Flow Country of Caithness and Sutherland could be part of COP26 climate change conference
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The peatlands of Caithness and Sutherland could feature in the United Nations' COP26 climate change conference later this year.
The Flow Country Partnership has bid for a presentation slot at the summit taking place in Glasgow in November. It is keen to showcase both the Flow Country World Heritage Site Project and the Landscapes as Carbon Sinks Project, which also operates in the peatlands.
Having passed the technical evaluation stage in early 2020, the Flow Country is now the UK’s official candidate site for world heritage site inscription. The next step is to put together a full nomination to Unesco, which will make the final decision.
If the Flow Country is accepted by Unesco it will be Scotland’s first natural world heritage site. St Kilda is classed as a mixed site, with both natural and cultural elements.
It will also be the world’s first peatland world heritage site.
The Flow Country Partnership consists of a number of organisations, including NatureScot, Highland Council, RSPB Scotland and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, and is spearheaded by newly appointed project co-ordinator Steven Andrews.
Mr Andrews said: "Having grown up in Sutherland, it’s a great pleasure to be able work on a project that will help bring global recognition to the very special Flow Country landscape."
He claimed world heritage site status could bring significant social, cultural and economic benefits to Caithness and Sutherland.
World heritage sites attract eco and heritage tourists from all over the world, Mr Andrews pointed out. World heritage site status could also lead to further research into the peatland habitat and unique cultural history of the Flow Country, he added.
The Flow Country is considered the best example blanket bog in the world. It is internationally important from a habitat perspective, but also in terms of the amount of carbon stored in the peat.
Mr Andrews said that with COP26 being held in Scotland "there has never been a better time to celebrate the valuable natural carbon stores we have here in the Highlands".
He said the conference would offer an important opportunity to make the case for the Flow Country becoming the world’s first peatland world heritage site to an influential international community.
The partnership will be asking communities for their thoughts on the world heritage project and the proposed site boundary.