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The problem with peatlands in Europe 

When we began our peatland programme in 2022, the scale of the challenge ahead was stark. Half of all of Europe’s peatlands were degraded. In Germany alone, over 90 per cent of all peatlands had been drained, mostly for agricultural use. Degraded peatlands lose their ability to absorb and store carbon, robbing them of their vital role as climate heroes. These degraded peatlands also release carbon back into the atmosphere, become less habitable for biodiversity and reduce their function as important water buffers. 

The only way to reverse this trend is to rewet the peat. Rewetting just 3 per cent of peatlands would reduce greenhouse gas emissions from EU agriculture by a quarter. But with growing demands for land use, climate and nature benefits often go ignored. 

“The cooperation with Climate Catalyst was characterised by openness, partnership, extremely solution-oriented and unbureaucratic. We have succeeded in strengthening each other in the synergy topics and learning from each other together.”

Claudia Bühler
Environmental Foundation Michael Otto

Bringing together peatlands experts & the private sector

Climate Catalyst’s role is to catalyse climate action and activate new actors that can make a difference. When it comes to working on peatlands in Germany, the organisation at the forefront is Greifswald Mire Centre (GMC). They are world-leading researchers and advocates for peatlands, and needed support to strengthen their work. We collaborated with GMC and via its partner, the Michael Succow Foundation, on a number of projects. This work included policy advocacy efforts on two key pieces of legislation, the Action Programme Natural Climate Protection (ANK) in Germany and the EU Nature Restoration Law. Additionally, Climate Catalyst helped them grow their communications capacity to deliver a national “Mooratlas”, an international Peatland Atlas and a social media campaign to raise awareness of peatland degradation in Germany – reaching close to five million people.

In late 2022, GMC presented us with an opportunity to support a novel initiative aimed at engaging businesses on the potential benefits of rewetting peatlands and the products that can be grown within them. This is known as ‘paludiculture’ – or wet farming. GMC, alongside their partners (namely the Environmental Foundation Michael Otto), had developed an idea to establish an ‘Alliance of Pioneers’ on paludiculture in Germany (otherwise known as the ToMOORow Initiative).  

The initiative pushes innovative businesses to launch pilot paludiculture projects in different industrial sectors and value chains, such as construction, paper and packaging. Companies of the alliance committed to test, learn and optimise the practical application of paludiculture biomass in their production chains and create a demand signal from businesses to incentivise farmers to rewet their peatland. Jan Peters from the Michael Succow Foundation said if they could pull it off, the alliance would be a “game changer” for peatland restoration efforts. 

Through Climate Catalyst’s financial support, a vital first step was taken for the ‘Alliance of Pioneers’ to be established via the ToMOORow Initiative, alongside a pilot project with the Otto Group for the production of shipping cartons using products from rewetted peatlands. 

“The potential for climate and species protection [from this initiative] – but also for the economy and agriculture – is enormous! Nationwide, around one million hectares of peatland could be rewetted and still be farmed. With the cultivation of reeds, cattails, peat mosses or sedges, for example, farmers can supply renewable raw materials that can replace fossil resources and improve the carbon footprint of companies. At the same time, regional value creation is initiated and reliable supply chains are created.” 

Jan Peters
Managing Director of Michael Succow Foundation, partner in the Greifswald Mire Centre  

Unlocking vital funds for peatland restoration

Thanks to the Alliance of Pioneers project, supported by our grant, the partners were able to engage more companies – from sectors such as paper and construction – on the potential for paludiculture biomass to be integrated into larger business chains. As a result, paludiculture activities were no longer limited to small entrepreneurs. 

Using key resources supported by our grant, including the Peatland Atlas and a feasibility study showing that companies could incorporate 5 to 10 per cent paludiculture biomass into their production processes, the ToMOORow Initiative was able to educate and engage many more companies and bring them on board in support of restoring peatlands. Today, some 14 companies are actively engaged, including major players like Procter & Gamble. 

“We have been able to inspire and win over companies that are willing to build value chains with this new, regional and renewable raw material and to develop products through pilot projects and scale them into industrial production. This creates demand, this creates income for agriculture.” 

Claudia Bühler
Executive Director of the Environmental Foundation Michael Otto 

In April 2024, our partners at the Environmental Foundation Michael Otto, Greifswald Mire Centre and Michael Succow Foundation gained German policy maker support, securing a grant of €1.8 million from German Federal Ministry of Agriculture (BMEL) via the ANK. This grant will enable them to build a platform to connect with farmer communities and recruit additional capacity to support these efforts. They are now considering expanding this model to the European level and beyond.

This initiative could have a huge impact. Demand from these pioneering businesses will make rewetting peatlands attractive to farmers, moving beyond uncertain subsidies to a more sustainable and promising market solution. And, early calculations show that substituting just 10 per cent of industry’s raw materials with paludiculture biomass would fulfil all of Germany’s peatland restoration targets

The power of collective action 

Reflecting on our peatland journey and partnerships with key organisations like GMC and Environmental Foundation Michael Otto, we saw a clear trajectory towards impact: from national-level policy engagement and informing and educating businesses – to forming a coalition and activating the private sector, creating of a first-of-a-kind paludiculture alliance. This illustrates the value of Climate Catalyst’s partner-led model, and of the vital role of business and private sector engagement in environmental initiatives. Activating the private sector remains a core part of our value proposition and a focus of our ongoing programmes on steel decarbonisation in India and net zero aviation in Europe.

To discover more about our past project on peatlands in Europe, explore our past programme here.

“Engaging with Climate Catalyst took us out of our comfort zone and it was a very good learning for me and our team. It allowed us to connect intensively to others working on the Nature Restoration Law coalition – also private sector stakeholders. It was a truly transformative campaign.”

Jan Peters
Michael Succow Stiftung, Partner in the Greifswald Mire Centre

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