Heathrow pays towards peat bog restoration – but its contribution to offsetting Heathrow’s carbon is infinitesimal


Heathrow Airport begins peatland restoration carbon offsetting project – [it’s greenwashing, but money going to a good cause]

The restoration of the UK’s peatland bogs forms part of Heathrow’s plans to be a carbon neutral airport by 2020. [sic]  By supporting research into the climate benefits of peatland restoration, Heathrow hopes to show that projects like this will make a good option for airlines’ CORSIA commitments. CORSIA (Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation) is an international agreement to deliver carbon neutral growth in aviation from 2020.  [sic]

The pilot project will help explore opportunities for peatland to deliver cost-effective carbon offsetting, alongside a range of other benefits including biodiversity, water quality, and flood protection.

Heathrow has invested more than £94,000 (US$124,000) in Little Woolden Moss to restore 70 hectares of peatland that has, up until now, been used for extraction.

[But see below:  “In early spring Defra announced it was allocating £10 million between four peat restoration projects in England, including £334,000 for work at Little Woolden Moss over the next three years.”  So much of this project is already funded, which Heathrow has not chosen to mention.  Why?  AirportWatch comment].  

According to DEFRA indicators, the restoration of this project area could lead to savings of 22,427 tonnes of CO₂ over 30 years – equivalent to nearly 64,000 passenger journeys from Heathrow to New York.  [This is estimating that a one way flight, from Heathrow to New York, only emits 0.35 tonnes of CO2. No reputable carbon calculator has a figure anywhere near this. It is half, or even a quarter, of a proper figure. So this figure of 64,000 flights should be regarded as misleading and highly inaccurate. See below. AirportWatch comment] 

[Heathrow airport and flights leaving Heathrow cause the emission each year of well over 18 million tonnes of CO2. Ignoring that there might be a 3rd runway, increasing emissions by perhaps 50%, that comes to 18 x 30 = 540 tonnes of CO2 over 30 years. By comparison, the tiny 22,427 tonnes is just 0.004%. So too tiny to signify.  See below. AirportWatch comment.]

Following this initial pilot project, Heathrow plans to invest in more peatland restoration projects over the next two years, and the airport is already exploring other locations.

The restoration of Little Woolden Moss will take place over three years, and the restored site will continue to be publicly accessible for cycling, walks, and community events. The restoration will involve pumping water to the site, planting native plant species, and eventually allowing the area to fully restore its rich habitat and wildlife.

John Holland-Kaye, chief executive at Heathrow, commented, “We are very excited to announce our partnership with the Lancashire Wildlife Trust, and explore how UK peatlands can be used as a carbon offsetting tool.

“Climate change is the greatest challenge our generation is facing and while this is just the first of many projects, we hope it will be a model for the aviation industry to follow.”

Heathrow’s aim is to operate zero-carbon airport infrastructure by 2050, meaning that the day-to-day operation of the airport infrastructure results in no emissions of greenhouse gases. As part of the progress made against these plans, Heathrow has also announced that Terminal 2 is now powered by entirely renewable means with 124 solar panels on its roof, an on-site biomass boiler using locally sourced forestry waste, and renewable gas and electricity supplies.

With all of Heathrow running on 100% renewable electricity since April 2017, Heathrow is already almost 80% of the way to its zero carbon airport goal.



As one AirportWatch member commented:

I wonder if that £94K from the greenwash pot is included in the cash that Heathrow claims to get back from the government as compensation when the 3rd runway is cancelled ?

AirportWatch comment:

The peat bog might save “22,427 tonnes of CO₂ over 30 years”.

Heathrow and flights leaving Heathrow, emit more than 18 million tonnes of CO2 per year.

That works out at 18 x 30 = 540 million tonnes of CO2 emitted over 30 years (not counting adding a 3rd runway, with 50% more flights)

22,427 tonnes CO2 as a % of 540 tonnes CO2 is 0.004%

So though great to be saving peat bogs, this is making just about zero difference to Heathrow’s CO2 emissions.


AirportWatch comment:

That 22,427 tonnes of CO2 that might be saved is the equivalent of 47,710 single Economy flights to New York (if the CO2 emissions are 0.47 tonnes carbon one way and 0.94 tonnes return)
So that is 23,850 return flights in Economy class.

That is 8,240 return Business Class flights to New York (1.36 tonnes carbon one way and 2.72 tonnes return)

These calculations using rather low carbon figures from this calculator



Using different carbon calculation amounts, the 22,427 tonnes of carbon is the equivalent of, on an average airline, about 4,180 return flights in Business class (about 5.36 tonnes CO2 for a return Business class flight Heathrow to New York).

Or on an average airline about 15,680 return flights in Economy class (about 1.43 tonnes CO2 for a return Heathrow to New York).

Using a higher carbon calculation from Atmosfair




More about Little Woodlen Moss:

2nd August 2018 (Lancashire Life)

In early spring Defra announced it was allocating £10 million between four peat restoration projects in England, including £334,000 for work at Little Woolden Moss over the next three years. This means the restoration work will continue and be part of projects stretching from the Peak District to the Scottish border.

On Little Woolden Moss, the Lancashire Wildlife Trust will be carrying out restoration work that will help it on its way back to being a functioning lowland raised bog, part of the wider former Chat Moss complex and part of the Great Manchester Wetlands, which stretches to Warrington and Wigan.

Reserves Officer Martyn Walker said: ‘This is fantastic news for the national conservation of our peatland habitat and we are thrilled that Little Woolden Moss, one of our largest areas of peatland habitat, will benefit.

‘The funding will enable the Wildlife Trust to continue with our restoration works that have already brought about an amazing transformation of this former peat extraction site. Re-wetting works have already brought the water levels up over a large part of this peatland and the new funding will allow us not only to continue these works but to expand the restoration to the whole of the site.

…. and it continues at




See also

Little Woolden Moss at Cadishead is a 247-acre site acquired in 2013 by the Wildlife Trust of Lancashire with grants of £1m from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

It’s a haven for rare birds including stone curlew, and little ringed plover, and in woods nearby there are willow tits – Britain’s most endangered small bird.

School children benefit from educational visits, the land is an oasis for walkers, and home for roe deer and brown hare.

But conservationists have been left in despair after repeated damage.

…. and more at