Peat bogs are a carbon sink – meaning they soak up carbon dioxide emissions that exacerbate global warming.
The UK government has already said it intends to ban the sale of peat compost to the public in England by 2024.
But in a joint statement on peat, the National Trust and the National Trust for Scotland – as well as similar groups including from Ireland, Korea and Indonesia – urged the government to “act now” and ban the sale of peat products in horticulture entirely.
They made the call to coincide with the COP26 climate summit negotiations.
Peat is the surface layer of soil, made up primarily of partially decomposed plant material which has developed in waterlogged and low oxygen conditions. It is filled with nutrients ideal for plant growth and is often used in compost, as well as harvested and burned as fuel.
Research shows peatland traps almost twice as much carbon as forests, despite covering just 3% of the earth’s surface.
But peat bogs that have been drained, dug up for fuel or used in compost have the opposite effect and contributes to carbon emissions.
The National Trust said healthy peatlands also help to control flooding and encourage vegetation that can provide homes for wildlife.
The organisation, which is one of the largest landowners in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, said it was taking action to eliminate the use of peat in its gardens and supply chains.
National Trust director general Hilary McGrady said the international organisations were “all taking action” to eliminate the use of peat, but added “we can’t end this practice alone”.
She called on members to “make a positive choice for climate and for nature” and buy peat-free compost to use in their gardens, as well as check whether plants they buy are peat free.
Ms McGrady said: “It is through this sort of collective effort that we can unite in the fight against climate change.
“We also need government to step up and play their part by bringing in legislation that bans the sale of products containing peat.”