17 August 2020
An open call was officially launched today for locally-led rewetting schemes of farmed peatland as part of the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Programme.
The scheme is focused on drained peatlands in the midlands region and seeks applications that will “target climate action on peatlands under agricultural management”, according to the Department.
Successful proposals will be ones that protect the carbon stock and restore the sequestration capacity of the area, maximise biodiversity and water quality protection, and/or strengthen climate resilience at catchment/landscape level.
Peatland management can, “play an important part in removing carbon from our environment and assist us in tackling climate change” and is “an important ambition within our programme for Government,” Minister of State Pippa Hackett said of the scheme’s launch.
“This call is evidence of that ambition and will provide important learnings for the next Rural Development programme and the management of our peatlands,” Minister Hackett added.
The Department’s Rural Development Programme uses the European Innovation Partnerships Initiative (EIP) model and all proposals will be evaluated by a committee for relevance to the EIP framework.
A final shortlist will be formed and the Department of Agriculture is expected to select one or more projects during 2021 and 2022, with up to 100 per cent funding provided under the new initiative.
The call remains open for applications until 23 October 2020.
The initiative “is very positive and the locally-led led format is a proven way to deliver these schemes,” Irish Wildlife Trust Campaigns Officer Padraic Fogarty said.
However, Mr. Fogarty added, he would “query the scale of what is being proposed as we urgently need a way to apply these initiatives across large areas of land where drainage of peat had previously been promoted as best practice”.
Peatlands and the Programme for Government
In its Programme for Government, the coalition of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party said it would undertake a national land use review, including “farmland, forests and peatlands, so that optimal land use options inform all relevant government decisions”.
The document went on to say that based on the review, “rewetting or forest regrowth to mitigate flooding risks in river catchments, will be considered” and that farmers would be “incentivised” to rewet carbon-rich soils.
The Programme for Government did not, however, state whether or not the Climate Action Plan bogland restoration target of 1800 hectares for 2020 would be increased.
€5 million was allocated under the 2019 Climate Action Plan, but as RTE’s Hot Air programme pointed out, 1800 hectares only accounts for less than a quarter of one per cent of total Irish bogland.