Food, Farming and Countryside Commission

Peatland restoration

By Emily Taylor

The Crichton Carbon Centre, Dumfries

The Crichton Carbon Centre, established in 2007, is an environmental charity that was set up as a direct response to the need to help people and government learn and adapt to climate change.

We blend academic and applied work with the mission of enabling change and turning research into action. We strive to realise ‘action on the ground’ and work hard to develop partnerships and build relationships with communities, land managers, businesses, schools and other environmental organisations. We have developed and delivered a range of projects since our inception, including the first UK Carbon Management Master’s Degree Programme in collaboration with the University of Glasgow and a 10-year programme of environmental and climate change education for local schools.

As a small charity that receives no core funding, we are always striving to develop new projects, identify and apply for funding while delivering our suite of current projects. This ongoing cycle of time limited projects makes it difficult to build our capacity and invest in staff over the long-term as funding for staff can seldom be permanent. Following the vote to leave the EU this was particularly apparent as uncertainty around EU funding mechanisms meant it was very difficult to develop the large-scale projects that would have supported our staff.

In response, we went through a period of revaluation and sadly had to make the decision to make some redundancies, reduce our core costs, even move our office premises to reduce our overheads. This period, however, allowed us to revisit our ambitions and develop smaller projects that would really showcase our unique position and expertise, particularly on peatland restoration and management for carbon benefits. This led to us working on UK government funded projects and becoming a key organisation delivering the national Peatland ACTION programme of peatland restoration in Scotland. We’ve now developed a unique programme for Peatland ACTION to deliver training for contractors, land managers and consultants to improve their understanding of restoration so we can build capacity for long-term, national-scale, best practice.

Our new approach to how we fund our work; developing and delivering projects, not always large-scale in terms of budget, but those that absolutely provide real world advice, information and support, has allowed us to be seen as ‘doers’ and be more reactive and opportunistic. This is of particular importance for us now, during this time of great change both politically and environmentally. We are striving to be at the forefront of taking concepts, for example payments for ecosystem services, and understanding and establishing how these concepts can go on to underpin how we manage our countryside.

I think, personally, what I have realised is that the key to our success over the years is our ability to foster meaningful relationships with everyone from schools and land managers, to academics and governments. The power of plain talking, listening and understanding everyone’s points of view can help establish working partnerships which go on to result in real world change. By celebrating this as one of our strengths and unique selling points, we have established ourselves as small but very effective!