Ireland’s peatlands and the EU Nature Restoration Law

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Ireland’s peatlands and the EU Nature Restoration Law

13th March 2024

Within the European Union, 81% of habitats are considered to be in a poor status and not functioning ecologically.  According to the 2019 Status of EU protected Habitats and Species in Ireland the condition of peatland habitats protected in Ireland as Special Areas of Conservation, sadly align with the European Union assessment of habitats.   The status of raised bog habitat is reported as bad, blanket bog habitat is reported as bad, transition mire habitat is reported as bad and alkaline fen habitat is reported as bad. To reverse this, on February 27th 2024, all members of the EU Parliament voted to pass the Nature Restoration Law. This is the first time a legally binding agreement has been made that sets out targets for nature restoration at this level. Every Member State of the European Union now has two years to publish a National Restoration Plan and set out how it aims to achieve the restoration targets now enshrined in law. EU Member States must now restore 30% of the habitat types listed within the law to good condition by 2030, rising to 60% by 2040 and 90% by 2050.

This is great news for Ireland and her struggling peatland habitat and biodiversity which the Irish Peatland Conservation Council estimates that only 25% of the peatland are healthy enough to provide eco-system services such as carbon sequestration and freshwater filtration. The Nature Restoration Law sets targets to restore 30% of drained peatlands under agricultural use by 2030, 40% by 2040 and 50% by 2050. While this will mean a change for some farmers, it will be voluntary and land should not need to come out of agricultural production while also increasing the amount of landscape available for native flora and fauna with more sensitive management and restoration methods.

It has been estimated that every €1 spent in nature restoration returns between €4-€38 worth of ecological benefits. An investment in nature is an investment in our future, by restoring peatland we are safeguarding the unique natural repository of biodiversity that evolved in Ireland because of the natural history and at the same time re-establishing our resilience to climate change.

The Irish Peatland Conservation Council welcome the passing of the Nature Restoration Law, this is a pivotal moment for the Climate Change and Biodiversity Emergency announced by the Irish Government in 2019, it will be a way forward to link all the other restoration programmes currently underway while ensuring supports to facilitate change and continual scientific monitoring to guarantee real peatland biodiversity and habitat recovery.

Editors Notes:
The Irish Peatland Conservation Council is a registered charity (CHY6829, RCN 20013547) that aims to conserve a representative sample of Irish peatlands for people to enjoy today and in the future.


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