26th April 2022
Peat needs to stay in the ground
The Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) is calling for the government to act to keep all turf in the ground where it belongs. After weeks of acrimony over a proposed ban on the sale of turf (along with wet wood and smoky coal) it has been tremendously disappointing to see politicians call for delays and inaction in the face of a climate, biodiversity and public health emergency. The IWT believes that all mining of peat needs to come to an end and peatlands need to be urgently rewetted and rewilded – the sooner this happens, the sooner we see cleaner air, water and restored nature while preventing the release of copious greenhouse gases.
However, public policy on peat has been incoherent. The publication of the 2015 Peatland Strategy was to have comprehensively resolved all peat issues – including the regulation of ‘small scale’ peat mining operations and the protection of important areas for nature conservation. However, this has largely gone unimplemented. We continue to see illegal turf-cutting inside Special Areas of Conservation
while no attempt has been made to create the promised permitting system for small-scale mining operations that are resulting in pollution to waterways and habitats. In addition to the lack of action on peat mining we continue to see destruction of peatlands from free-roaming sheep, fires and the replanting of conifer monocultures on drained peatlands in the knowledge that these are resulting in enormous levels of greenhouse gas emissions. While there are a number of welcome projects to rewet bogs and investigate the rewetting of peat that has been converted to grassland, we need to move much faster and at a much bigger scale.
IWT campaign officer Pádraic Fogarty says, “Given what we know about the urgency of our biodiversity and climate emergency, and the fact that over 1,000 people die prematurely from poor air quality every year, it has been dispiriting to see some politicians argue for delay and inaction over the sale of dirty fuels. Indeed, we must go much further than this to bring an end to all kinds of peat mining given the enormous damage it causes and to restore these landscapes for the multiple benefits that brings.”
The IWT recognises that peat is a cheap fuel and that possibly up to half a million people suffer from fuel poverty
. However the solution to this is the rapid deployment of clean energy and retro-fitting of homes. Decades of inaction on the enforcement of environmental rules have left us with a degraded landscape and all the pollution and deterioration in quality of life that that brings. The time is now for action not excuses – peat needs to stay in the ground.