The Co-op has announced a three-year partnership with the RSPB in a project covering the restoration and long-term management of peatland.
The initial focus will be on areas of RSPB-owned upland peatland in Scotland and Wales, which are equivalent in size to around 400 football pitches, bringing vital peatland back into good condition to reduce carbon loss and help tackle the climate and environment crisis.
The Co-op said an estimated 3.2 billion tonnes of carbon are stored in peatlands, and it is believed that without any intervention to repair and preserve them, their greenhouse gas emissions could exceed the equivalent of 20 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) each year.
The projects will deliver additional environmental benefits including the protection of natural habitats for wildlife, and potentially improving water quality and reducing flood risk by regulating water flow.
The partnership will initially focus on two areas of peatland which will undergo a large-scale and complex programme of restoration and long-term management, supported by the National Peatland Action Programme in Wales and Peatland Action in Scotland.
They are Cerniau at Lake Vyrnwy in Powys, Wales, at the southern end of the Berwyn and South Clwyd mountains, and Lumbister at Yell, which is situated on one of Shetland’s most northern isles.
Guy Stuart, director of sustainability, technical and agriculture at the Co-op, said: “We are in the grip of a climate and environment emergency, a crisis which is of humankind’s making and around the world we are seeing shocking water shortages, floods, extreme heat and biodiversity losses.
“It’s widely acknowledged that de-carbonisation needs to speed up and through co-operation of the global community, we can work together to reduce carbon at a faster rate.
“Our pioneering partnership with the RSPB will play a part in helping to avoid carbon emissions through repairing vital peatlands to increase carbon stores and support our work to prioritise action where we are able to make the most impact.”
Rebecca Munro, the RSPB’s executive director for income and conservation investment, said: “For us to have any chance of averting the climate crisis we need to be working far more closely with nature; to use the solutions it offers to help lock up carbon whilst also delivering for birds and other wildlife.
“Businesses have a vital role to play in the transition to net zero and we are excited to be working with Co-op to protect and restore some of our most precious upland sites to make sure these places are delivering for our climate whilst also providing a lasting home for our wildlife.”