlands.

What did we learn?

Introducing the public to peatlands in an effective and compelling way requires a specific approach and evidence-based starting point. What peatlands are, how they work to store carbon, and the scale at which CO2 emissions and the impact degraded peatlands have on a nation’s emissions can be a difficult concept for the broader public to relate to. Social media engagement with our communications campaign affirmed this and highlighted how people often interpreted the messages about peatland’s climate importance as in direct opposition to the importance of food security and agriculture. Our message testing project showed that wildlife messaging produces a stronger emotional connection than climate change as motivation for peatland protection and restoration and should therefore be NGOs’ first line of messaging when speaking to new audiences. Once an audience is engaged, it is then possible to move to more advanced themes such as climate change, carbon storage, and flood mitigation. Any future communications campaign to raise awareness about peatlands would benefit from using this as a starting point.

Highlighting the voices of people directly affected and involved with an issue is compelling, even for audiences with divergent views on the issue. Despite progress during the time working on peatlands, there is still a need for increased public and private sector awareness, which requires further communications work at scale. Delivering a large-scale, collaborative approach to raise public awareness of peatlands would require significant resources and several large organisations to work together, delivering the same message to their respective audiences. Our targeted communications campaign showed the importance of bringing in voices of those directly affected by the issue in any such campaign. The content which gave voice to farmers who have historically been responsible for peatland drainage and consequent emissions had the most effective reach and engagement. Truly engaging with farmers on the issue of peatlands protection and restoration also meant that the message could not simply be ‘stop farming on peatlands’ or ‘leave them undisturbed’, and that any communications campaign would have to be more nuanced and highlight the opportunities of paludiculture and alternative land use in collaboration rather than
opposition with farmers. Any large scale communications campaign aiming to raise public and private awareness of the importance of peatlands, must approach this goal as a community effort.

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