The closing of bogs in Ireland: The end of an Era? – The Guardian

Earlier today, The Guardian published an article entitled “End of an Era as Ireland closes its peat bogs ‘to fight climate change‘” The article provides an elaborate account of many of the different elements involved in peat harvesting, and its history in Ireland. As the article states:

“When the semi-state company that harvests Ireland’s peatlands recently announced the closure of 17 bogs, the news was greeted as the end of an era. Turning the soggy landscape that covers much of Ireland’s midlands into a fuel source had been a great national project, an ambitious undertaking launched by the republic’s founding fathers in the 1930s. Draining and cutting hundreds of thousands of hectares of turf on an industrial scale generated desperately needed jobs and reduced dependence on oil imports for almost a century.

So there was some nostalgia last month when Bord na Móna, the peat-harvesting company, announced it was closing 17 of its “active bogs” and would close the remaining 45 within seven years. Nostalgia but also acceptance, given the growing awareness that harvesting peat emits greenhouse gases that worsen climate change, requiring a shift to renewable energy. “Decarbonisation is the biggest challenge facing this planet,” said Tom Donnellan, the company’s chief executive.”

The article proceeds by stating that:

“The problem, according to environmentalists and academics, is that it is all hot air. Renouncing bog harvesting, they say, is too little, too late – a false solace because the ravaged peatlands will continue to emit greenhouse gases. And the government’s climate leadership pledge, they say, does not cancel out a dismal environmental record that has left Ireland potentially facing up to €600m in fines for missing emissions targets.”

“John Sweeney, a climate expert and geography professor at Maynooth University, said: “Climate change requires long-term thinking but the political cycle is much shorter and that of economically vested interest groups is shorter still.”

Peatlands, formed by the accumulation of decayed vegetation, help regulate the climate by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing carbon within the peat. As fuel, it is more damaging than coal, generating less energy when burned while producing higher carbon emissions. Depending on how it is calculated, the peat industry contributes between 3m and 6m of the 62m tonnes of greenhouse gases that Ireland emits each year.”

Tony Lowes, director of Friends of the Irish Environment, was asked about his opinion on the issue in the article. He expressed that:

“As an environmental policy goal, ending the cutting and burning of peat should have been “low-hanging fruit”..“But we have struggled to truly bring it under control because of its emotional attachment and cultural heritage.”

“Environmentalists say this fits a pattern of state authorities ducking climate commitments. Ireland emits 13 tonnes of greenhouse gases per person a year, the third-highest level in the EU. The UK emits eight tonnes per person.”

“Under EU commitments, by 2020 Ireland is supposed to cut emissions by 20% from 1990 levels. The target for 2030 is 40%. Ireland is on track to exceed the first target by 16m tonnes and the latter by 50m tonnes, triggering fines estimated to range from €230m to €600m.”

The article also referred to Climate Case Ireland:

“Last month, David Boyd, a UN special rapporteur on human rights, said Dublin’s failure to tackle climate change breached human rights. He made the comments in a legal submission to support a court case brought by Friends of the Irish Environment, accusing the government of “knowingly contributing to dangerous levels of climate change”.”

“Richard Bruton, the minister for climate action and environment, acknowledged last week that Ireland was “far off course” and announced a plan to make every department responsive to climate change.”