This week the Irish Government published the final report from the Peat Use in Horticulture Working Group, a report the Irish Peatland Conservation Council does not support. While the working group identified viable alternatives to peat it went on to recommend that peat extraction for the Industry should continue to 2030 or 2035. If this was not bad enough, within the series of actions the Government announced they are going to ‘provide free advice’ to support peat mining companies navigate planning legislation. The Irish Peatland Conservation Council are shocked by the actions the Government proposes considering their investment in peatland rehabilitation and restoration programmes, their obligations under EU law and the Climate and Biodiversity Emergency our nation finds itself in. Is the Irish Government peatland policy at odds as they give with one hand and take with the other?
The Irish Peatland Conservation Council welcomed the news in 2020 that the Department of Environment, Climate Action and Communications were investing €108 million in peatland rehabilitation in Ireland. The peatland scheme, described as ‘groundbreaking’, detailed how this work would ‘protect the storage of 100 million tonnes of CO2 emissions, enhance biodiversity, create 310 jobs and will contribute to Ireland’s target of being carbon-neutral by 2050’. In that same year the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media announced a further €5 million to restore 1,800 hectares of protected raised bog for biodiversity and climate action from the Carbon Tax Fund. The Government were giving, recognising and taking action for peatland ecosystem services including their role as climate mitigators and a habitat for unique biodiversity seriously.
Now in January 2022 the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has failed to put an end to the environmentally damaging practice of peat extraction for horticulture, it does not address the exportation of peat and does not remove peat sales from the amateur retail market. In fact, the Department has put crosshairs on all the smaller bogs which could be rehabilitated for wildlife and instead of protecting them for our biodiversity recovery and climate mitigation they will actually provide free advice on how to finalise their destruction. To add to this disappointing announcement it was also reported that Bord na Móna, the company that markets itself as Ireland’s ‘leading climate solutions company’ and which announced its own full cessation of peat extraction in 2020 will be back in the peat market with the Government announcing that ‘2,000 tonnes of horticultural grade peat and potentially significantly higher volume of hobby grade peats’ will be commercially available from the company.
Looking from the outside in on the announcements made in relation to the Peat Use in Horticulture it certainly appears the Government have forgotten they declared a Climate and Biodiversity Emergency and signed into law the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill 2021. As one Governmental Department creates positive climate action and biodiversity policy another Department is eroding any progress made away.
1 https://www.gov.ie/en/press-release/2aae1-cabinet-approves-108m-funding-for-groundbreaking-bord-na-mona-bog-rehabilitation-plan-minister-ryan-also-announces-that-47-more-projects-in-the-midlands-totalling-278m-are-approved-under-the-just-transition-fund/ accessed 18th January 2022
- https://www.gov.ie/en/press-release/9180e-minister-madigan-announces-bord-na-mona-will-project-manage-latest-element-of-protected-raised-bog-programme/ accessed 18th January 2022