Opposition to Peat Bill continues to grow

Published by Kayle Crosson on

24 November 2021 

Opposition to a recently introduced Peat Bill is accumulating and critics stress that it is “totally contrary” to national climate and biodiversity targets. 

The Bill was launched yesterday by Fine Gael Leader of the Seanad Regina Doherty and Fianna Fail Senator Robbie Gallagher. 

It would provide a “derogation to peat producers in Ireland for a short period of time so that they supply our food, our nursery and our horticultural industry”, according to Senator Doherty. 

Early this year, Bord na Mona officially announced that it had ended peat extraction on its own land. Their last full peat harvesting session was in 2018, with some extraction occurring in 2019 and no such activity taking place in 2020. 

A case launched by Friends of the Irish Environment in 2019 around peat extraction in the High Court was ultimately won and large scale extraction was effectively brought to a halt as a result of the ruling. 

However, there appears to be disagreement within Government itself over the Bill as Green Party Senator Pauline O’Reilly stressed that it is “not consistent with European law.” 

Speaking today in the Seanad Senator O’Reilly also said that, “quite frankly, it is giving false hope to growers all around this country that it will resolve issues.” 

“It will not resolve issues. And in fact, ten times the amount of peat is being exported from this country as is being imported, they are the facts. That’s the CSO figures,” she added. 

CSO figures released to Noteworthy earlier this week demonstrated that exports of peat have eclipsed imports over the past two decades.

Senator O’Reilly concluded that the Green Party will not be supporting the Bill as it would “allow widespread extraction of peat without environmental impact assessments.” 

“Same old, same old” 

The Bill as it currently exists is “totally contrary to climate and biodiversity goals”, according to Irish Wildlife Trust Campaigns Officer Padraic Fogarty. 

“It’s incredible that this is being brought out a fortnight after the COP negotiations in Glasgow and the Climate Action Plan,” he told The Green News. 

“Most of these [extraction] sites are already destroyed, but it is delaying the recovery of the land. We’re spending a fortune on rehabilitation and stopping the enormous carbon dioxide emissions that comes from drained peatlands, and yet we’re undoing that at the same time,” he said. 

The move to launch the Bill is “the same old, same old” for the horticultural industry, according to the Irish Peatland Conservation Council (IPCC). 

“The horticultural industry has had the chance to ask Government for support in developing alternatives to peat within a green, circular and sustainable economy and instead chose to do the same old, same old,” the IPCC told The Green News. 

The group is urging the Bill be rejected and for attention to be confused instead on creating viable circular supports for horticulture such as integrating green and brown waste from industrial and domestic sources. 

Interested in peat extraction? Our former editor Niall Sargent has an in-depth read on it over at Noteworthy. Check it out! 

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